Sometimes having an old interest in Palaeontology can be useful. My wife and I have a weekly competition watching University Challenge and scoring points by answering before the college students themselves manage to get the answer out. I occasionally manage to score heavily when Jeremy Paxman asks the participants to identify a geological era or a particular prehistoric organism. Since I am by trade a chemist, my wife used to wonder where this knowledge comes from. The truth is that my scientific life started with fossils. At the age of 9 my primary school teacher launched the class into two major projects impressionist painting (obviously influenced by his French wife) and palaeontology. I was never any good at art but I enjoyed experimenting with portraying subjects in different combination s of colours. It was the palaeontology, however, that really sparked my imagination. A radio programme on the Carboniferous era with its amphibians and dense tropical swamps really got me going and I went home that evening and straight to the coal bunker tapping away at lumps of coal. Lo and behold as one of the black lumps of solid cleaved in to different layers, there it was a real fossil! The next day I walked all the way to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington and made enquiries about the identity of the fossil. Apparently it was part of a club moss and yes it was from the Carboniferous era 250 million years old! That summer we went to Somerset on the school journey and on the beach were numerous fossilised ammonites. We carried them back to our chalets using our towels and the teachers were able to put them on the coach and take them back to the school. Very soon afterwards at Secondary school my intellectual energies because directed towards Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics but fossils and their umbrella subject, Palaeontology, still retain a place in my heart. I havent been back to my old Primary school but I hope it still has my club moss fossil and the ammonites.
I was reminded of the importance of fossils by reading a recent New Scientist article. As a teacher and a passionate lover of my subject and discipline I am delighted that fossils and their contribution to our knowledge of this planet are now in the Science Curriculums scheme of work and I hope that their study can inspire other young people to be either scientists or teachers of Science. Back in the times when I was finding my club moss we were lucky if there was a radio programme dedicated to the subject. We certainly did not have anything else to inspire our interest.
At Edulab we have two pages of our Secondary Science catalogue devoted to fossils 9 excellent products all bringing to life in different ways facts about dead organisms that inspired my love of Science. So, if you also have this wonder about what fossils tell about our planets past then simply come to our website, type in fossils and see what we have to offer.