CARLOTTA MAURY (1874-1938)

The late 1800s were a time of great change in the United States. The economy was growing in leaps and bounds. As wages increased, hundreds of thousands of Europeans immigrated to find work. Railroads, factories, mining, and finance became enormous industries. Travel was faster and easier than ever before.

Paleontologist Carlotta Maury received her PhD in 1902 from Cornell University. At that time, there were few career women in the US, especially in the sciences. Carlotta found it difficult to find full-time employment in academia, and taught briefly at several universities. Yet her true passion was traveling on collecting expeditions. With advancing technologies in transportation, Carlotta was able to visit Central and South America. Using family money, she financed her own expeditions and conducted independent research in areas of great political upheaval and unrest.

The Royal Dutch Shell Petroleum Company recognized Carlotta’s unique expertise in South American fossils. The international fuel corporation offered her a job in 1910. She was one of the first female paleontologists to find work at an oil company; many more would follow.

In 1874, Mytton Maury and his wife Virginia had their third and youngest child, Carlotta. The Maury family lived comfortably at their home along the Hudson River in Hastings, New York. There, Carlotta walked everyday around their house, collecting plants, animals, rocks, and fossils.

Within this safe haven, Carlotta's family encouraged her interests. In 1892, she took classes at the “Annex”, a women’s society affiliated with Harvard University. But because the Annex could not award degrees, Carlotta transferred to Cornell University. There, Carlotta focused on courses in botany and geology. Although botany was a much more acceptable subject for women, Carlotta ended up staying at Cornell to pursue a PhD in geology.