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

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

Mary Isolen (Molly) Fergusson

1914 – 1997

Mary Isolen (Molly) Fergusson

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

Engineering Achievements

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.

Her Life

  1. 1914 Year of birth
  2. 1939 Elected AMInstCE, the professional grade of the Institution of Civil Engineers
  3. 1948 Became a partner in Blyth and Blyth
  4. 1978 Resigned as a partner from Blyth and Blyth
  5. 1997 Year of death

Her Legacy

Molly 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 

She was chair of the Edinburgh Soroptomists Group, and a member of the Business Committee of Edinburgh University.

She established 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.

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