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Catherine Alice Raisin (24 April 1855 – 13 July 1945) was the first woman Lyell Fund recipient – The Geological Society in 1893.
She was one of the most important early female geologists in Britain. Her research was primarily in the field of microscope petrology and mineralogy. She was the Head of the Geology department at Bedford College for Women, in London for 30 years, and strived for women's equality in education. Raisin was the first woman in Britain to lead a university geology department. She was also the Head of the Botany department at the Bedford College for Women.
Catherine Raisin was born on 24 April 1855, in Camden, New Town, London, England. She was the youngest child and only daughter of Daniel Francis Raisin and Sarah Catherine Woodgate. Catherine had three older brothers, and her mother was 45 years old when she was born. Her father was employed at the Inner Temple as a pannierman. Raisin was educated at the North London Collegiate School, a private school for girls. From an early age, Catherine had an enthusiasm for geology, an obligation she owed to Sir Charles Lyell 'whose Principles of Geology was one of the most punctual books to stir my energy'. In London, when she was 18 years old, she started attending classes at University College London, where she first studied geology, then mineralogy. In 1877, Raisin attained a special certificate in botany, but could not start a degree until they were opened to women in 1878. In 1879, after passing the Intermediate Science examination she selected geology, botany and zoology. There she studied under Professor T.G. Bonney, while also attending Thomas Huxley's lectures at the Royal faculty of Mines. She was the first woman to study geology at University College, London. In 1884, she obtained her B.Sc. honors in both geology and zoology as top University College graduate. Following her graduation, she worked on a voluntary basis as a research assistant to Professor T.G. Bonney. In 1893, at the age of 38, Raisin was the first woman to receive the "Lyell Fund" award from the Geological Society of London for her research on metamorphism. T.G. Bonney needed to accept the honor for her benefit, since the Geological Society of London did not permit ladies to go to its gatherings at the time. In 1898, Raisin obtained her D.Sc from the University of London; she was the second female geologist to achieve this accolade.
Catherine Raisin spent her entire academic career at Bedford College, where in 1886, she became a demonstrator of botany. She was also the first full-time head of the geology department from 1890 to 1920, and helped form a separate geography department while still teaching a large amount of geology classes. She was also head of the botany department from 1891 to 1908 and head of the geography department from 1916 to 1920. Raisin accepted an offer of the post of Vice Principal of the college in 1898, but resigned in 1901 due to the high work load. The following year Raisin was elected a fellow of University College. She was also a member of the Geologists' Association for 67 years, one of the longest serving members. The main focus of Raisin's research was in the study of rocks using microscope petrology and mineralogy, topics in which she published 24 papers between 1887 and 1905, counting community oriented works with Bonney. The larger part of these papers were distributed in three Journals: Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society; Geological Magazine; and the Proceedings of the Geologists' Association. In particular she studied chert, serpentines, and spilites. In 1887, her first paper was read to the Geological Society of London by T.G. Bonney, since women were not allowed to present papers back then. She was seen as a leading expert on metamorphic facies, which is a set of mineral clusters that was formed under similar temperatures and pressures. She also worked on the microcrystalline formation of chert in Jurassic-era and published her findings in her well-known paper Proceedings of the Geologists' Association in 1903. Raisin became a fellow of the Linnean Society of London in 1906 and in 1919, after the society changed its rules to allow women, also became a fellow of the Geological Society of London at age 64.
Catherine Raisin served as a role model for research, teaching and administration throughout the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth. Over her lifetime, Catherine Raisin has become a leading role as a female leader in the department of geology in England. She became the first woman to study geology at the University College of London in 1875. Furthering her career, she worked at Bedford College in England to become the first female professor in the Science Department, and further more, the first woman to run as the head of the Geology Department in 1890. As of 1898, Raisin was the first woman to become a vice principal of Bedford College, and later in her studies, she became the second woman at the University of London to receive a Doctoral degree in science with honours. Over the course of her career Raisin fought for equality in education, specifically for the right of female students to study at university and become researchers or lecturers. In 1808, she founded the Somerville Club, a women's discussion group which would grow to over 1000 members by 1945; she was the honorary secretary and later on the chairman of the club. At Bedford College she sometimes paid wages herself and set up various funds and awards to encourage students to do well. She was a pioneer in providing the opportunity for women to receive a higher education. She also provided employment opportunities for other women. In 1911 Ira Slater worked with her as a demonstrator in the geography department of Bedford College. After retiring, Raisin again worked with women's groups. She was a testament to the work and research a female could accomplish in a male-dominated profession.
Catherine Alice Raisin retired in 1920 when she was 65 years of age. She never married, and viewed her understudies as her daughters. She was not reluctant to go to bat for her rights or the privileges of others in the event that she felt bad form had been finished. All her life she was an enthusiastic non-smoker and was not reluctant to tell individuals of her dismay when they 'lit up' in theaters, prepares and transports. She lived at Ash Priors Nursing Home and continued to support various women's groups. Catherine Raisin died on 13 July 1945 at the age of 90 from cancer in Cheltenham, England. She was buried on 17 July 1945.
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