Charlotte Murchison’s (née Hugonin) work on fossils and her extensive collection attracted acclaim and a find in Portree, Isle of Skye, inspired Ammonites murchinsoniae to be named in her honour. She is widely recognised now as a woman who made significant contributions to the study of geology and fossil hunting but was overlooked in her own time.
She was keen to access higher education and when geologist Charles Lyell initially refused to let women attend his lectures, Charlotte and fellow scientist Mary Somerville were part of the crowd demanding entrance. Her lobbying resulted in his change of mind and as a result, women were allowed in.
The Charlotte Murchison Lecture Theatre is located in Murchison House, King’s Buildings. It is the latest room in the University to be named in honour of female pioneers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The data centre in the James Clerk Maxwell Building was named after Scottish writer and polymath Mary Somerville (1780 – 1872), one of the first female members of the Royal Astronomical Society. Also, the Xia Peisu Training room, which can also be found in the James Clerk Maxwell Building, honours the woman widely considered to be the mother of computer science in China. Peisu (1923 – 2014) led the development of Model 107, China’s first locally designed general-purpose computer. It helped establish both the Chinese Journal of Computers and the Journal of Computer Science and Technology and taught China’s first course in computer theory.
Photograph courtesy the National Portrait Gallery London