A new oil painting of Dame Julia Higgins FRS has recently been unveiled at the Royal Society. Julia is a prominent polymer scientist based at Imperial College London. As well as her academic and research career, Higgins has taken many leadership positions in the scientific community. Becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1995, Higgins was our Foreign Secretary from 2001 to 2006, the second woman to perform that role.
Last year we were lucky enough to take in Higgins’s papers for the Society’s archive. The collection gives an insight into a scientist working across the boundaries between industry, research and academia. Her papers give a comprehensive oversight of her career: from her university notebooks, to notes for lectures given, to application papers for industrial partnerships, and more. Higgins’s move into policy making and advisory roles later in her career is well-documented, and her commitment to science outreach and education is clear, through her many visits to schools and colleges, as well as notes from her lecture to sixth formers at the Royal Institution.
Higgins can also be found talking about fellow science communicator, Michael Faraday, in a recent episode of People of Science, filmed here at the Society and featuring items from our archive.
As Foreign Secretary, Higgins travelled all over the world for the Society, so we’re happy that, through this portrait, we can continue to celebrate her achievements here at Carlton House Terrace. If you’re in the neighbourhood, do call in to see our new addition, which will hang in our main auditorium, the Wellcome Trust Lecture Hall. Flanked by portraits of other leading women scientists, this highlights the Society’s efforts to create a more diverse space at London’s home of science.