Taylor, Eva (1879–1966)

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Taylor, Eva (1879–1966)

British science historian and geographer. Born Eva Germaine Rimington Taylor on June 22, 1879, in High-gate, England; died on July 5, 1966, in Wokingham, England; daughter of Charles Richard Taylor (a solicitor) and Emily Jane (Nelson) Taylor; educated at the Camden School for Girls and the North London Collegiate School for Girls; Royal Holloway College, B.S., 1903, D.Sc., 1929; studied at Oxford University; married; children: three sons (b. 1912, 1915, and 1919).

Selected writings:

Tudor Geography, 1485–1583 (1930); Late Tudor and Early Stuart Geography, 1583–1650 (1934); The Mathematical Practitioners of Tudor and Stuart England (1954); The Haven-Finding Art: a history of navigation from Odysseus to Captain Cook (1956); The Mathematical Practitioners of Hanoverian England (1966).

Eminent historian and geographer Eva Taylor was born in England on June 22, 1879, to solicitor Charles Richard Taylor and Emily Jane Nelson . The youngest of the couple's three children, Eva suffered a childhood deprived of toys and pets after her mother ran away when Eva was only three. She overcame this hardship by developing a love of the natural world, particularly flowers and wild animals, which lasted throughout her lifetime.

Taylor began her education at home and then moved on to the Camden School for Girls and the North London Collegiate School for Girls. A scholarship student, she graduated with honors in chemistry from the Royal Holloway College in 1903, which led to appointments at two different girls' schools as a chemistry teacher. By 1906, Taylor was again a student herself, this time in geography at Oxford University, from which she earned a diploma with distinction. She remained at Oxford as a research assistant to A.J. Herbertson, the head of the geography school, from 1908 to 1910.

Taylor applied her education in geography as a mapmaker and textbook writer in London for the next six years, after which she resumed her teaching career as a lecturer at Clapham Training College for Teachers and at the Froebel Institute. She moved on to a lecturing post at East London College in 1920 and a similar post at Birkbeck College a year later. Birkbeck became her permanent academic home when she was appointed the school's chair of geography a year after earning her doctorate in 1929. A remarkable scholar, Taylor also enjoyed a brilliant reputation as a lecturer during her 15-year career at Birkbeck.

In 1930, she published Tudor Geography, 1485–1583, continuing the study with Late Tudor and Early Stuart Geography, 1583–1650 in 1934. She also lent her leadership skills to committees beyond Birkbeck's walls by chairing the Royal Geographical Society committee on the distribution of the industrial population, and campaigned for the establishment of an atlas of Britain to aid in national and regional planning. She served her country during and immediately after World War II by contributing her expertise in geography to the Association for Planning and Regional Reconstruction. For her efforts, the Royal Geographical Society awarded her the Victoria Medal in 1947. Other organizations with which she was associated were the Hakluyt Society, the Institute of Navigation, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Society of Nautical Research.

Taylor retired from Birkbeck in 1944, was elected one of the first fellows of Birkbeck College in 1960, and received a fellowship from the Royal Geographical Society in 1965. She also continued to publish scholarly works, including two volumes on historical mathematicians and one on navigation, in addition to numerous articles. Although a stroke suffered in 1964 limited her sight and movement, Taylor continued working well into her 80s, dying at Wokingham on July 5, 1966.


The Concise Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Williams, E.T., and C.S. Nicholls, eds. The Dictionary of National Biography, 1961–1970. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Karina L. Kerr , M.A., Ypsilanti, Michigan

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