Graduation 2014/1914: Brilliant BScs

Today marks the beginning of graduations in the College of Science and Engineering and so to celebrate we are looking at some BSc graduates from one hundred years ago.


John Vernon Harrison, born in South Africa, graduated BSc in 1914 with distinctions in Chemistry and, what would become his area of expertise, Geology. During his studies John won many prizes, including first class certificates in Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and Geology as well as the Joseph Black Medal and George Roger Muirhead Prize for Chemistry. In his lifetime John would be awarded for his work from many organisations, such as the Peruvian Government and the Geological Society of London.

John briefly worked as an explosives chemist after graduation but soon joined the Royal Engineers to work in Mesopotamia during the First World War. Towards the end of the war John joined the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and worked in Persia and Iraq. It was during this time that he completed the feat of mapping the Zagros Mountains, which extended over 30,000 square miles. Over his lifetime he would travel across Asia and Latin America, becoming known as one of the ‘great structural geologists of his time.’ He was initially appointed as a Lecturer at Oxford University and after the Second World War became a Reader in Structural Geography there. In 1957 he published a geological map of the remote mountainous terrain from the forests of the Amazon to the Pacific Coast and, two years later, took a well-deserved retirement.


Margaret Macdonald Telfer was one of only two women to graduate BSc in 1914. 172 women in total graduated that year but the majority studied for MAs. Born in 1890 to engineer William, Margaret followed in her father’s footsteps in her studies and did very well, winning a First Class certificate in Advance Physical Laboratory. She took a variety of subjects including Advanced Honours Mathematics, Higher Natural Philosophy and Mineralogy. As was common for female graduates of the time, she went on to become a teacher.


To see the profiles of more BSc 1914 graduates, visit our University Story page. If you would like to contribute to any profiles, or would like to find out more, then please e-mail the Duty Archivist at:


Congratulations graduates! Keep any eye out for more @GUArchives #GUgrad1914

Categories: Archive Services

2 replies

  1. I do wish that some proofreading took place! How can the Zagros mountains extend for 30,000 miles? They would go more than once around the equator!

    • Thank you for pointing this out. I’m sure you’ll be pleased to note that ‘square’ has been added, hopefully correcting the error.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: