Roger Mason (geologist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other people with the same name, see Roger Mason (disambiguation).

Roger Mason (born 4 May 1941) is an English geologist. He is known as the discoverer of Ediacaran fossils. He is now a professor at the China University of Geosciences at Wuhan.

Charnia discovery[edit]

Mason grew up in the English Midlands city of Leicester, where he attended Wyggeston Boys Grammar School. In April 1957, while rock climbing with friends in Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire, he spotted what looked like a leaf embedded in the rock. Mason took a rubbing of the rock. He showed the rubbing to his father, the minister of Leicester's Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel, who also taught at the local university and knew Trevor Ford, a geologist there. Mason took Ford to the site; Ford wrote up the discovery in the Journal of the Yorkshire Geological Society.[1] Ford identified it as a Precambrian fossil and named it Charnia masoni after the forest and Mason. Mason credits this first step in his geological career to "[his] father’s encouragement and the enquiring approach fostered by [his] science teachers".

The holotype (the actual physical example from which the species was first described) now resides, along with a cast of its sister taxon Charniodiscus, in New Walk Museum & Art Gallery, Leicester. Decades later it came to light that Tina Negus, then a 15-year-old schoolgirl, had seen this fossil a year before the boys[2] but her geography schoolteacher discounted the possibility of Precambrian fossils.[3] Mason acknowledges, and the museum's Charnia display explains, that the fossil had been discovered a year earlier by Negus, "but no one took her seriously".[4][5] She was recognised at the 50th anniversary celebrations of the official discovery.

Mason's discovery was mentioned on the February 2009 David Attenborough documentary Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life, and again in Attenborough's 2010 series First Life and the documentary that accompanied it, Attenborough's Journey. Attenborough, a keen fossil hunter as a boy, mentioned that he attended Wyggeston a few years ahead of Mason, and having been in the same part of Charnwood a few years before Mason, but the prevailing wisdom at the time was that the rocks were too old to bear fossils and so Attenborough did not search them.


  1. ^ Mason, Roger. "The discovery of Charnia masoni" (PDF). University of Leicester. Retrieved 5 April 2016. 
  2. ^ Ford, Trevor. "The discovery of Charnia". 
  3. ^ Negus, Tina. "An account of the discovery of Charnia". 
  4. ^ Mason, Roger. "The discovery of Charnia masoni" (PDF). University of Leicester. Retrieved 5 April 2016. 
  5. ^ "In April 1957, I went rock-climbing in Charnwood Forest with two friends, Richard Allen and Richard Blachford (‘Blach’), fellow students at Wyggeston Grammar School, Leicester. I was already interested in geology and knew that the rocks of the Charnian Supergroup were Precambrian although I had not heard of the Australian fossils. Richard Allen and I agree that Blach (who died in the early 1960s) drew my attention to the leaf-like fossil holotype now on display in Leicester City Museum. I took a rubbing and showed it to my father, who was Minister of the Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel in East Bond Street, taught part-time at University College (soon to be Leicester University) and thus knew Trevor Ford. We took Trevor to visit the fossil site and convinced him that it was a genuine fossil. His publication of the discovery in the Journal of the Yorkshire Geological Society established the genus Charnia and aroused worldwide interest. ... I was able to report the discovery because of my father’s encouragement and the enquiring approach fostered by my science teachers. Tina Negus saw the frond before I did but no one took her seriously."