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Agnes Blackie

Image of Agnes Blackie in a lecture theatre, c/nE5302/NA, Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago

Physics lecturer (1897-1975)

Agnes Blackie was for decades the sole female academic in Otago University’s Physics Department. She was appointed as an assistant lecturer in 1919,1 and continued teaching part time even after she retired from her position as lecturer in 1958. "I can’t imagine a better subject for a lecturer", she wrote. "Lectures can be illustrated with fascinating demonstrations which bring the subject to life for the students and are fun for the lecturer to operate."

Blackie loved physics, and taught a wide range of students: returned servicemen from whom she endured considerable teasing, music students studying acoustics, or home science students learning about appliances, ventilation and humidity. She even gave public lectures on subjects such as sound. Blackie looked out for her female students, and in the 1960s would take them all back to her home for afternoon tea.2


1. ‘University Examinations’, Evening Star, 27 March 1919.

2. Ali, ‘Scientific Women’, University of Otago 1869-2019, 27 March 2016, https://otago150years.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/scientific-women/.

This profile is part of the series 150 Women in 150 Words that celebrates women’s contributions to expanding knowledge in New Zealand, running as part of our 150th Anniversary.