Isabella Gordon

Marine Biologist

Awarded OBE in 1961 Was made the first Honorary member of the Carcinological Society of Japan – the only non-Japanese member at the time

  • BORN 1901 Keith, Scotland, UK
  • DIED 1988 Carlisle, England, UK

Entry by Catherine Booth


Keith Grammar School, Aberdeen University, PhD from University of London

Scientific Achievement

Carcinologist, or Crustacea expert, who published numerous scientific papers. Always ready to answer crustacea-related enquiries, providing full and comprehensive replies, often illustrated by her own line drawings. Fellow of the Linnean Society and the Zoological Society of London


Curator of the Crustacea Collection at the British Museum (Natural History), later the Natural History Museum, London. Member of the Editorial Board of the journal, Crustaceana, from its first issue in 1960

Did You Know?

She had a great sense of humour, and when a scientific colleague thought that the title of her paper sounded like a limerick, he composed one and sent it to her:

A thermophilous shrimp from Tunisia
Said: when it gets cold I get busier
I dig a hole
And fill it with coal;
Then there’s nowhere as warm as it is ‘ere.

She replied with:

The idea’s OK – but Aplysia
Is the rhyme I should choose for Tunisia
A purist and Scot, I simply could not
Pronounce it to rhyme with ‘it is ‘ier-r-r!!

An Inspiring Woman

Highlight of her career was a month-long visit to Japan, by special invitation, to attend the 60th birthday celebrations of Emperor Hirohito. He was a respected marine biologist, and she had informal discussions with him. She also travelled around Japan visiting scientific research centres and meeting other carcinologists