Maria Gordon in 1990
Geologist & Palaeontologist
Dame Maria (May) Matilda Ogilvie Gordon DBE was an eminent Scottish geologist and palaeontologist. She was the first woman to be awarded a Doctor of Science from University of London and the first woman to be awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Munich. She was also a supporter and campaigner for the rights and equality of children and women.
Maria Ogilvie, known as May, was born in Monymusk, Aberdeenshire in 1864. At the age of 9 she went to the Merchant Company Ladies College in Edinburgh where she remained for 9 years becoming both head girl and the best academic pupil. At the age of 18 she went to the Royal Academy of Music in London where she studied piano however she left within a year to start a Bachelor of Science at Heriot-Watt College. She completed her degree, specialising in geology, botany and zoology, in 1890 at University College London. In 1891, she travelled to Germany to continue her studies at Berlin University. She was however refused admission as women were not admitted to higher education institutions at the time in Germany, this despite the efforts of several influential friends and colleagues, including geologist Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen She accompanied von Richthofen and his wife to Munich where she studied with Karl von Zittel and Richard von Hertwig and carried out research. In July 1891, the Richthofens travelled to the Dolomites for five weeks, inviting Ogilvie to go with them. It was in the Dolomites with Richthofen that she began to focus her work on geology. In 1893 she was awarded the Doctor of Science from the University of London and was the first woman to receive this degree.
She was active in politics as a Liberal. On 8 February 1922 she was selected as prospective parliamentary candidate for the Lloyd George supporting National Liberals at the Canterbury constituency. A General Election was called for November 1922 but on 3 November, she withdrew. Following Liberal re-union between Lloyd George and Herbert Asquith she contested the 1923 General Election as Liberal candidate for the Unionist seat of Hastings, pushing the Labour candidate into third place.
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