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A tribute to Mary Kendrick MBE

Posted: 25-Jun-2015

During the week that National Women in Engineering Day is inspiring girls in the UK to get excited about engineering, it seems fitting to pay tribute to Mary Kendrick, MBE, a pioneering female engineer who sadly passed away at the beginning of June.

Over a long and illustrious career Mary Kendrick’s achievements were many. Most notably she was the first woman to win the ICE Telford Gold Medal, she received an MBE for Services to Engineering, was a founder member of the Women of the Year Association and the first female Acting Conservator of the Mersey.

Dr Keith Powell, HR Wallingford’s Operations Director reflects on Mary’s career:

“Many civil, maritime and coastal engineers have probably never heard of Mary Kendrick; I’m sure they would be surprised at the extent to which her work influenced what they do today.

Mary joined Hydraulics Research Station (HRS - later to become HR Wallingford) in 1956 and was with us for more than 30 years. During this time Mary acquired a very lengthy and impressive CV, and notably contributed to most of the major projects carried out by HRS over this period.

At the time HRS was a male dominated environment. Company lore tell us that she initially applied for a secretarial post with the intention that it would be a temporary position, presumably until she found a more suitable appointment elsewhere. With a double first from Cambridge in English and Geography, Mary was told that she had the qualifications for an Assistant Experimental Officer position. Not being one to miss an opportunity, she took the AEO post as it paid more money!

Clearly, however, she had found her calling. During the early 1960s, Mary was promoted to the post of Experimental Officer. Her work focused on tidal estuaries, and she developed and used physical models on a series of nationally important infrastructure projects.

In 1964, she and colleague Alan Price, won the ICE Telford Gold Medal for their work on the Mersey Estuary. She was the first woman to receive this award. At the time Mary managed a team of ten male staff. She was the HRS’s only senior female member of staff and was recognised as one of the few women in the engineering industry.

In 1968 Mary was appointed to head the team working on the Thames Barrier project, and for the next few years this project occupied much of her time. In fact, Mary remained involved with Thames Barrier for the remainder of her career.

In the early 1970s Mary was one just a few members of staff appointed to the post of Principal Scientific Office – a position at the time considered much superior to those of the Experimental grades.

When the Mersey Barrage study was awarded to HR Wallingford in the 1980s, Mary was the obvious choice to manage the project.

Mary retired in April 1988 and became the Acting Conservator for the River Mersey, a post she filled for ten years. She was also a long term committee member of PIANC, contributing much to both the UK section and internationally for many years until she stepped down in 2014.

During her long career Mary had many notable achievements. Amongst these she was first woman to win the ICE Telford Gold Medal; she was awarded the MBE for Services to Engineering, was founder member of the Women of the Year Association and the first female Acting Conservator of the Mersey.

Our condolences go to Mary’s family and friends.”

A memorial service for Mary Kendrick, MBE  will be held on Tuesday 1 September 2015. Please contact us if you would like details. 

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