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Madibaland Online Literary Festival: Cherry Lewis

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An actress-turned-geologist, Cherry Lewis decided to follow her childhood passion of fossil collecting once it became clear that a bit-part in a Dennis Potter play on television (Where the Buffaloes Roam) probably wasn’t worth all the effort.

Following seven years of study, whilst bringing up two small children on her own, she emerged a fully-fledged geologist and went looking for oil in the North Sea (at a time when you could still admit to doing that kind of thing). But when the joy of travelling and staying in hotel rooms that all looked the same began to wane, she wrote her first book The Dating Game: one man’s search for the age of the Earth’s (Cambridge University Press), a biography of the man who spent his life trying to date the age of the Earth.

From there Cherry moved into the realm of science communication at her alma mater, the University of Bristol, UK, publicising the research of scientists and medical researchers to the general public and the media. She passionately believes that everyone should have the opportunity to share in the wonderment of science.

Cherry’s second book The Enlightened Mr Parkinson (Icon Books), is a biography of James Parkinson (1755–1824) who gave his name to Parkinson’s disease. Although a medical practitioner, during his lifetime Parkinson was internationally famous for his work on fossils, hence Cherry’s particular interest in the man who was one of the great Enlightenment polymaths.

Cherry now continues her research into the history of science, with an emphasis on geology. In 2012 she was awarded the Geological Society of London’s Sue Tyler Medal for excellence in research into the history of geology; in 2015 she won the Scott Garrett award for best lecture, and in 2016 the David Hey Memorial prize for best local history article nation.