Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Women's Month 2017: Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer

Willie and I look forward to our first born towards the end of April/beginning of May and we both pray it will be a lover of all that is beautiful in nature. Willie wants it to be a botanist — I want it to be a lover of birds and animals.
Eric Latimer's diary, 25th November 1906
Marjorie Eileen Doris Courtenay-Latimer (1907-2004) is ubiquitously remembered and celebrated for her part in recognising that the large fish trawled by Capt. Hendrik Goosen and the crew of the Nerine in December 1938 was an astonishing find. This was to be identified as the first live coelacanth known to Western science. JLB Smith, the ichthyologist who first described it, named it Latimeria chalumnae after Marjorie, and the Eastern Cape river mouth near which it was found.

Commemorative postcard

Reading the Border Historical Society's The Coelacanth journal Commemorative edition in honour of Dr Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer (2004) we find a life dedicated to a great deal more that single event. Her contributions to the Eastern Cape town of East London, and to the Museum in particular, were immense.