Cambridge’s first female engineer publishes book at 94

Patience Purdy (NC 1947) has published her autography aged 94. Patience, who was chair of the National Council of Women of Great Britain, recently suffered a stroke and is blind but still writing from her home in North Shields. She was the first female student to graduate with a Cambridge degree in Engineering. She grew up in Australia and her great-grandfather was the famous Australian politician, George Fairbairn.

“I came to England in January 1947 in the hope of being a member of Newnham College,” she writes. “Women then, even when my father was at Jesus College, were allowed to study at Newnham but could not yet obtain a degree from Cambridge. Fortunately, in 1948, Cambridge allowed women to gain degrees and to my good luck I became the first female undergraduate of engineering at Cambridge.

“Since then, my life has been interesting and unusual, particularly with regards to women, science and engineering, and my recent book, Engineers and Women Changed the World, covers the changes I have seen take place across the 20th century.” Patience’s book is available from Waterstones and is also in Newnham Library.