Rosemary Lowe-McConnell Collection

Scope and Content

This collection includes notebooks, papers, and letters relating to experiments with eels, and light experiments, Lake Nyasa (Africa) surveys and notebooks, and samples of dried fish scales and opercular bones from Africa, Tilapia, Chambo

Administrative / Biographical History

Lowe-McConnell was a pioneer in tropical fish ecology. She was born in Liverpool, and graduated from the university. She worked at the FBA studying the migration of silver eels.

After world war II she went to Malawi to survey tilapias and fishery in the southern part of Lake Nyasa. At Jinga, Uganda, four new species were found in Lake Jipe and the Pagani River in Kenya, describing the physiological changes from growth to reproduction of tilapias in ponds. She was briefly acting director of the East African Research organisation and wrote several papers about her work. She had to retire from the civil service when she married and could only work as a fisheries officer . From 1954-1956 she and her husband lived in Botswana, where she collected fishes from the Okavango delta. In 1957 they moved to British Guyana, South America, as her husband Richard McConnell was director of the Geological survey. Lowe McConnell surveyed the freshwater fishes in the Rupununi District, with help of local fishermen, which was the first survey to be done of the Guyana shelf between the West Indies and Brazil. On return to Britain in 1962 she based herself in the British Museum, where she studied the fishes she sent there. In 1968 she was the ichthyologist on the Royal Society of London Royal Geographical Society Xavantina Cachimbo expedition to north-eastern Mato Grosso in Brazil.

Activities she was involved in include the world symposium on warm water fish culture (1966), the international biological programme (1964-1974). She took part in a United Nations Development project (UNDP) mission to Ghana, planning an artificial lake on the River Volta, and in September 1974 went to the first international conference of ecology in the Hauge. She was vice president of the Kinnean Society of London in 1967 and was elected a fellow in the same year, and was the first editor of the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, an original member of the Association for tropical Biology and is an honoury member of the FBA (Haines 2001: 184-185).In 1993 Michael N. Bruton interviewed Lowe-Connell on the personal reasons behind her choice of work, and her personal influences, and experiences of being a woman in a male dominated world. She was initially inspired by her a godmother, a biologist, who gave good books on natural history, and was keen to visit Africa, attracted by the climate. Initially she wanted to be an explorer/naturalist, with the reply being 'never mind dear, perhaps you can teach' (Bruton 1994: 85). Other influences included Barton Worthington, her boss at the FBA, who created the opportunity to go to Africa, Ethelwynn Trewavas, W.H. Pearsall, J.T.Saunders and P. Buxton. Initially she wanted to be an entomologist, but when applying for the colonial services in 1945, they would not employ a female one, but the tropical fisheries department was new, and not considered as important. Despite her being forced to resign in 1954 when the marriage bar was in place, she was more interested in pursuing her findings than concerned with job status, and she believed that the fact she had been offered the directorship at the Joint Fisheries Research organisation in central Africa (which she rejected) showed her that she was accepted despite being female. (Bruton 1994: 85-86)

Bruton, Michael N 1994: An interview with Rosemary Lowe Connell in Environmental Biology of fisheries 41, 85-87. Ed. Balon Eugene K

Haines, Catherine 2001: international women in science. Santa Barbara, Calif. [u.a.] : ABC-CLIO, 2001

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