Shipman, Pat 1949–
Shipman, Pat 1949–
PERSONAL: Born January 27, 1949, in Bronxville, NY; daughter of John Reder (a manager) and June (a homemaker; maiden name, Lovewell) Shipman; married Alan Cyril Walker (a professor), March 20, 1976; children: Simon Briton. Education: Smith College, B.A., 1970; New York University, M.A., 1974, Ph.D., 1977. Hobbies and other interests: Owning and competing a dressage horse, collecting Africana and antiquarian prints, snorkeling, gardening, travel.
ADDRESSES: Home—State College, PA. Office—Department of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, 315 Carpenter Bldg., University Park, PA 16802. Agent—Ralph Vicinanza, Ralph Vicinanza Ltd., 303 W. 18th St., New York, NY 10011.
CAREER: Writer, taphonomist, and educator. Jersey City State College, Jersey City, NJ, visiting lecturer in anthropology, 1974; Fordham University, EXCEL Program, New York, NY, adjunct instructor, 1975; American Institutes for Research, Cambridge, MA, editor and research associate, 1976–78; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, research associate, 1978–81, assistant professor, 1981–84, associate professor of cell biology and anatomy, 1984–90, assistant dean for academic affairs, School of Medicine, 1985–90; Pennsylvania State University, University Park, adjunct professor of biological anthropology, 1995–.
MEMBER: American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Society for American Archaeology, American Society of Mammalogists, Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists, American Association for the Advancement of Science (fellow, 2001), U.S. Dressage Federation, American Horse Shows Association, Maryland Dressage Association, Smith College Alumni Association, Smith College Club.
AWARDS, HONORS: Rhone-Poulenc science book award, for The Wisdom of the Bones: In Search of Human Origins; Phi Beta Kappa science book prize and Los Angeles Times science book prize finalist, both for Taking Wing: Archaeopteryx and the Evolution of Flight.
Life History of a Fossil, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1981.
Reconstructing the Paleoecology and Taphonomic History of Ramapithecus Wickeri at Fort Ternan, Kenya, Museum of Anthropology, University of Missouri-Columbia (Columbia, MO), 1982.
(With husband, Alan Walker, and David Bichell) The Human Skeleton, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1985.
(With Erik Trinkaus) The Neandertals: Changing the Image of Mankind, Knopf (New York, NY), 1993, published as The Neandertals: Of Skeletons, Scientists, and Scandal, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 1994.
The Evolution of Racism: Human Differences and the Abuse of Science, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.
(With Alan Walker) The Wisdom of the Bones: In Search of Human Origins, Knopf (New York, NY), 1996.
Taking Wing: Archaeopteryx and the Evolution of Flight, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.
The Man Who Found the Missing Link: Eugene Dubois' Lifelong Quest to Prove Darwin Right, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001, published as The Man Who Found the Missing Link: The Extraordinary Life of Eugene Dubois-,Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2001.
The Stolen Woman: Florence Baker's Extraordinary Life from the Harem to the Heart of Africa, Bantam (New York, NY), 2004.
To the Heart of the Nile: Lady Florence Baker and the Exploration of Central Africa, Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
(With Alan Walker) The Ape in the Tree: An Intellectual and Natural History of Proconsul, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.
Contributor to scholarly journals and popular science magazines, including American Scientist and American Scholar. Editor, Anthroquest, 1990–92.
SIDELIGHTS: In the 1990s, Pat Shipman redirected her academic and scientific career into writing for the general public on scientific topics. Because she is a paleontologist, Shipman's interest in human origins is natural, and several of her early books reflect this interest: The Neandertals: Changing the Image of Mankind, The Wisdom of the Bones: In Search of Human Origins, and The Man Who Found the Missing Link: Eugene Dubois' Lifelong Quest to Prove Darwin Right. The Wisdom of the Bones chronicles the 1984 discovery by Richard Leakey of "Turkana Boy," a 1.5 million-year-old Homo erectus skeleton, and discusses what has been learned from this discovery. In The Man Who Found the Missing Link, Shipman tells the story of the late-nineteenth-century Dutch anatomist who discovered "Java man" (Pithecanthropus erectus), a being located between Neanderthal and human on the evolutionary timetable, and spent forty years maintaining the importance of his discovery. Reviewers found much to like about The Man Who Found the Missing Link. In Booklist, Gilbert Taylor commented on Ship-man's "subtle touch," judging that the author created an "accomplished portrait" of Dubois and his work. "Shipman brings to vivid life a character whose scientific work rivaled Galileo's in its drama," concluded a Kirkus Reviews critic. Likewise, a Publishers Weekly contributor called the work "a masterful biography with the narrative craftsmanship of good fiction." On the other hand, Tom LeClair, writing in Book, questioned Shipman's novelistic treatment of Dubois, arguing that the bibliography of Dubois's writings does not "wholly substantiate the hundred-year-old conversations Shipman 'retells,' the characters' inner feelings she 'records,' or the extreme specificity of settings she 'recreates.'" Even so, LeClair wrote that The Man Who Found the Missing Link is a "fascinating story, whatever its truth."
In a similar vein, Shipman looked at the possible link between dinosaurs and birds. Taking Wing: Archaeopteryx and the Evolution of Flight describes the discovery of the fossilized remains of Archaeopteryx, an extinct species that seems to be a link between dinosaurs and birds in evolutionary history. "Shipman is a wonderful raconteur and is at her best detailing the history of these intriguing fossils," declared Sharon Swartz in Science, adding, "Her skill at describing the histories of these fossils and those who have studied them makes this an informative and enjoyable introduction to the subject." Despite the high praise, Swartz expressed reservations about Shipman's attempt to analyze the controversies over the origins of flight. According to John Noble Wilford, writing in the New York Times Book Review, Shipman "seems to be on a journey of discovery herself, generously bringing us along…. Sometimes one might wish she would move a little more briskly in her narrative, but the cumulative reward is an appreciation of how paleontologists think and extract meaning out of the barest scraps of evidence."
With The Evolution of Racism: Human Differences and the Abuse of Science, Shipman took on a contentious issue—the misuse of scientific studies of racial differences by political forces. Shipman presented case studies to illustrate such topics as Darwin's ambivalence about the theory of Darwinism, Thomas Huxley's support of Darwininsm, the use of Darwinism by the Nazis, Rudolf Virchow's opposition to the theory of evolution, and Ashley Montagu's 1950 UNESCO statement on race. A Publishers Weekly reviewer described this work as a "thoughtful study," while Mary Carroll in Booklist found "much of value in this graceful, insightful study." In the National Review, Mark Snyderman both praised The Evolution of Racism and expressed concerns. The work is "beautifully written, and endlessly intriguing, but one is never quite sure what it is supposed to be about. The book is only marginally about racism, as the word is commonly used…. These are fascinating stories, well told. But the stories have no clear moral."
In To the Heart of the Nile: Lady Florence Baker and the Exploration of Central Africa, Shipman "breathes life into the story of harem girl-turned-explorer Florence Baker and her much-older adventurer husband, Sam," commented Library Journal reviewer Margaret Atwater-Singer. In her biography, Shipman tells Baker's adventurous story. Born Barbara Maria Szasz in 1948 into an aristocratic Hungarian family, Baker barely escaped with her life when her family was murdered during the Hungarian revolution. A few years later, she was taken into the harem of the Ottoman emperor, where she was renamed Florenz and trained as a harem girl. Later sold in a slave auction to the emperor of Viddin (now Bulgaria), the young girl instead slipped away with an older man, a soldier, named Sam Baker. She became his mistress and, later, his wife. The two became unflappable explorers, making important discoveries in Africa and elsewhere. Among their accomplishments during their first trip to Africa was the confirmation of Lake Albert as a source for the Nile and the discovery of Murchison Falls. The pair gladly endured considerable hardship, including drought, insects, disease, and danger from warring natives. On their second trip to Africa, Florence accompanied Sam, who was named pasha of Equatoria and given the tasks of eliminating the slave trade, claiming parts of the Sudan, and establishing trading posts on the river, Atwater-Singer noted. Throughout their adventures, Sam was accompanied by the "confident presence of Florenz," who discarded social expectations of the time and became a strong and capable companion in the wilderness, a woman who "discarded her long skirts in favor of wide-legged bloomers, rode astride and carried her own shotgun," commented a reviewer in the Economist. This "fascinating biography" is the "story of a remarkable woman, of an extraordinary love affair, but also of the golden age of exploration," remarked a reviewer in African Business.
The Ape in the Tree, written with her husband, Alan Walker, tells the story of Walker and Shipman's field research into Miocene-era fossils of human ancestors in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa. Specifically, the authors recount the discovery of the critically important fossil named Proconsul, an eighteen million-year-old Ape that is thought to represent the last common ancestor between apes and hominids. Walker explains his own research, but the authors also retell the considerable history of anthropological paleontology as it has been pursued in Africa. They tell about a group of important historical figures in the discovery of Proconsul, particularly Mary Leakey, the first discoverer of Proconsul and whose fossil discoveries have rewritten the ancient history of mankind. Ship-man and Walker also explore at length the science and procedures behind paleoanthropology. They explain how fossils are found and interpreted, the procedures for examining and uncovering fossils, and the various technologies that have recently given tremendous boosts to paleontology and paleoanthropology. They also discuss evolution and the relevance of discoveries that illuminate the creatures that were present at the very birth of humanity. In addition to the adventure stories that are an inevitable part of science in the wilderness, the authors address the "very real intellectual issues" that accompany the discovery of more and more fossils and the deciphering of more and more pieces of the human evolutionary puzzle, noted John G. Fleagle in the Quarterly Review of Biology. A Book-watch reviewer commented that the book will appeal to scientists and "nonspecialist general readers interested in evolutionary science." Fleagle concluded, "Science writing does not get any better than this. Science does not either."
Shipman told CA: "Between 1977 and 1990, my primary career was academic. My research focused on trying to deduce the environmental context in which our earliest ancestors evolved and what their lifestyles and adaptations were like. To this end, I carried out research for many years in Kenya, excavating paleontological and archaeological sites and working on fossils stored there, such as the collections from Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. I published many scholarly articles on my research and started, almost by accident, to publish popular articles for science magazines.
"Over the course of several years, I began to feel that I had resolved, to my own satisfaction, the questions that drove me into paleoanthropology in the first place. While those issues started to become stale, I was increasingly fascinated by the who, how, and why of scientific research in general. Who is attracted to a particular problem? How do interactions with mentors or contemporaries shape the course of the research? Why does a particular individual formulate the theories he or she does?
"I was also disturbed by the lack of communication between the scientific community and the general public about matters of research and fact. Science writing became more important to me as I discovered my ability to explain scientific findings to lay audiences in terms that showed them the excitement and importance of scientific research—without compromising the scientific integrity of the work. These concerns led me to resign my academic position in 1990 in order to write full time, although I retain an affiliation with Pennsylvania State University.
"I perceived a need for cogent explanation of science and an ability in me that matched that need. I also developed a need of my own, to write and think more broadly. My specialties are human evolution, anthropology, and evolutionary biology. These subjects have a great deal to offer the public, because they are so revealing of our intimate history and fundamental nature. They are also a lot of fun to write about."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
African Business, March, 2005, review of To the Heart of the Nile: Lady Florence Baker and the Exploration of Central Africa, p. 64.
Book, January, 2001, Tom LeClair, review of The Man Who Found the Missing Link: Eugene Dubois' Lifelong Quest to Prove Darwin Right, p. 64.
Booklist, July, 1994, Mary Carroll, review of The Evolution of Racism: Human Differences and the Abuse of Science, p. 1902; December 1, 2000, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Man Who Found the Missing Link, p. 684.
Bookwatch, June, 2005, review of The Ape in the Tree: An Intellectual and Natural History of Proconsul.
Economist, April 24, 2004, "Lovers up the Nile; Exploration in Africa," review of To the Heart of the Nile, p. 87.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2000, review of The Man Who Found the Missing Link, p. 1602.
Library Journal, February 15, 2004, Margarat Atwater-Singer, review of To the Heart of the Nile, p. 142.
National Review, September 12, 1994, Mark Snyder-man, review of The Evolution of Racism, pp. 78-80.
New York Times Book Review, January 25, 1998, John Noble Wilford, "But Will It Fly?," p. 8.
Publishers Weekly, June 13, 1994, review of The Evolution of Racism, p. 56; November 20, 2000, review of The Man Who Found the Missing Link, p. 56.
Quarterly Review of Biology, December, 2005, John G. Fleagle, review of The Ape in the Tree, p. 469.
Science, July 17, 1998, Sharon Swartz, review of Taking Wing: Archaeopteryx and the Evolution of Flight, pp. 355-356.
Harper Canada Web site, http://www.harpercanada.com/ (April 8, 2006), biography of Pat Shipman.