Marie Stopes

Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes was born to Henry and Charlotte (née Brown Carmichael) Stopes in Edinburgh in 15 October 1880.

Her father was an architect, from a wealthy brewing family, with an interest in archaeology, while her mother was a Shakespearian scholar and promoter of women's education.

Marie took a science degree at University College London. Achieving a BSc in two years, with double honours – in Botany and Geology - in 1902, then went on to a successful career in palaeontology during which she became the first woman to complete a PhD thesis in Botany (at Munich) which she did within a year. Appointed assistant lecturer in Botany at Manchester University, she became the youngest DSc in Britain in 1905.

Her paleobotanical work included preparing the catalogue of cretaceous flora for the British Museum, going down coalmines in search of fossil plants, studying carboniferous flora in the coal beds of New Brunswick, and publishing researches on the composition of coal. Her nomenclature of the four constitutes of coal (vitrain, clarain, durain and fusain,) became standard usage.

Although Marie Stopes is popularly remembered only for her considerable influence on women's issues, she also did much important work on paleobotany and the geology of coal.

She married twice – the second time to Humphrey V Roe of the aircraft-building family – but retained her maiden name throughout her professional life. She had one surviving child, a son, Harry.

The above is derived from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article by Lesley A Hall, which includes a good portrait

Image: Unknown photographer; restored by Adam Cuerden, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Related Links