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Marion Fyfe

Marion Fyfe. Source: Alexander Turnbull LIbrary, Wellington, New Zealand. Ref: PA1-q-1057.

Zoologist (1897-1986)

fyfeIn 1949, Marion Fyfe became the first woman elected onto the Council of the Royal Society Te Apārangi, representing the Otago branch in which she was an active member.1 She became the editor of the Transactions journal, seeking to improve the quality of the papers. Fyfe had in fact already previously helped with the journal, editing proofs in 1938.

Fyfe had studied at the University of Otago, then joined the staff as a lecturer in 1921 and was described as the “backbone” of the department – sometimes acting as department head. When Beryl Brewin joined her in 1936, women accounted for two thirds of the zoology academic staff.2 Fyfe’s work was primarily in flatworms, particularly their reproductive processes, such as the longitudinal sections shown here of Geoplana iris and Artioposthia mariae, a protected species found in Golden Bay and Motueka.


1. John E. Martin, Illuminating Our World: 150 Years of the Royal Society Te Apārangi, 2017, p. 80.

2. Ali, ‘Scientific Women’, University of Otago 1869-2019 (blog), 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.