MM’s top five… female scientists from Manchester

By Colin Henrys

International Women’s Day last Friday saw women across the globe lauded for their achievements.

The celebrations continue throughout March with Manchester celebrating women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

In recognition of this, MM reveals its own top five notable Manchester females who may act as inspiration for the new STEM generation.

5. Dame Margaret Beckett (1942-)

Although better known for her political career and expenses claims, Tameside-born Dame Margaret, 70, was originally a metallurgist.

Born Margaret Jackson, in Ashton-under-Lyne, she attended the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), earning a metallurgy qualification before joining Associated Electrical Industries.

She was also once a researcher in Victoria University of Manchester’s metallurgy department before being elected as MP for Lincoln in 1974, and later Derby in 1983.

4. Elizabeth Cutter (1929-2010)

Raised in Edinburgh, botanist Elizabeth Cutter studied for her PhD at Victoria University of Manchester before spending nine years in their botany department from 1955-1964.

After working at the University of California, where she became a full professor, she returned in 1972 and was appointed to the George Harrison Chair of Botany seven years later.

This made her one of just six female professors of 225 at the University, but in her role she successfully guided the department through its merging into what is now the Faculty of Life Sciences.

3. Dr Patricia Lewis (1957-)

Arms expert Dr Patricia Lewis, a dual national of Britain and Ireland, holds a BSc in physics from the University of Manchester.

Now a nuclear physicist, Dr Lewis served as Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) in Geneva from 1997-2008.

She is now research director for international security at Chatham House and received the American Physical Society’s 2009 Joseph A. Burton Forum award for her work on physics and society.

2. Marie Stopes (1880-1958)

The pioneer of family planning, whose name is globally recognisable because of the work of Marie Stopes International, was the University of Manchester’s first female academic.

Now commemorated by a blue plaque at the University, Stopes – a palaeobotanist – lectured in the subject at Manchester from 1904-1907.

During her time at the University she approached Robert Falcon Scott about the possibility of joining him on his ill-fated Antarctica mission to aid her study of the continents, but did not go.

She later authored her influential book, Married Love, while still legally a virgin and founded her first clinic in 1921.

1. Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw (1912-)

Withington-born Kathleen Timpson, later Ollerenshaw, is one of Britain’s most famous female mathematicians after publishing 26 research papers on the subject.

Dame Kathleen, 100, published five papers on ‘critical lattices’ while studying her PhD at Cambridge before returning to Manchester and is best known for her work on ‘most-perfect pandiagonal squares’.

She served as a Conservative councillor for Rusholme for 25 years from 1956-1981 and was also Lord Mayor of Manchester in 1975-1976.

Now a Freeman of the City of Manchester and honorary member of the Manchester Astronomical Society, Dame Kathleen boasts an Erdos Number – mathematics’ equivalent to the Bacon Number – of five. 

Picture via Wikimedia Commons, with thanks. 

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