In 1914, Ethel Mary Doidge became the first woman to receive a doctorate from the University of the Cape of Good Hope (which became Unisa). She later served on the first Unisa Council.


The daughter of English immigrants, Doidge was raised in Pietermaritzburg. Her father was an analytical chemist, and although he died while she was still young, an affinity for science would define her life. As a student, she was drawn to botany and then mycology (the study of fungi), which was still in its infancy in South Africa. Her doctoral thesis demystified a previously unknown fungal disease that was devastating mango crops. Employed by the Transvaal Department of Agriculture, Doidge went on to create a vast legacy of research into the fungi of South Africa. She is commemorated today by the International Mycological Association’s ‘Ethel Mary Doidge Medal’ for the best young mycologist from Africa.