The day I created this page, the 7th November 2020, was a very special one for me. It marked 100 years since Elaine Morgan was born. To celebrate this event, I wrote a new biography about her amazing life. I’ve spent the last twenty-five years following in her “more aquatic” footsteps so it was a labour of love to get it off my chest and add my first book to the literature.
I’m not the only one to have had this idea. The Welsh historian Daryl Leeworthy had the same centenary idea and had his own tribute published by Seren.
I ordered Daryl’s book the moment I could and finished reading it in a couple of weeks. It’s a great read and Daryl covers a huge amount of Elaine’s life that I was completely unaware of.
He focused on her earlier career as a writer almost exclusively and really didn’t have much to say about the 40 or so years she dedicated to promoting the “aquatic ape” idea.
The two books therefore compliment each-other pretty well, I’d say, and not just in their content.
His book is available only in paperback. Mine is only available in from Amazon Kindle – at least to start with. I hope to have a paperback version out in May 2021. Not everyone is a fan of the electronic book format but I love it. There are many advantages and not many disadvantages. By clicking on your local Amazon web site (UK, US, Australia, for example), you could have bought the book and be reading it in seconds. And, in case you were not aware, you don’t need an eBook reader to read it. You can use your computer, tablet or even get an app for your phone.
Because of this difference in format, my book has a lot of images and links to video and other media clips on the web. Daryl’s book is text only. Apart from the cover, there is not one image inside.
But, as I already alluded to, the biggest difference between the two books is in their focus.
Seren’s sales blurb talks of “restoring Elaine’s reputation” as if it was somehow lost. Mine is an unashamed tribute to her “aquatic ape” work.
I tell her story against a backdrop of how our understanding of human origins has changed over her century.
From the publication of “On Origin of Species” the same year her grandmother was born, through “The Descent of Man” published in 1871, it describes how key fossil finds changed our understanding of our evolution.
Elaine’s story is interwoven with that of Max Westenhöfer, Sir Alister Hardy and other key figures like Sir David Attenborough and Desmond Morris.
A hundred years after Darwin’s Descent of Man, Elaine wrote her own ground-breaking work “The Descent of Woman”. It fought back against previously very male-centric “man the mighty hunter” images that dominated the thinking about human evolution and rightly claimed an equal role for women in our evolutionary past. The book helped spark the second wave of feminism in the world which has made lives better for so many women, but its promotion of Sir Alister Hardy’s “more aquatic in the past” idea was simply ignored for ten years or so, until Elaine wrote a second, third, fourth and fifth book on the subject.
I describe her brilliant contribution and how many have followed in her footsteps, including me of course. It ends by summarising her contribution to understanding human origins and suggests that the “aquatic ape hypothesis”, if only tweaked a little, may turn out to be the best idea to do with human evolution since Darwin and Wallace. And you should not think such a concept is crazy. Members of the Linnean Society, the oldest extant Biological Learned Society in the world, quietly voted her in as a fellow in 2008, thus following in the footsteps of those two, most famous, contributors to our understanding of our evolution.
The book has a lovely foreword by Elaine’s son, Gareth Morgan and contributions from Sir David Attenborough, Daniel C Dennett and around twenty other scientists and academics. Each chapter starts with snippets of an interview I did with Elaine in 1999. Links to this interview and other fabulous videos and images are included through the text. I got involved with the “aquatic ape” idea from around 1996 so I had the privilege of spending about 17 years following in Elaine’s footsteps trying to make my own contribution. So I tell the story of how that happened too.
If anyone is interested in human evolution and has heard of Elaine Morgan and/or the “aquatic ape hypothesis” I think it will be an interesting read.
7th November 2020.
Here are the book’s contents…
Elaine Morgan – 100 Years Towards Origins
Foreword by Gareth Morgan
Acknowledgements & Apologies
About the Book
Kindle Your eBook Skills
Happy 100th, Elaine!
Happy One Hundredth Birthday, Elaine!
Who is the Author?
Rozy’s Home Birth in 1995
River Apes Books
1: Origins in England & Wales
Elaine’s Maternal Grandmother – Martha Rendell
The Birth of Alister Hardy
Elaine’s Paternal Grandfather – Frederick Poland Neville
Elaine’s Paternal Grandmother – Catherine Edwards
Origin of Species: Charles Darwin & Russell Wallace
Darwin’s Descent of Man
Wallace: A Fellow of the Linnean Society of London
Elaine’s Paternal Grandfather – Israel Floyd
Elaine’s Mother – Olive Irene Rendall Floyd
Elaine’s Father – William (Billy) Mansel Floyd
Living in a Balkan Tinderbox
Billy Floyd, Orderly in the Great War
Training Officers for the First World War
Silly Old Piltdown
Silver Linings of the First World War
The Testament of David Lloyd George
Billy Comes Home
2: Elaine Floyd & The Adventures of Alister Hardy
Nature and Nurture
The Adventures of Alister Hardy
Cape Town Coincidences… Almost
Raymond Dart and the Taung Child
Hardy’s Blubbery Eureka Moment
A Young Boy’s Three Close Escapes
Elaine Floyd Goes to School
Pontypridd Grammar School
Arts, or the Sciences?
Elaine is Bound for Oxford
3: Knocking ‘em cold in Wartime Oxford
Bound for University
Westenhöfer Gets There First
Elaine Gets Political
The Hitler-Stalin Pact
Life in Times of War
Another Lucky Escape for Young Desmond
Joining the LMH Alumni, or not
Elaine’s Jolly in East Anglia
The International Brigades
4: Marrying Morien Morgan & Motherhood
The Descent of Morgan
A Socialist Heritage
Alister Hardy Returns to Oxford
African Hominid Broom-time
Elaine Morgan reaches her first Myriad of days
Writing in a Black Mountain Refuge
Raising the Boys in Noddfa, Aberdare
5: Television Pioneer
Elaine, the Playwright
Other Television Pioneers
Plays Promoting Women
No DNA Play
Addition to the Family
Hardy comes out at Brighton
Handy Man Shrinks Our Brains
Early Positive Response to Hardy’s Idea
Hardy’s Living Stream
Elaine on Darwin & Wallace
Other Technological Pioneers
House moves to Mountain Ash
Elaine goes all Biological
6: 100 Years after the Descent of Man …
The Naked Ape
The Rise of Second Wave Feminism in the 1960s
Playwright Career Continues
Calculations in the Early 1970s
Man the Mighty Hunter at His Peak
The Descent of Woman
The Reaction to Descent of Woman
The TV Story Line Continues
Lucy in the Lake with Turtles
Joey and Anne
The Second Myriad, the One We Don’t Talk About
Academic Reaction to “The Descent of Woman”
Writer of the Year in 1979
Time for Contemplation
7: That Aquatic Ape Woman
Stumbling Upon Something Big – Again
The Aquatic Ape
My involvement with the ‘Soccer Tribe’
Elaine’s TV Work Finally Comes to an End
The Valkenburg “Final”
The First Serious Criticisms
Judging the Symposium: AAT Fact or Fiction?
Scars of Evolution
BAAS President David Attenborough
Freedom for the Baltic States!
The Descent of the Child
Elaine does the Internet at 74
Is it a bird? a plane? No… it’s anthrosciguy!
John Langdon’s “Parsimony” Paper
My Aquatic Epiphany
The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis
Elaine goes to South Africa
The ‘Unseen’ Documentary
8: Following in Elaine’s Footsteps
Before and After Elaine
Birth in an Aquatic Environment
Fat for Brains
Comparatively comprehensive Verhaegen
Molluscan evidence for Homo (most aquaticius) erectus
Mama ya Samaki (“The Fish Lady”)
The Diving Angle
Ears, Noses & Throats
Origin of Language
The Child of the Descent
Aquatic Ape Meme Genealogy
Other Peculiar Phenomena
The Naked Ape
The Descended Larynx
9: Wading in with Elaine
Off to see Elaine…
Wading into UCL
“Daddy, the NASDAQ’s Up!”
Meeting Leslie Aiello at UCL
Wading into Anthropology
Buried with Anthracotheriids
A Bipedal Last Common Ancestor?
Tobias at UCL
Some Wading Science, At Last
Great Apes: Quadrupedal on Land, Bipedal in Water
Master of Science!
Back to my day job
Attenborough comes vividly to light down under
UWA Enthusiasm Eroded
West Australian Paradise
Dicing with death in Canberra
Lucy’s Odd Pelvis
Was Lucy a Wading Ape?
Energetic Wading Experiments
Peer Review is a Farce
Pretty huge Depression
Wrangham’s Wading Wrangle
50 Years Since Hardy
Completing the Ph.D. after 13 years
Dr Kuliukas makes no difference
10: A Brilliant & Defiant Twilight
Lecturing at Tufts & Harvard
Meeting Tobias again
Elaine wins the Letten Prize
The 3rd Myriad Comes Up
Welsh Awards & Writing for the Newspaper of Wales
Nature versus Nurture
More Accolades for Elaine
The Naked Palaeoanthropologist
Elaine Morgan OBE
Huw’s Getting Married in the Morning
Elaine’s TED Talk
51 Years Since Hardy
Dylan Morgan (1946-2011)
Elaine was a Great Welsh Writer
The 2013 London Conference
Gee, a Creationist Slur!
For the First Time in Evolution…
Bye bye, Elaine
Nos da, Elaine
11: Elaine Morgan’s Anthropological Legacy
Choosing a viewing angle on Elaine’s Life
Waterside Hypotheses of Human Evolution
BBC Radio Documentary “The Waterside Ape”
The Power of Slight Selection
Towards a New Synthesis
Terrestrial or Waterside? A Conversation
Sorry Alice Roberts, I expected better, and here’s why
Criticism is Good
Critiquing the Critiques
Bad Luck and Peer Pressure
Wikipedia – the state of play
Objections that are ad hoc and thin
Darwin’s Dangerous Idea
A Scandal of Piltdown Proportions
The Best Anthropological Idea Since Darwin?
Tributes & cheerios. Nos da, Elaine!
Sir David Attenborough
Bert Wang-Chak Chan
Daniel C Dennett
David Kimbrough Olle
My Eulogy to Elaine
Westenhöfer’s Aquatic Theory
Hardy’s Foreword to Elaine’s Aquatic Ape
Transcript of the 1999 Interview
Elaine Morgan – A Celebration
100 Years with Elaine
References, Bibliography & Further Reading