WANTED for services to science and the sisterhood

Agnes Eleanora Miller, known to friends and family as Nora

Earlier this year, the Scotswummin team paid a visit to the National Library of Scotland. We came to learn more about using historical documents in our hunt for influential Scottish women. We stayed (even longer) to hear curator Catherine Booth speak on the hundreds of hidden women who shaped our nation’s social, cultural and scientific history. But one particularly captured our imaginations: Agnes Eleanora Miler.

And today, on International Women’s Day, we need your help to honour another Scotswummin.

Who was she?

Nora Miller was a noted Scottish noted zoologist and academic. Born on 7 September 1898 at Dunipace, Stirlingshire, at the age of seven Nora moved with her parents to Glasgow's West End. This was to be her home for more than 50 years.

Educated initially at Westbourne School for Girls, she then spent a year at Skerry's College before attending Glasgow University. Nora originally intended to study medicine, but she quickly came under the spell of Sir John Graham Kerr, Regius Professor of Zoology. He was to remain her inspiration for the rest of her days. She abandoned her plans for a medical career and graduated with an MA in 1920. Sir John invited her to become a demonstrator in the Department of Zoology and in 1924, she was appointed Assistant Lecturer. She was promoted to Lecturer in 1929. In her research work, Nora closely studied the development of archaic vertebrates, particularly lungfishes and sharks.

Catherine thrilled us with tales of Nora’s groundbreaking research (often flying in the face of established paleontological theories) and travels through the world. We discovered that she was the one of the first people ever to make an underwater film in colour; that she didn’t worry about submitting her PhD until 1962, after almost 40 years of teaching and research; and that she loved to dive and was no mean organist!

What did she look like, we clamoured, this veritable Scotswummin?

“We don’t know”, was the disappointing answer.

What are Scotswummin going to do?

Scotswummin and the National Library of Scotland are on the hunt for a photo of Nora.

Nora’s life is actually quite well-documented – she features in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and several of her scientific article are available online. But none of these records feature her photograph or portrait.

We would like to find a photo of her: to help us create a richer historical record, update online resources like Wikipedia, and inspire a new generation of Scottish scientists.

How can I help?

We would love to hear from anyone who can help us track down a photo of Nora during her academic career. Please get in touch if this is you.