Eileen Guppy

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Eileen Guppy
Born (1903-05-24)24 May 1903
Died 8 March 1980(1980-03-08) (aged 76)
Alma mater Bedford College, London (BSc)
Awards MBE
Scientific career
Fields Geology, Petrology, Analytical Chemist
Institutions British Geological Survey

Eileen Mary Guppy BSc MBE (24 May 1903 – 8 March 1980) was the first female geologist appointed to the scientific staff of the British Geological Survey and was the first female staff member to be awarded an MBE in 1966 for her 39 years of service to the Order of the British Empire.[1]

Education and early career[edit]

Guppy graduated in Geology from Bedford College, London in around 1925.[2] For the next two years she worked as a research assistant to Prof Leonard Hawkes at Bedford College and published the paper A Composite Dyke from Eastern Iceland in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London.[3]

Geological Survey career[edit]

In 1927 Eileen Guppy was one of two women with geology degrees to be appointed as technical assistants at the Geological Survey of Great Britain. Guppy was appointed to the Petrological Department. She spent many years working in roles subordinate to senior male staff due to her gender and despite her qualifications.[4]

By 1935 she was regarded of sufficient status to be given the task of organising the move of the Petrology rock and thin section collections from the old Museum of Practical Geology in Jermyn Street to the new Geological Museum in Exhibition Road (this is now part of the Natural History Museum).

Due to World War II in 1943 Guppy was promoted to the rank of assistant geologist, therefore, becoming the first female geology graduate to be appointed to the scientific staff of the Survey. After the war ended, she reverted to her earlier position of Senior Experimental Officer because it was deemed that she had fulfilled her wartime role.[5] She continued to work as a scientific assistant to the survey's Directors Sir William Pugh and Sir James Stubblefield.

Guppy later became a secretary for the new Atomic Energy Division, and finally worked with the inspectors from the Public Record Office between 1963 to 1965 evaluating older records from the Geological survey and museum. Upon her retirement in 1966, Guppy was awarded an MBE for her loyal service over 39 years. She was the first female member of staff to be recognized in this way.[1] Even though she had a 43 year career, she was only officially recognized as a geologist for three of them. Most of her contributions to different British Geological Survey publications and reports are rarely credited to her. [6]


Guppy had released her field work in 1924 under the title of A Composite Dyke from Eastern Iceland, which she formed, while partnered with the geologist Leonard Hawkes. She published two editions of Chemical analysis of Igneous Rocks, Metamorphic Rocks and Minerals during 1931[7] and in 1956. While working for the Director Sir John Flett she made a significant contribution to the book The First Hundred years of the Geological Survey of Great Britian for the British Geological Survey published in 1937. Her work listed the contributing staff on the BGS from 1835-1935.[8] She published a book Rock Wool with James Phemister in 1945 and a second edition came out in 1949.[9]

A Composite Dyke from Eastern Iceland[edit]

Guppy, as well as her scientific partner, Leonard Hawkes, composed a case study on the composite dykes of eastern Iceland in the year of 1924. Although Hawkes conducted the field work himself, Guppy played a crucial role in assisting and co-operating with deciphering the commonly occurring composite dykes in the tertiary plateau-basalt series of the respective area studied. The over-ruling findings are as follows: the exposed dyke is seen to be composed of basic and acidic rocks, as well as seven members- the dolerites alternating in the quartz-porphyries. The studied dyke is exposed in cliff-section, which is 2400 feet in vertical height at Hokulvikurgil, Breithdal. Guppy and Hawkes were also able to correctively decipher the sequence of intrusions in the composite dyke. As well, analysis of the origin of quartz and felspar-xenocrysts in the dolerites were made, and in addition, the origins of the basic inclusions in the acidic rocks.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Guppy was unmarried whilst working for the Geological Survey. Up until 1975, when the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 was introduced, female survey staff were required to resign on marriage.[10]


  1. ^ a b Plant, J. A.; Hackett, D.; Taylor, B. J. (1994). "The role of women in the British Geological Survey". Geology Today. 10 (4): 151–156. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2451.1994.tb00893.x. 
  2. ^ "Miss Eileen Guppy c.1904 to 1980". British Geological Survey. Retrieved 28 December 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Guppy, E. M.; Hawkes, L. (1925). "A Composite Dyke from Eastern Iceland". Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society. 81 (1–4): 325–340. doi:10.1144/GSL.JGS.1925.081.01-04.13. 
  4. ^ Pennington, Catherine (17 February 2015). "The historic role of women scientists at BGS and a look at what is happening today". GeoBlogy. British Geological Survey. Retrieved 28 December 2016. 
  5. ^ "Eileen Guppy". TrowelBlazers. Retrieved 28 December 2016. 
  6. ^ http://trowelblazers.com/eileen-guppy-the-first-woman-geologist-in-the-british-geological-survey/
  7. ^ "Review: Chemical Analyses of Igneous Rocks, Metamorphic Rocks and Minerals. pp. v + 166. Mem. Geol. Survey, 1931. Price, 3s. 6d". Geological Magazine. 69 (08): 383. 1932. doi:10.1017/S0016756800098034. 
  8. ^ "Pioneers of the British Geological Survey". British Geological Survey. Retrieved 29 December 2016. 
  9. ^ "Review: Rock Wool. By E. M. Guppy and J. Phemister. Spec. Rep. Min. Res. Vol. xxxiv. Mem. Geol. Survey, pp. ii + 46. H.M. Stationery Office, 1945. Price 9d". Geological Magazine. 83 (03): 152. 1946. doi:10.1017/S0016756800083345. 
  10. ^ "Freedom and Equality – Women in Geology". British Geological Survey. Retrieved 28 December 2016.