Pollen, women, war and other things: reflections on the history of palynology

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The development of palynology since its recognised launch in 1916 by Lennart von Post is examined in terms of its historiography, the biographies of pollen analysts and the role of those who have influenced the discipline. Emphasis is placed upon research beginnings in Scandinavia (especially Sweden), Great Britain and Ireland. Within an analytical narrative which includes archival and published sources, special consideration is given to a ‘proclamation’ on methodology which appeared in 1909, on a supposed geology/botany dichotomy stemming from von Post’s background, on the forgotten early practitioners in Britain and Ireland and their connections, on the role of women up to the end of the Second World War and on issues related to wartime hostilities. Present day palynology can trace a continuity from von Post and palynologists are part of an extended disciplinary genealogy. Ignorance of these can be seen as a loss of heritage and to represent an intellectual impoverishment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-335
Number of pages17
JournalVegetation History and Archaeobotany
Issue number2
Early online date8 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • Lennart von Post
  • Gustaf Lagerheim
  • Gunnar Erdtman
  • Palyngology
  • Historiography
  • Pioneers
  • Biographies


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