Family represented at lecture honouring Scotland’s first female professor

Relatives of Scotland’s first female professor, Margaret Fairlie, will attend the inaugural lecture held in her honour at the University of Dundee on Saturday (March 28th).

The inaugural Margaret Fairlie Lecture will be given by Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England. Among the audience will be Professor Fairlie’s great niece, Kate Fairlie, and Elizabeth Fairlie, the wife of her nephew, John.

Margaret Fairlie was born in Angus in 1891 and grew up at West Balmirmer Farm near Arbroath. In 1910 she matriculated at University College, Dundee to study at the Conjoint Medical School, marking the start of an association that would last most of the rest of her life. After graduating in 1915, she held various posts in Dundee, Perth, Edinburgh and Manchester, before returning to Dundee in 1919 to run a consultant practice for gynaecology, and started teaching at the Medical School the following year. In the mid-1920s Fairlie joined the staff of Dundee Royal Infirmary becoming head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1936. She was also honorary gynaecologist to Arbroath, Brechin, Montrose and Forfar infirmaries and attended cases throughout Angus and Perthshire.

She was made a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1940, the first woman professor in Scotland. Her appointment to a chair was somewhat delayed, in part due to opposition to granting a chair to a woman. A popular figure with staff and students, she was noted for her warm hospitality. She retired in 1956, but retained a close connection with both the University and DRI. She died in 1963.

“I remember being slightly in awe of Aunt Margaret when she came to visit my mother and I always knew she was the first lady Professor in Scotland, which was obviously a great honour for her,” said Kate Fairlie.

“Doing what she did at that time was unusual and I wonder how the men she worked with viewed her. I don’t necessarily think she was a feminist but she just really believed in what she was doing and her work.

“Aunt Margaret died when I was quite young so I can’t say I knew her all that well but I was brought up in the same home she was so it will be nice to go along to the lecture and represent her and the Fairlie family.”

Saturday’s lecture takes place in conjunction with Dundee’s Women in Science 2015 festival.

In it Dame Sally will outline ‘The risks to society of unrestricted antibiotic use’, looking at how the world faces up to a growing crisis.

The lecture, part of the University’s Saturday Evening Lecture Series, takes place at the Dalhousie Building, Old Hawkhill from 6pm on Saturday, 28th March.

A drinks reception will follow this lecture. Overflow theatres may be in operation and the main lecture theatre is filled on a first come first seated basis on the night.

Free tickets are available from Tower Reception, 01382 385108, online at, or by emailing  


Notes to editors:

Dundee is once again celebrating the achievements of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) with the Women in Science Festival. A total of 45 exhibitions, talks, film screenings, fun days and other events are taking place across the city in March, and the festival is supported by many of the internationally acclaimed female scientists and researchers working at institutions in Dundee.

The programme highlights the many opportunities there are for women to pursue a career in science and related subjects. It is the only festival in the world to focus on celebrating women in science and this year will present a range of film screenings, exhibitions, talks and family fun days.

More information is available by visiting


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