Professor Jennifer Clack (Doctor of Science)

Thursday 17 July, 11am

Press comment

"I took the course in Museum Studies in Leicester in 1970-71. This was instrumental in my gaining the position of Assistant Curator in the University Museum of Zoology in Cambridge in 1981. My research on the origin of tetrapods has been featured in several television programmes, including BBC2 Horizon (2001), and BBC4 Beautiful Minds (2012). My association with Leicester has recently been renewed with colleagues in the Geology department who are collaborating on a consortium project funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. We are studying the causes and consequences of the end-Devonian mass extinction and its effects on the environment, climate and evolution of terrestrial ecosystems, especially the appearance of terrestriality in tetrapods. I am absolutely delighted to be honoured by the University of Leicester in this way, particularly in the light of these recent collaborations, which are especially rewarding, stimulating and enjoyable."


My BSc degree was taken at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England. With a qualification in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester I then worked for seven years in Birmingham City Museums and Art Gallery. Following my PhD studies on a Carboniferous tetrapod back at Newcastle upon Tyne, I gained the position of Assistant Curator in the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, UK.

Our expedition to East Greenland in 1987 found remains of the Devonian tetrapods Acanthostega and Ichthyostega. My team discovered the multidigited limbs and fish-like gills of Devonian tetrapods, and published descriptions and analyses of some of the earliest known terrestrial tetrapods. I have worked on Devonian and Early Carboniferous tetrapods for most of my career. My book ‘Gaining Ground, the early evolution of tetrapods’ (Indiana University Press, 2002, 2014) provides an overview of my research and has proved popular.

In 2006 I was promoted to Professor. I was awarded the Daniel Giraud Elliot medal by the National Academy of Sciences in the USA (2008), elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society (2009), elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2011), awarded the T. Neville George medal by the University of Glasgow and an honorary doctorate by the University of Chicago (2013), and elected as a Foreign Member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Science (2014). I currently work on new discoveries of the earliest Carboniferous tetrapods and other vertebrate fossils, recently discovered in the UK.

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