Mary Isolen Fergusson OBE

Pioneering Civil Engineer

Mary (Molly) Fergusson was the first woman elected to a Fellowship of the Institute of Civil Engineering in 1957. She had probably been the first woman to be made a senior partner in a consulting engineering firm in 1948. That this firm was Blyth and Blyth, one of the most prestigious of Scottish firms, says much for her engineering ability and hard work. Encouraged by her medical father and her school, York College, she graduated from Edinburgh in engineering in 1936. She worked unpaid for a year for Blyth and Blyth before being put on the payroll at thirty shillings a week.

After that the only way was up! Mary engineered bridges in the Highlands, sewers for water purification on the River Leven and papermills in Markinch. She revelled in the fieldwork, her only complaint being that the Highland hotels she returned to, famished after long hours on site, served her smaller portions than her colleagues because she was a woman. She worked exceptionally hard and, it was suggested, expected the same of her assistants.

Mary Fergusson’s career was dedicated to engineering. She never married but she found time to serve as a Commissioner for the Cub Scout movement, to chair the Edinburgh Soroptimists and to be a member of the Women’s Engineering Society. It was for her work in the furtherance of engineering as a career for women that she was awarded an honorary D.Sc. from Heriot Watt University in 1985. She had already been given an OBE after her retirement in 1979.

Liz Beevers


Obituary The Scotsman 9 January 1998
Laureation speech Heriot Watt July Congregation 1985
Baker N. Early Women Engineering Graduates from Scottish Universities in


Mary receiving an honorary doctorate from the Heriot Watt University





Mary Isolen Fergusson
Mary Fergusson

With permission of Heriot Watt University