The day I created this page, the 7th November 2020, was a very special one for me. It marked 100 years since my main inspirer, 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 noticed her forthcoming centenary. The Welsh historian Daryl Leeworthy had the same idea and had his own tribute published by Seren. Great minds think alike!
I ordered Daryl’s book the moment I could and finished reading it a couple of weeks after it arrived. It’s a great read and Daryl covers a huge amount of Elaine’s life that I was completely unaware of.
He focused almost exclusively on her earlier career as a writer but really didn’t have much to say about the 40 or so years she dedicated to promoting the “aquatic ape” idea.
So, I think it’s fair to say that the two books compliment each-other pretty well, and that’s not just in their content.
His book is available only in paperback. Mine is available as an eBook as well as a paperback from Amazon Kindle. (I am hoping to publish a hardback full colour version soon soo, although i imagine I’ll be the only one buying it!)
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.
I have a paperback version. You can click here to get the web links available in the eBook.
But, as I alluded to already, the biggest difference between the two books is in their focus.
In Leeworthy’s publisher Seren’s sales blurb, they talk 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
1: Origins in England & Wales
2: Elaine Floyd & The Adventures of Alister Hardy
3: Knocking ‘em cold in Wartime Oxford
4: Marrying Morien Morgan & Motherhood
5: Television Pioneer
6: 100 Years after the Descent of Man …
7: That Aquatic Ape Woman
8: Following in Elaine’s Footsteps
9: Wading in with Elaine
10: A Brilliant & Defiant Twilight
11: Elaine Morgan’s Anthropological Legacy
Tributes & cheerios. Nos da, Elaine!
My Eulogy to Elaine
Elaine Morgan – A Celebration
References, Bibliography & Further Reading