Margaret Jane Benson

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Margaret Jane Benson (20 October 1859 – 20 June 1936) was an English botanist. Most of her career was spent as a University Professor and head of the Department of Botany at Royal Holloway College, University of London. Her leadership of the newly founded department began in 1893, and in 1927, a botanical laboratory was dedicated in her name. She travelled extensively with Ethel Sargant, a fellow female scientist, collecting specimens, laboratory equipment, and meeting other botanists around the world. Her students included Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan and Netsa Ferguson.[1]

Benson was introduced to botany by her father, an engineer and architect with an interest in the subject. Her mother was a painter who exhibited at the Royal Academy of Art. She was first educated by her sister, who had attended Queens College. She then matriculated to University College London in 1887 and earned her bachelor's degree from the university in 1891[2]. She got her doctorate at the University of London. Her work focused on embryology of a category of Fagales that were called Amentiferae at the time. She was published in Annals of Botany and New Phytologist.[3]

In 1904, she became a fellow of the Linnean Society of London.[4]

Upon her retirement, she was succeeded by another female scientist, Professor Elizabeth Marianne Blackwell, as Head of Botany at Royal Holloway College. Blackwell authored Benson's official obituary.[5]


  • BENSON, Margaret J., Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2016 (online edition, Oxford University Press, 2014)
  1. ^ Joyce Harvey and Marilyn Ogilvie, The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: Pioneering Lives from Ancient Times to the Mid-Twentieth Century, Volume 1 (Google eBook), p. 116, Taylor & Francis US, 2000.
  2. ^ H.E. Fraser & C.J.Cleal, The Contribution of British Women to Carboniferous Palaeobotany during the first half of the 20th Century, in Cynthia V. Burek & Bettie Higgs, The role of Women in the History of Geology, Geological Society of London, 2007 ISBN 9781862392274, p.51-54
  3. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, Fagales
  4. ^ Linnean Society of London [1].
  5. ^ London Archives, BENSON, Professor Margaret Jane (1859-1936)