Author Archives: Anna Sharrard

Diwrnod Menywod mewn STEM: Maria Dawson, graddedig gyntaf Prifysgol Cymru

Y botanydd Maria Dawson oedd y person cyntaf i dderbyn gradd gan Brifysgol Cymru, ym 1896.

Dawson oedd y cyntaf, ar y cyd ag un arall, i dderbyn teitl Doethur y Gwyddorau gan Brifysgol Cymru, a derbyniodd ysgoloriaeth wyddonol i barhau ei hastudiaethau ym maes gwrtaith ac amaeth.

Llun o Maria Dawson, y person cyntaf i raddio o Brifysgol Cymru
Miss Dawson yn derbyn ei Doethuriaeth, o gylchgrawn Coleg Prifysgol Caerdydd, Rhagfyr 1900

Gwobrwyo Graddau Cyntaf Cymru

Ym 1892, ymunodd Dawson a Choleg Prifysgol De Cymru a Sir Fynwy (y sefydliad a ddaeth cyn Prifysgol Caerdydd) i astudio mathemateg, cemeg, sŵoleg a botaneg.

Ar yr adeg honno, doedd dim hawl gan y Coleg i roi graddau, felly byddai’r myfyrwyr yn sefyll arholiadau Prifysgol Llundain fel rheol.

Ym 1893, sefydlwyd Prifysgol Cymru, fyddai’n newid byd addysg Cymru am byth, gyda Cholegau Prifysgol Aberystwyth, Bangor a Chaerdydd yn aelodau. Golygai hyn y gallai Maria Dawson gael gradd gan sefydliad Cymreig.

Perfformiad Academaidd

Roedd Dawson yn fyfyrwraig ddawnus: mi enillodd wobr arddangosfa (ysgoloriaeth) am safon ei harholiad mynediad, a dalodd am ei ffïoedd i gyd – ac enillodd un arall ar ddiwedd y flwyddyn.

Roedd ganddi ddawn wyddonol, gan ennill gwobrau yn ei phedwar pwnc yn ystod ei hail flwyddyn.

Labordy Cemeg ym 1899 yn dangos dynion a merched yn derbyn addysg
Labordy Cemeg yng Nghaerdydd ym 1899 yn dangos dynion a merched yn derbyn addysg

Ymchwil Arloesol

Wedi iddi raddio gyda B.Sc., enillodd wobr o £150 gan Gomisiwn Brenhinol Arddangosfa 1851.

Yn Labordai Botanegol Caergrawnt, fe aeth ati i ymchwilio effeithiau nitrogen ar blanhigion, oedd yn arfer newydd iawn ar y pryd.

Yn ei phapur ‘”Nitragin and the nodules of leguminous plants” ei damcaniaeth oedd na ddylai ychwanegu nitrogen yn ormodol i bridd, ond bod ei ddefnydd mewn pridd gwael yn gallu cynyddu cynaeafau.

Merched Parchus Neuadd Aberdar

Efallai na fyddai Dawson wedi dod i Gaerdydd oni bai am y neuadd breswyl arbennig ar gyfer menywod, Neuadd Aberdâr.

Darlun artist o Neuadd Aberdar fel yr edrychai ym 1895

Roedd ei theulu yn byw yn Llundain – rhy bell iddi ddychwelyd adre bob dydd – a roedd yn annerbyniol yn ôl moesau’r oes i fyfyrwraig ddi-briod fyw ar ei phen ei hun.

Sefydlwyd Neuadd Aberdâr ym 1885, un o’r neuaddau preswyl cyntaf yn y DU i fenywod.

Seremoni Raddio gyntaf Prifysgol Cymru

Clawr wedi ei ddarlunio a llaw, rhifyn cyntaf yr 'University College Magazine', Rhagfyr 1885
Cylchgrawn cyntaf Coleg y Brifysgol, Rhagfyr 1885

Ar yr 22ain o Hydref 1897, ymgasglodd myfyrwyr Prifysgol Cymru yn Neuadd y Parc, neuadd gyngerdd fawr, ar gyfer seremoni raddio gyntaf y sefydliad.

Dyma oedd gan gylchgrawn Coleg Prifysgol De Cymru a Sir Fynwy, cyhoeddiad gan fyfyrwyr, i’w ddweud am yr achlysur arbennig hwn:

“The first to be presented was Miss Maria Dawson, for the degree of B.Sc., and her appearance was the signal for a great outburst of enthusiasm among the audience. The Deputy-Chancellor… gave her the diploma…, and with a… bow… she retired amid deafening cheers.”

Rydym ni’n dathlu Maria heddiw, a’n falch o’n hanes hir o gefnogi ymchwil menywod yn y gwyddorau – cewch weld rhagor o straeon o fenywod sy’n arloesi heddiw fan hyn: Diwrnod Menywod Mewn STEM.

Gallwch ddarllen gwaith Maria Dawson am Nitrogen fan hyn: Maria Dawson, ‘“Nitragin” and the nodules of leguminous plants’, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 64, 167-168 (1899) http://doi.org/10.1098/rspl.1898.0086

Women in STEM Day: Meet Maria Dawson, the first graduate of the University of Wales

The University of Wales awarded its first degree, a Bachelor of Science, to botanist Maria Dawson in 1896.

Dawson also jointly holds the title of the first Doctor of Science of the University of Wales, and was granted a prestigious scientific scholarship which funded her pioneering research into agricultural fertilisers.

Photograph of the first graduate of the University of Wales, Maria Dawson
Miss Maria Dawson receiving her D.Sc., published in the University College Magazine in Dec 1900

Degree-awarding powers in Wales

In October 1892, Dawson was admitted to the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire (the predecessor to Cardiff University) to study mathematics, chemistry, zoology and botany.

At that time, the College did not have degree-awarding powers, and students were prepared for University of London examinations.

However in 1893, whilst Dawson was a student, the history of Welsh education was altered irrevocably with the establishment of the University of Wales.

The university colleges in Cardiff, Bangor and Aberystwyth were its constituent institutions.

Academic Excellence

Dawson was a high achiever from the outset: she won an exhibition (a bursary) at the College’s entrance examinations, which covered her matriculation and lecture fees, and another at the end of her first year.

She excelled in her scientific studies, winning prizes for her performance in all four of her subjects following her second year.

Chemistry Laboratory, c.1899, showing women students
Chemistry Laboratory, c.1899, showing women students

From Botany modules to researching root nodules

After graduating with her B.Sc., Dawson was awarded a £150 research scholarship by Her Majesty’s Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.

Her pioneering research, undertaken at the Cambridge Botanical Laboratories, investigated how the addition of nitrogen and nitrates to soil, a new practice at that time, affected crop yields.

In her research paper, ‘”Nitragin” and the nodules of leguminous plants’ published by Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, she concludes:

Adding nitrogen “to soils rich in nitrates” is inadvisable. Adding “a supply of it to soil poor in nitrates results in an increased yield”, however the best results are obtained when “nitrates [are] added to the soil”.

All the single ladies: let’s put you up… in Aberdare Hall

Artist’s impression of Aberdare Hall in the 1890s

Dawson may not have enrolled at the University of South Wales and Monmouthshire at all if it were not for the dedicated all-female hall of residence the College offered.

Her family lived in London, too far to return home each day, and it was not considered respectable for a young, unmarried woman to live in lodgings unchaperoned.

Aberdare Hall, set up in 1885, was one of the first higher education residences for women in the UK.

Doff thy caps: the first degree ceremony of the University of Wales

Cover of the hand-written manuscript of the University College Magazine, Dec 1885
Cover of the hand-written manuscript of the University College Magazine, Dec 1885

The first degree ceremony of the University of Wales took place in Cardiff at Park Hall, a large concert hall, on 22 October 1897.

The magazine of the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, a student publication, reported on this auspicious occasion:

“The first to be presented was Miss Maria Dawson, for the degree of B.Sc., and her appearance was the signal for a great outburst of enthusiasm among the audience. The Deputy-Chancellor… gave her the diploma…, and with a… bow, she retired amid deafening cheers.”

Today we celebrate Maria Dawson. We’re proud of our long history of supporting women’s research in STEM – you can find more stories of women innovating today here: Women in STEM at Cardiff University.

You can read more of Maria Dawson’s research here: Maria Dawson, ‘“Nitragin” and the nodules of leguminous plants’, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 64, 167-168 (1899). Available at http://doi.org/10.1098/rspl.1898.0086