Ceremonial plaques recognise alumni from School’s history

Pip Ayton (Women in Engineering) alongside Ian and Douglas Fergusson, nephews of Molly Fergusson, one of the commemorated alumni
Pip Ayton (Women in Engineering) alongside Ian and Douglas Fergusson, nephews of Molly Fergusson, one of the commemorated alumni

On Monday 3rd September 2018, the School’s first commemorative plaques were unveiled to celebrate the achievements of three outstanding alumni, and the School’s first ever Regius Professor.

From designing and engineering lighthouses, to pioneering women’s involvement in engineering – the individuals commemorated represent the variety and ingenuity of engineering achievement at the School. 

Robert Stevenson (1772-1850)

Although Robert Stevenson’s ‘slender knowledge of Latin and total want of Greek’ prevented him from graduating from the University, he went on to become the nation’s most eminent lighthouse engineer. One of his finest achievements was the design of Bell Rock Lighthouse – the tallest offshore structure in the world at the time, constructed in treacherous conditions. Stevenson’s other notable engineering feats included the design of many harbours and bridges across Scotland and Europe.

Robert Stephenson (1803-1859)

Robert Stephenson designed ‘Rocket’, which won the Rainhill Trials and in doing so made it possible for locomotive, rather than rope haulage, to power railways. Stephenson went on to develop the most advanced locomotive of the day, reaching a top speed of 30 miles an hour, as well as achieving international acclaim for both railway and bridge construction in the UK, Egypt, Norway and Canada.

Fleeming Jenkin (1833-1885)

Fleeming Jenkins is known for his innovative work in electrical telegraphy, including deep water cable-laying and the invention of the cable car. Fleeming Jenkin became the first Regius Professor of Engineering at the University after the Professorship was bestowed on the University by Queen Victoria in 1868.

Molly Fergusson (1914-1997)

Mary (Molly) Fergusson was celebrated as the first woman to graduate with honours in Engineering at The University of Edinburgh. After graduating in 1936, Fergusson worked on Scottish infrastructure projects including the River Leven Scheme and rose to become the first female senior partner of a British civil engineering company – serving tirelessly with Blyth and Blyth until her retirement in 1978. Fergusson was the first female Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, an active member of the Women’s Engineering Society, and was awarded an OBE after retirement.

Special guests

Around 50 guests were present for the ceremony, including PHEW Scotland, Women’s Engineering Society and Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame judges. Among the senior University and School representatives in attendance were Jason Reese, Regius Professor of Engineering; Gordon Masterton, Chair of Future Infrastructure; and David Robertson, Head of the College Science & Engineering. The School also welcomed very special guests: two nephews of Molly Fergusson, one of the commemorated alumni.

The ceremony took place in the University’s pioneering FloWave facility, representing the School of Engineering’s continuing cutting-edge research and contribution to engineering endeavour.

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