Beryl Platt, Baroness Platt of Writtle

Engineer

A photograph of a board of directors containing 10 men and 1 woman in the centre

Image from the British Gas 1993 Report & Accounts (published 1994) showing Beryl Platt on what otherwise is an all-male board of directors.

  • BORN 18th April 1923, Leigh-on Sea, Essex
  • DIED 1st February 2015, Hertfordshire
  • WORKED She worked for Hawker Aircraft during World War Two, and then moved to British European Airways, where she remained until her marriage in 1949. After that, she lived in Writtle, Essex and pursued an outstanding political career, first in local government in Essex, then nationally in the House of Lords.
  • HONOURS Her many honours include:
    • 1978 CBE
    • 1988 Freedom of the City of London
    • 1994-2001 Chancellor of Middlesex University
  • MINERVA SCIENTIFICA PROJECT Echoes from Essex 2020

Entry by Dr Patricia Fara, Emeritus Fellow of Clare College Cambridge and member of the British Society for the History of Science.

Beryl Platt aged 10 with her brother James Myatt (Image provided by Vicky Platt)

Artistic Connections

Nothing recorded

Music

Music will be written for this page as part of our Essex 2020 project later this year, Subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll let you know when it arrives.

Education

Although her school education was disrupted by the War, she was an excellent student who was accepted to read maths at Cambridge, and then switched to engineering so that she could benefit from a wartime bursary. She was one of only five women in a class of 250, and the course was condensed into two years because of the War. Her education was disrupted not by a global pandemic but by a world war. She stayed calm, carried on and became Britain’s leading female engineer.

Beryl Platt 2nd row, third from right, at Hawker Aircraft (Image provided by Vicky Platt)

Occupations

Aeronautical engineer
She worked on fighter planes at Hawker Aircraft immediately after graduating, but left after the War to develop air safety measures for British European Airways

Local politician
After she married and moved to a small Essex village, she turned to local politics and was particularly involved in improving education

Campaigner for Equality
As a life peer, she chaired the Equal Opportunities Commission and was the first chair of WISE, the national initiative to promote Women in Science and Engineering

Scientific Achievement

For a woman to become an aeronautical engineer in the 1940s was in itself a huge achievement, but her major significance lay in promoting female education and career opportunities in science.

Beryl Platt and her husband at their wedding in 1949 (Image provided by Vicky Platt)

Did You Know?

‘WISE is the Word’ she said, when refusing to have a scholarship named after her personally.

She was happily married for 54 years, but when she first met her husband as a school girl he condemned her as a swot.

She emphasised to young women that they should never ever learn to type, because if they did they would be relegated to secretarial duties.

BP at Duxford Museum, Shuttleworth in 2007 (Image provided by Vicky Platt)

An Inspiring Woman

She was an outstanding role model who encouraged young women into science where they could have ‘such fun’. She was important not because of her scientific innovations, but because of her courage, determination and dedication to supporting younger women.

Links