Maria Ogilvie Gordon was a promising pianist, but decided on a scientific career. At University she specialised in botany, geology and zoology, and graduated BSc with a gold medal. Aiming for a PhD, she made contacts with geologists based in Munich, and her first sight of the Dolomites captured her imagination, and investigations there became the major focus of her scientific career. She went on hiking and climbing expeditions there, collecting fossils, and forming theories about the formation of the strata. This resulted in several papers, including a 78 page article for the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society in 1893.
She then found time to go home to Aberdeen, get married, and have two children. In 1900, the University of Munich finally accepted her, and she was succeeded in gaining her PhD from there - the first female to achieve that distinction.
Between 1900-1914, she continued her explorations in the Dolomites, collecting specimens, writing papers, and preparing a comprehensive study of the geology of the area. Her manuscript was nearly ready for publication in 1914, when she had to leave it and Munich behind on the outbreak of war. When she returned to the city in 1920, the manuscript had disappeared, and she had to completely rewrite it.
It was published in 1927, and given glowing praise in the journal, Nature.
Always a strong supporter of rights for women, Maria Ogilvie Gordon believed that men, women and children should have equal rights, and she wrote a 'Handbook for Employment for Boys and Girls'. She became a Justice of the Peace, and took prominent positions within various national and international women's societies.