Anita McConnell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Anita McConnell (1936–2016) PhD, JP, was a writer on the history of science and a curator of oceanography and geophysics at the Science Museum, London. She is most widely known for her popular Shire book on barometers but also wrote many books on the history of oceanography and British scientific instrument makers of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Early life[edit]

She was born in 1936 in Britain of Italian parents. During the Second World War she was sent as a child evacuee to the West Country and finished her secondary education with four O Levels. In 1957 she took a job location catering for such films as The Inn of the Sixth Happiness and The Bridge on the River Kwai, the latter resulting in a six-month stay in Sri Lanka.[1]


In 1963 she took a job at the Science Museum, London, as an assistant with the Navigation and Meteorology collections. She later assisted with preparation work for setting up the National Railway Museum. In 1973 she rejoined the Science Museum to become curator of Oceanography and Geophysics. From 1961 to 1979 she successively attained a diploma in archaeology, a degree in geography, a master's degree in history of technology and a doctorate from the University of Leicester, which appeared in print as No Sea Too Deep, The History of Oceanographic Instruments.[2]

She began writing in 1980 and published works particularly on the history of oceanography and British scientific instrument makers of the 18th and 19th centuries.[3] Her popular book on barometers was written in 1988. In her work on oceanographic instruments she was noted for the level of detail achieved[4] and in her biographies of scientific instrument makers she was noted for her ability to work from archived material such as clients letters.[5]

In 1993 she became a research editor for the Dictionary of National Biography for Oxford University Press, initially working on entries for instrument makers[6] and clock makers, and later, also on science and medicine.

Awards and honours[edit]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Geomagnetic Instruments Before 1900: An Illustrated Account of their Construction and Use (London: Harriet Wynter) 1980.
  • Historical Instruments in Oceanography: Background to the Oceanography Collection at the Science Museum (London: HMSO) 1981
  • No Sea Too Deep: The History of Oceanographic Instruments (Bristol: Adam Hilger) 1982
  • (with Lambert, D), Seas and Oceans (London: Orbis Publications) 1985
  • The World Beneath Us (London: Orbis Publications) 1985
  • Barometers (Princes Risborough: Shire Publications) 1988
  • Directory of source material for the history of oceanography, UNESCO Technical Paper in Marine Science, UNESCO, Paris 1990
  • Instrument Makers to the World: A History of Cooke, Troughton & Simms (York: William Sessions/University of York) 1992
  • R B Bate of the Poultry 1782–1847: The Life and Times of a Scientific Instrument Maker (London: Scientific Instrument Society) 1993
  • King of the Clinicals: The Life and Times of J J Hicks (York: William Sessions) 1998
  • translation, introduction and notes for Marsigli, L F, Natural History of the Sea (Bologna: Museo di Fisica dell’Università di Bologna) 1999
  • Jesse Ramsden (1735–1800): London’s Leading Scientific Instrument Maker (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) 2007


 This article incorporates text by Jane Insley available under the CC BY 3.0 license.

  1. ^ Science Museum Group Journal - Obituary of Dr Anita McConnell
  2. ^ University of Leicester - Dr Anita McConnell
  3. ^ Royal Geographical Society Dr Anita McConnell (1936-2016)
  4. ^ Review of Historical Instruments in Oceanography
  5. ^ Review of Jesse Ramsden - 1735 - 1800 London's leading Instrument Maker
  6. ^ DNB article on Edward Troughton
  7. ^ "Royal Geographical Society - Latest news".
  8. ^ Science Museum Group Journal - Obituary of Dr Anita McConnell
  9. ^ Science Museum Group Journal - Obituary of Dr Anita McConnell
  10. ^ "Candidates for Election to Council". Supplement to the Newsletter of the Society for Nautical Research: 8. May 1992.