Engineer of the Week No.32, Frances Dora Heywood BSc, PhD, MInstMet (nee Weaver) (14th April 1902 - 18th September 1994)
Today we remember metallurgist Frances Heywood on her 117th birthday.
Frances Weaver was the fourth daughter of an itinerant Methodist preacher, and was a Methodist her whole life. Although born in northwest London, the family followed her father’s work and she was educated in Yorkshire: at Bradford Girls Grammar School and Sheffield High School. She was then awarded an Arnott Scholarship to study at Bedford College, University of London in 1920 from which she graduated in 1924 with a first class honours degree in chemistry. She then worked as Assistant Metallurgist to the Lanston Monotype Corporation Ltd, at Harley, Surrey, where her work put her in charge of the hardening and plating workshops. The firm was a very large one, employing a thousand men to make the type on which printing then depended. Coming straight from university she had a lot to learn on the practical side and was able to befriend the foreman who taught her a lot of what she needed to know and enabled her to quietly ask the company’s fitters to help her maintain the motorbike on which she commuted to work.
In 1927 she contributed an article to The Woman Engineer, about her work in the firm, enthusing about the opportunities to learn when parts failed in use. In the 1930s Frances started the research for which she is best known and which led to her PhD, on the characteristics of the tin-based alloys used in making typeface. Her research was funded by the International Tin Research and Development Association, with money from John Horace Fry of Frys Metal Foundries. He wanted to learn about the interaction of white metal alloy composition with the process of casting and the influence of impurities in the alloys. The outcome of Weaver's research was considered to be the definitive work on the subject and John Fry was able to use this rigorous knowledge-base to expand his business. She published 3 papers based on her research and her work was widely cited by others because it proved that, in alloys such as typemetals, the liquid metal stratifies significantly. Her test samples were stirred during the cooling process and she was able to use herphotomicrographs of etched samples to demonstrate that the difference (compared to unstirred samples) was highly visible. She used a stirring motor in all her cooling curve solidification tests, which consigned any previous work done without stirring motors to official oblivion.
During this period she married a research colleague, Dr Harold Heywood and, as was standard then, retired from her paid employment. They had three children. She joined the Women’s Engineering Society in 1926 and became its president in 1948. Proud to be part of a history of women in the metal trades, at a talk in 1947 she rebuffed a query about engineering being new for women by mentioning the 469 female blacksmiths and 322 smelters in the 1840 census. She was interested in education and was on the boards of various colleges and schools, including Bedford College and Dartford Technical College. Frances contributed the section on engineering in a careers guide for girls produced by the Central Employment Bureau For Women. In her later years she was able to pursue her interest in oil painting.