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Sanna, on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula
Sanna, on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula

Doris Reynolds lived from 1 July 1899 to 10 October 1985. She was a geologist who spent much of her career in Scotland. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.

Doris Livesey Reynolds was born in Manchester, the daughter of Alfred Reynolds, a textile manufacturer, and Louisa Livesey. She studied at Bedford College, part of the University of London, and gained her degree in geology in 1920. After her first degree she took up a teaching post at University College London. In 1931 she was accompanying a group of students on a field trip to the Ardnamurchan Peninsula when she met Arthur Holmes, the Professor of Geology at the University of Durham. She subsequently took up his offer of a teaching post at Durham and, after the death of his first wife, they married in 1939.

In 1942, Holmes became Regius Professor of Geology at the University of Edinburgh, and Doris became an Honourary Research Fellow, undertaking informal and unsalaried research and teaching in the geology department. During the 1940s, Dorothy developed the theory of "granitisation" to explain the formation of granite in the Earth's crust. The result was a controversy that split the field of petrology (the study of rocks) until the 1960s.

Although her theory was eventually proved incorrect, she had succeeded in provoking a considerable amount of research in a previously little understood corner of geology. In 1949, Doris Reynolds became the first female Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and in 1960 she received an award from the Geological Society of London. Arthur Holmes died in 1965. Doris subsequently published a revised edition of his classic textbook Principles of Physical Geology. She died in 1985.

This biography draws on research first published in "The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women".

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