Pic: Barnes Wallis Foundation
I am sorry to have to announce the death of Mary Stopes-Roe, who died peacefully at her home in Birmingham on Friday 10 May.
Mary Eyre Wallis was born in York in 1927, the second of the four children of Barnes and Molly Wallis. When her father’s job at Vickers took him to Brooklands in Surrey, the family moved to nearby Effingham. Mary went away to boarding school at Godolphin School in Salisbury, and was a pupil there in the run up to the Dams Raid in 1943. Earlier she and her siblings had helped her father in his famous home experiments with marbles, a catapult and a tin bath as he tried to work out how to ‘bounce’ a bomb across water. When she heard the news about the raid itself from her headmistress she worked out what had been going on and sent a telegram to her ‘wonderful Daddy’.
After the war, Mary got a degree in history from the University of London. She then married the academic Harry Stopes-Roe, who had started his career as a physicist, but went on to take a PhD at Cambridge in philosophy. They had four children of their own, the last born in 1958 shortly before they moved to Birmingham, when he took up a post at the city’s university. Once all of her four children were at grammar school, Mary took a second degree in Psychology. ‘I thought the subject would be rather interesting, and I didn’t want to dust the house for the rest of my life,’ she said in a recent interview. She also gained a PhD and became a Research Fellow in the University of Birmingham School of Psychology where she remained until she retired in the 1990s. During her academic career she did extensive research, particularly on parent and family-child interactions, and was widely published.
After retirement she took on organising her father’s archives as well as other work on her family history. She edited the extensive pre-marital correspondence between Barnes and Molly Wallis in the early 1920s which had taken the form of a correspondence course in mathematics, but in fact was composed of dozens of charming love letters. This was published as Mathematics with Love in 2004. The archives are now housed in various institutions, and Mary herself became the President and a Trustee of the Barnes Wallis Foundation, formed to advance education in aviation design and honour her father’s name.
Mary was also very active in 617 Squadron Association affairs, and made many media appearances in the last few years talking about her father’s involvement in Operation Chastise. She will be sadly missed at future events.
Mary and Harry Stopes-Roe were married for 66 years until he died, almost five years to the day before her, on 11 May 2014. Mary leaves four children, ten grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, and also her sister, Elisabeth.