Dr Joyce Brown Macpherson

(MSc Geography, 1956)

Geomorphologist, palynologist and pioneering woman in her field.

Joyce Macpherson (née Brown) (MSc Geography, 1956) was the first in her family to attend high school and university. When Britain democratised access to higher education in the 1940s, Joyce walked determinedly through that door, transforming her life through her studies, and passing on that opportunity to her children and students.

Joyce’s educational achievements include receiving her bachelor’s from Bedford College, University of London (1950), a master’s in Geography from King’s (1956) and a PhD from McGill University in 1966. Joyce was a high school geography teacher from 1951 to 1957. She taught in Bridlington, Yorkshire, then at her own high school – Ware Grammar School for Girls, Hertfordshire.

In academia, Dr Macpherson was part of the geography faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) from 1966–94. Her academic honours included Professor Emerita 1998 and Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RGCS) 1992, and she was a recipient of the RCGS Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal 2002.

A geomorphologist and palynologist, Joyce’s research on post-glacial climate warming and vegetation change, particularly across Newfoundland, has contributed to the overall mapping of the Holocene. In other words, by examining the fossil pollen record at various sites in Newfoundland, she reconstructed the timing of the return of vegetation, and thereby helped to map the retreat of the glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age.

She also established the Joyce C. Macpherson Graduate Research Award in Physical Geography as an annual award in the MUN Department of Geography.

A pioneering woman in her field, Joyce persisted against sexism, valued progressive male mentors and colleagues, and welcomed more women into the field.

Joyce is predeceased by her husband, Dr Alan G. Macpherson (1927–2018), and is survived by her children Ewan Macpherson and Anne Macpherson, their spouses and children.

Dr Joyce Brown Macpherson FRCGS was born on 26 June 1929 and died on 19 July 2022.

Thank you to her children, Ewan and Anne Macpherson, for providing us with the information and photographs for this obituary.