Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl meets Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction in this work of popular science which blends the personal narrative of a trailblazing woman’s life in a male-dominated scientific field with a highstakes inquiry into what really killed the dinosaurs, the greatest scientific detective story of our time.

by Gerta Keller
Penguin Press, October 2022
(via Writers House)

World-renowned geologist and paleontologist Gerta Keller is at the center of what has been called the nastiest feud in science, a contentious debate popularly known as “The Dinosaur Wars” over what triggered the fifth mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous Era sixty-six million years ago. Dinosaurs have enthralled us for generations, and the question of what caused their demise is more relevant than ever, as humankind confronts the paroxysms of an imperiled planet and the possibility that we may become the dinosaurs of the sixth extinction.
Born into a life of poverty on a small farm in Switzerland as the sixth of a dozen children, Gerta was told her dreams of becoming a doctor were impossible. Defying the odds, Gerta reclaimed her childhood dream of studying science, ultimately completing her graduate studies in geology at Stanford and becoming a professor at Princeton University and a major voice in her field. Along the way, she overcame the hostility and disdain of her male colleagues, who sabotaged her work, took credit for her discoveries, and chided her for not “knowing her place.”
Driven by a relentless passion to discover the truth of Earth’s catastrophic upheavals, Gerta continued her research in a series of incredible adventures across the globe that have caused some to liken her to a female Indiana Jones and which led her to uncover a growing mass of evidence that contradicted the then-widely-accepted asteroid impact theory. Rather, Gerta discovered, the real cause of the dinosaurs’ extinction was Deccan volcanism, a series of cataclysmic volcanic eruptions on the Indian peninsula. Outraged by her daring to challenge them, the toxic, male scientific establishment launched an all-out war against Gerta, doing their utmost to sabotage her work, destroy her reputation, and suppress the publication of her research.
But they picked a fight with the wrong woman.

Gerta Keller is a Professor of Paleontology and Geology in the Department of Geosciences at Princeton University, where she has been a tenured faculty member since 1984. She has placed over 260 scientific publications in international journals and is considered a leading authority on catastrophes and mass extinctions, and the biotic and environmental effects of impacts and volcanism. She has co-authored five academic books, is a frequent lecturer, and regularly receives invitations from academic institutions around the world. In recent years, her work has received increased recognition and continues to make waves in the mainstream media, including TV documentaries and news features, radio and podcast interviews, and print and web media, most notably in a widely circulated profile in The Atlantic.

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