Arber, E. A. Newell (Edward Alexander Newell), 1870-1918

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1870-08-05
Death 1918-06-14
Britons
English

Biographical notes:

Epithet: palaeobotanist

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000001035.0x00003b

Arber was a paleobotanist who taught at Cambridge University.

From the description of [Letter] 1910 Nov. 22, Cambridge, [Eng. to] Dear Sir / E. A. Newell Arber. (Smith College). WorldCat record id: 152607660

Edward Alexander Newell Arber was born at No. 5 Queen Square, Bloomsbury, 5th August 1870 to Edward Arber, later a professor of English at Masons college, Birmingham, and Marion Arber (nee Murray) the daughter of a Glasgow publisher, who was the niece of Dr John Sutherland, an early authority on army sanitation, who was closely associated with Florence Nightingales work in the Crimea.

At the age of 15, due to poor health, was sent to Davos where he spent more than a year. During his first summer in Switzerland he developed an interest in Botany. In 1895 he came upto Trinity College, Cambridge and he took the two parts of the Natural Sciences Tripos in 1898 and 1899, specializing in Botany and Geology.

In 1899 Professor McKenny Hughes nominated Newell Arber to a demonstratorship in Palaeobotany in the Woodwardian [later Sedgwick] Museum. He held this post for the rest of his life, and involved the curating of the palaeobotanical collections, as well as elementary and advanced lectures and demonstrations in fossil botany. During his tenure about 5,000 plant fossils were added to the collections.

Between 1901-1906 he was also responsible for the naming and arrangement of the palaeobotanical specimens in the Geology Department of the British Museum [Later Natural History Museum]. He made repeated visits to the museums across Europe where important collections could be found.

Arber met his future wife, Agnes Robertson whilst she was studying at Newnham College, Cambridge. They were engaged in September 1906, and married on 5th August 1909 on his 39th Birthday, and lived into a rented house on Huntingdon Road, Cambridge. Mrs Arber assisted her husband in his field work, drawing figures for and proofreading some of his books. She became a plant morphologist and anatomist, historian of botany, and philosopher of biology. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1946, the first female botanist and only the third woman overall to be so honoured.

Newell Arber wrote over 60 memoirs, and about 25 papers were produced by a group of students including at times Bernard Smith, H.Hampshaw Thomas, L.J Wills, W.T Gordon, D.G Lillie, R.D Vernon, A.W.R Don, R.H.Goode and others. In 1905 a moiety of the Lyell Fund was awarded to Newell Arber by the Geological Society, and in 1914 he was elected an honorary member of the New Zealand Institute in recognition of his work on Australasian geology.

Arbers contribution to his science was chiefly in the application of palaeobotanical evidence to straigraphical problems. One of his early papers dealt with the use of Carbinoferous plants as zonal indices. His later work was concerned with further developments on these lines, and he produced a series of papers dealing with the fossil floras and geological structure of English coal-fields. His book on The Natural History of Coal was translated into Russian.

Arber also studied the fossil floras of the Mesozoic floras of New Zealand (1917). He continued to work within less than three months of his death, leaving memoirs in various stages of completion relating to general palaeobotany, and to Devonian, Carboniferous, and Mesozoic plants. He died 14th June 1918, and is buried at St. Andrews Parish Church, Girton.

From the guide to the The Papers of Edward Alexander Newell Arber, 1871-1918, (Cambridge University: Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences)

Edward Alexander Newell Arber was born on 5 August 1870 in London, son of Professor Edward Arber (1836-1912). He was educated at King Edward's High School, Birmingham and Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1899, he was appointed demonstrator in palaeobotany at the University of Cambridge, a post he held until his death in Cambridge on 14 June 1918.

Published work includes, Plant Life in Alpine Switzerland, The Natural History of Coal and The Coast Scenery of North Devon .

From the guide to the Edward Arber collection, 1914, (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)

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