Happy 116th Birthday to Engineer of the Week No.5
Dorothy Rowntree BSc (Mrs Joly) (16th January 1903- 5th February 1988)
Britain’s first female Naval Architecture graduate
Rowntree was born in Glasgow, where her father, Robert Stanley Rowntree, was then a ship’s draughtsman in Wallsend on Tyne. By the time that Dorothy was starting at the University of Glasgow he was a Surveyor for Lloyds' Register of Shipping. The family lived in a very nice house in Westbourne Gardens, in the west-end of Glasgow, during the time that Dorothy was at the university.
She studied at the University of Glasgow and the Royal Technical College between 1922-26, under Professor Hillhouse. The Royal Technical College, now part of the University of Strathclyde, provided a lot of the practical courses for the University of Glasgow’s engineering students and also had, at that time, a unique early ship simulator, known as the “Land ship” on its roof, for teaching the use and correction of compasses. (see the mural now on the end of the Graham Hills building on George Street)
She graduated from the University of Glasgow with a BSc Engineering Naval Architecture, on 24th April 1926, the University’s first woman to graduate in with a BSc in engineering, as earlier regulations named all degrees either BA or BSc without distinguishing between specialisms. She is assumed to have taken this degree in order to work with her father. She worked for the Fairfield shipyard for a couple of years but RINA apparently have no record of her having been even a student member. She went to Beirut, because her sister was already living there, and got a job as Secretary to President Bayard of the American University of Beirut. She met her husband Norman Joly in Beirut. They moved to Haifa, Israel, where he ran a banking/insurance/shipping company called Henry Heald & Co. that is still there today as an insurance company and shipping agent and in 1948 they moved back to Beirut and built a house in the mountains and had 2 sons. They came back to the UK when her husband was ill and he died in the UK, and Dorothy then lived in London. Dorothy herself died in Hampshire on 5th February 1988, aged 87.
Sadly, she did not make much professional use of her very fine degree, which must have required considerable perseverance and determination to complete, in what was probably at that time a hostile and male atmosphere. She chose instead to look after and raise a family in a fascinating part of the world, which she got to know very well, through war and insurrection. She and her husband were described by their family as having “left behind a memory of two people who, with sympathy and hard work, became an example to a community of mixed faiths and nationalities”.
Member of the Women's Engineering Society. https://www.facebook.com/pages/WES/164261108443