Women in geology

Etheldred Benett (1776–1845)

Her speciality was in the Middle Cretaceous Upper Greensand in the Vale of Wardour and was well known for her collection of Tisbury Coral. She wrote and privately published a monograph, A Catalogue of the Organic Remains of the County of Wiltshire.

Mary Fairfax Somerville (1780–1872)

Mary Fairfax Somerville (1780–1872)

She was one the most important scientists of the nineteenth century. She was important less for her contribution to the advancement of the boundaries of knowledge, than to the advancement of the distribution of knowledge.

Charlotte Murchison (1788–1869)

Charlotte Murchison (1788–1869)

Fluent in French, fossil hunter, landscape and geological structure sketcher. © Geological Society, London

Mary Buckland (1797–1857)

An accomplished fossil geologist, she was an expert at mending and building up fossils from a collection of fragments.

Mary Anning (1799–1847)

Mary Anning (1799–1847)

Found and prepared the first fossilised plesiosaur and the first Ichthyosaurus (but not the first ichthyosaur). She found many other important fossils, including Pterodactylus (a flying reptile), sharks (and other fish), etc.

Barbara, Marchioness of Hastings (1810–1858)

Barbara, Marchioness of Hastings (1810–1858)

Fossil collector and "lady-geologist"

Elizabeth Carne (1817–1873)

Geologist and author


Lyells principles of Geology published

Lyells principles of Geology published


Geological Ordnance Survey founded, based at Craigs Court, Whitehall


Survey was given responsibility for a new Mining Record Office


'Museum of Economic Geology' opened at Craig's Court


Became Geological Survey of Great Britain and Ireland


'Museum of Practical Geology' opened in Jermyn Street

'Museum of Practical Geology' opened in Jermyn Street. Survey HQ transferred


Charles Darwin — Origin of Species

Charles Darwin — Origin of Species


Ethel Woods & Margaret Crosfield publish first joint paper on geology of Carmarthen


Gertrude Elles & Ethel Wood publish Monograph of British Graptolites.


Marie Stopes

Marie Stopes publishes the majority of her palaeobotanical papers


Ida Slater & Helen Drew were the recipients of the Daniel Pidgeon Fund, and decided to undertake a piece of field-work among the Palæozoic rocks of Wales.


Became: Geological Survey of Ireland and Geological Survey of Great Britain


Survey archives suggest no women recruited until 1920s when an advert for geologists included the statement that women candidates 'must be unmarried or widows and will be required to resign their appointments on marriage'


Geological Survey of Ireland (Eire)


EM Hendriks — first woman to attempt to become a Survey geologist — unsuccessful


Geological Museum, South Kensington

Moved to Geological Museum, South Kensington


Waterbabies during WWII. Taking an inventory of the many supply boreholes and wells (mainly by bicycle).


A new league of waterbabies in 1940s and 50s — for women graduates in geology, the water cart was their only opportunity to conduct fieldwork.


E Guppy

E Guppy promoted to assistant geologist, becoming first woman geologist in the Survey. Demoted in 1946 due to either having fulfilled wartime role or due to DSIR conditions of service.


Geological Museum

From the 1950s onwards more women were employed in the Geological Museum in South Kensington.


Diane Knill

Diane Knill — obtained PhD and employed as a geologist


Became Institute of Geological Sciences


Survey merged with overseas Geological Survey


Susan Arnold — first woman to conduct research at sea.


Equal pay and sex discrimination legislation. Survey still male dominated — hard to breach organisation.


Move to Keyworth started


Miss Edna Waine appointed first female head of unit (Analytical & ceramics unit)


Beris Cox

Beris Cox authors and coauthors over 230 reports and papers on Mesozoic biostratigraphy


British Geological Survey logo

Became British Geological Survey


Official opening of BGS Keyworth Library.

BGS Library opens


Introduction of Digital Map Production System in BGS


Dr Jane Plant

Dr Jane Plant appointed Survey's first female Assistant Director


3-D Visualisation Suite opens

3-D Visualisation Suite opens


There are currently about an even divide of female and male geologists working for the British Geological Survey.

There are currently about an even divide of female and male geologists working for the British Geological Survey.


GeoBlogyThe historic role of women scientists at BGS and a look at what is happening today... by Catherine Pennington

This may surprise you if you know the BGS today but from its inception in 1835, and for over 100 years thereafter, the British Geological Survey was an exclusively male preserve. Women just weren't allowed in, especially if they wanted to be a scientist, involved in any fieldwork or, dare I say it, marry.