New Harpenden school named after pioneering local scientist

Left to right: Philip Waters, chair of the Harpenden Secondary School Trust, Andrew Warington Wickha

Left to right: Philip Waters, chair of the Harpenden Secondary School Trust, Andrew Warington Wickham, great nephew of Katherine Warington, Jenny Wickham, great niece of Katherine Warington, Elizabeth Gilardo, pupil from St Dominic Catholic Primary School. - Credit: Archant

A new Harpenden secondary school will be named after a pioneering female scientist who lived in the town for 90 years.

Children from nearby primary schools submitted more than 700 suggested names into a competition, but an eight-year-old from St Dominic Catholic Primary School, Elizabeth Gilardo, won with her choice of Katherine Warington.

Botanist Katherine lived in Harpenden for 90 years, working on plant and bean fertility at Rothamsted Research - she was the first person to show boric acid was essential for plants.

While living in Harpenden, Katherine won the Russell Cup at Rothamsted Tennis Club and worshipped at St Nicholas Church.

Elizabeth said she found out about Katherine on the internet: “I wanted to suggest a name that had something to do with Harpenden and someone who had made an impact.”

She added: “I felt it was different from lots of the other schools that are either named after men or trees. I also liked that she was a woman working in science all those years ago.

“I was surprised that Katherine had not been fully recognised for her achievements so her name becoming the school name would help that.”

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All of the competition entries were narrowed down to a final 10, then shortlisted to three, by the Harpenden Secondary Education Trust.

Chair of the trust, Philip Waters, said: “We are delighted that the new school celebrates a female scientist who was both ground-breaking and steeped in Harpenden history.

“The trust look forward to seeing her name above the door of the new secondary school.

“We wanted the name to reflect not only the town but also the high achievement which is a characteristic of all the secondary schools in Harpenden and is very much what the parents in our community want too.” He said it was aspirational for the students.

Katherine’s great nephew, Andrew Warington Wickham, said: “The family all feel deeply honoured and proud that the school will be named after a female scientist.”

His permission was sought before it was decided to use Katherine’s name.

The Katherine Warington School should open in September 2018.