Gertrude Elles

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Gertrude Lilian Elles

Born(1872-10-08)8 October 1872
Died18 November 1960(1960-11-18) (aged 88)
EducationWimbledon High School
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge, Trinity College, Dublin
Known forwork on graptolites
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Cambridge
Doctoral students

Gertrude Lilian Elles MBE (8 October 1872 – 18 November 1960)[1] was a British geologist, known for her work on graptolites.

Born in Wimbledon to parents who were Scottish, Elles was educated at Wimbledon High School and Newnham College, Cambridge, where in 1895 she received first class honours in the Natural Science tripos. She travelled to Dublin in 1905, to take her D.Sc. The University of Cambridge was not then awarding women degrees. Between 1904-1907 an arrangement was made between the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and Trinity College, Dublin to award female graduates of Cambridge and Oxford their degree in Ireland instead.[1] She worked with Ethel Wood and Charles Lapworth.

Elles was an active member of the Sedgwick Club, the University of Cambridge's official geological society[2] where she played a pivotal role in the club's running.

Her work on the genera of graptolites from North Wales and the Skiddaw Slates of the Lake District, England and from the Wenlock Shales of the Welsh borders eventually led to Elles' receiving the Lyell Fund of the Geological Society of London in 1900, but was unable to collect it since women were barred from meetings. In 1919 she became one of the first female Fellows of the Geological Society, and in the same year won its Murchison Medal.

She was awarded the MBE for work with the Red Cross during the First World War.

She was president of the British Association in 1923. Elles was the first woman to be awarded a readership position at Cambridge in 1924. She continued to lecture and research until her retirement in 1938. She was made Reader Emeritus in 1938, and continued to supervise students. Some of the students that she supervised at Cambridge included Dorothy Hill, Elizabeth "Betty" Ripper and Oliver Bulman.

She never married and had no children.


  1. ^ a b Higgs, B. and Wyse, Jackson, P.N. (2007). "The role of women in the history of geological studies in Ireland In: Burek C.V. & Higgs B. (eds) The role of Women in the History of Geology". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. 281: 137–154. doi:10.1144/sp281.9.
  2. ^ "The Sedgwick Club". Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  • Burek, C. V.; Higgs, B. (1 January 2007). "The role of women in the history and development of geology: an introduction". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. 281 (1): 1–8. doi:10.1144/SP281.1.
  • Burek, C. V. (1 January 2007). "The role of women in geological higher education Bedford College, London (Catherine Raisin) and Newnham College, Cambridge, UK". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. 281 (1): 9–38. doi:10.1144/SP281.2.
  • Burek, C. V. (21 August 2009). "The first female Fellows and the status of women in the Geological Society of London". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. 317 (1): 373–407. doi:10.1144/SP317.21.
  • Secord, James A.; Howells, Malcolm; Couples, Gary D.; Oldroyd, David. "Geological Tensions in an Idyllic Field". Metascience. 13 (1): 1–27. doi:10.1023/B:MESC.0000023262.37758.d2.

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