Carpenter and Moss, freshwater textbook giants


Ward&WhippleIn the introduction to her Ph. D (1925) on the impact of metal mine pollution on Cardiganshire river ecosystems, Kathleen Carpenter wrote:
“The writer knows of no British treatise which surveys the conditions and grouping of life in fresh-waters in the method adopted, for example, in the appropriate section of Shelford’s Animal Communities in Temperate America (Chicago, 1912), or in the chapters of general scope in Ward and Whipple’s Fresh-Water Biology (New York, 1918), and of no British enterprise to be compared with the scheme of thorough and detailed survey of a freshwater lake-system from the ecological standpoint at present being carried out by the Biological Department of the Canadian University of Toronto. “………

“The most that British zoologists can show are a few studies of the plankton of English, Scotch or Irish lakes…..”

Kathleen Carpenter realised that the lack of a British freshwater textbook was a career defining opportunity for her. It is evident that her Ph.D. thesis at Aberystwyth University formed the basis of her seminal textbook, Life in Inland Waters.  It opened the door to an international career for her in North America. She first travelled there in 1924 for a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Toronto, and presumably during this visit she visited the Biological Department of Toronto University.

She returned to Britain for her final professional appointment as a lecturer at Liverpool University just before the outbreak of World War II.  Today the 5th edition of one of the most universally popular freshwater textbooks, Ecology of Freshwaters by the late, great Prof. Brian Moss, also of Liverpool University, is going through the final stages before publication.

Kathleen Carpenter and Brian Moss shared a passion for the biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems. Together these two freshwater giants have secured an ever lasting place on the academic textbook stage – inspiring generations of students.


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