Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame

Queensferry Crossing

The Queensferry Crossing, Scotland, under construction in 2016. Jacobs/Arup client engineers

Mary Isolen (Molly) Fergusson (1914-1997), leading consulting engineer, first woman Fellow of Institution of Civil Engineers

Molly Fergusson

Fergusson was the first woman to be a partner in a civil engineering consultancy. Whilst employed by Blyth and Blyth, she worked with the senior partner, Benjamin Hall Blyth III, on the design of bridges across the Highlands and Hebrides. As well as being exceptionally hard working (she later expected the same of her assistants), her talent led to rapid progress in her career.

In 1939 she was elected AMInstCE, the professional grade of the Institution of Civil Engineers. On 1 January 1948 she became a partner in Blyth and Blyth and was in charge of all manner of civil engineering projects, bridge design, the River Leven water purification works, sewerage schemes, and industrial projects such as the Markinch paper mills of Tullis Russell.

From the 1960s with her partner James (Jim) Andrew Eddison (1921-2012), and a young assistant William (Bill) Fraser (1931-2011) Blyth and Blyth were associated with a succession of outstanding examples of Scottish modernist architecture, working with architects from local authorities, and private practices such as Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners. Many were buildings for her alma mater, the University of Edinburgh.

She resigned as partner in 1978, but continued to act as a consultant and chair meetings, devoting her fee income to establishing a bursary for helping aspirant engineering students. She also encouraged young women into the profession, thorough work with the Women’s Engineering Society and elsewhere.

Her father, a Cambridge natural sciences graduate, came from a Scottish medical family. She was the first women to graduate with honours from the engineering department when she obtained a second class honours in civil engineering from the University of Edinburgh in 1936 Edinburgh became her home for 60 years. She was chair of the Edinburgh Soroptomists Group, and a member of the Business Committee of Edinburgh University.

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