During her time at Newnham College, Cambridge, she originally intended to study Botany but soon switched to Geology where she received first class marks in her final exams in 1939. She was awarded her PhD in Geology in 1949 for her work along the Church Stretton fault zone and the area west of the Knighton Sheet afterwards she worked at Birmingham University. In 1953 she was appointed assistant lecturer in the Geology Department at Aberystwyth University, and became a full lecturer in 1955 and continued in the department even after her retirement in 1983.
It was reported on her death that she was a committed Marxist with the Red Flag been played at her service. After her death, the Nancy Kirk Viewpoint was created, through donations by former students and colleagues that is situated at the northernmost point of Pant Da nature reserve.
Nancy Kirk originally lived in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire from her birth in 1916 until 1935 when she left her hometown to attend Newnham College, Cambridge. Nancy and her brother were brought up by their father, as their mother died at a young age. Being a student with a single father, Nancy was used to living a simple way of life. Despite her personal financial difficulties when she was younger, Nancy made use of her time and money putting it into the things she had a passion for. Nancy had a large appreciation for museum artifacts saved most of her money to put towards the pieces that she admired.
After being awarded the opportunity to study in the faculty of natural sciences of Newnham College, she moved to Cambridge. Nancy was originally interested in studying biological plant sciences, but found herself quickly losing interest because of how her classes were taught. Due to her lack of interest in botany, Nancy developed a newfound interest in geology and at this time credited to a professor she was inspired by, O. T. Jones.
As of 1939 as a female she was unable to obtain a degree, but she still excelled in achieving high grades through her studies in geology. Nancy excelled in geology, winning awards like the Bathurst Prize. She was able to begin her research under her professor O. T. Jones. Nancy ended up leaving Cambridge in the wake of World War II when she was sent to work at the Royal Ordnance Factory in 1942. Shortly after the war, in 1945 Nancy was able to return to Cambridge. She remained at Cambridge for the rest of her studies and received her PhD later in 1949 when females could finally receive degrees. After receiving her doctorate, Kirk went to work in Birmingham at the University for 2 years before moving to live in her area of research, a country between Pontfaen, Breconshire, and Presteigne, Radnorshire.
In the early 1940s her research was put aside due to the war until 1945 where she returned to Cambridge on a two year Jenner Research Fellowship. Nancy’s research took a vast majority of her time, especially her work on graptolites in the 1970s.
After receiving her PhD in 1949, she continued her geological mapping. Nancy became an assistant lecturer then eventually a full lecturer in 1955. Nancy was known to care a lot for her students to succeed and put a lot of effort into her teaching. She presented her ideas about the evolutions of the graptolites in the late 1960s and carried out her research until her official retirement in 1983. Nancy began a major study on graptolites with the help from Dr. Denis Bates although their work remains to be published.
In the 1950s Nancy had done a lot of fieldwork and presented it at a meetings of the geological society. In one of the meetings only men could attend a geological dining club so Nancy was unable to attend. Her PhD was impressive, but the map that she submitted to get published was more descriptive and covered a larger area than her PhD did. She received backlash from editors and referees telling her that the map was large and had too much detail. She defended her paper by explaining how the information she had was important because it was critical for comprehending the map. She was able to convince them of the importance of the detail, but she had to shorten her paper because the Geological Society could not print long papers during this time.
Because she had to shorten her work she created three draft texts. These draft texts still exist today and so do her field slips, however the original map cannot be found.
In the 1960s Nancy originally used graptolites for identification and correlation in her research after her professor O.T.’s lead. Her findings were far more jurassic than she had originally envisioned and graptolites became her main focus of study by a fluke mistake. Reviewing her paleontology work from previous years before teachers she gaged an interest in graptolites and their sexual dimorphism. Kikr worked on the graptolite with Dennis Bates. Her success was due to the use of a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to examine specimens and her collaboration with other previous works.
While at Newnham College, Cambridge, she received the Bathurst Prize, a Harkness Scholarship, and a Bathurst Research Studentship. In 1954, Kirk won the Munchison Fund of The Geological Society of the UK.
Personal life and legacy
She is remembered by her students is by her generosity and time she put into teaching them. Kirk put in effort into the brightest and weakest students equally making sure all her students moved forward and were able to learn what she was teaching.
Nancy Kirk was also remembered for her outfits which is said to be seen as if she had just come from working in the field.
Nancy Kirk was someone who preferred to live in isolation, and be able to spend time in her gardens as she had a taste for naturism. She also had an interest in art, which lead her to start pottery and become quite talented at it, especially when it came to making the glazes. Nancy Kirk also worked with a colleague from her department Bill Fitches, who provided her with the pots to use. Nancy Kirk dedicated her life to her work and her garden, in which she did not end up marrying anyone.
- Wyatt, A. R. (2007-01-01). "Nancy Kirk: turning the world of graptolites upside down". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. 281 (1): 325–333. doi:10.1144/SP281.22. ISSN 0305-8719.
- "Nancy Kirk 1916 – 2005: – Aber Geologists". abergeologists.net. Retrieved 2018-08-10.
- Thomas, CW; Kendall, R (2017). "Welsh Borderland Geological Framework Project: The geology and applied geological issues of the region around Knighton, Powys: a scoping study" (PDF). British Geological Survey: 1–45.
- Wyatt, Anthony (2005). "Nancy Kirk 1916 - 2005" (PDF). The Paleontology Newsletter: 56–60.
- Lawrence, Steve (2009). "Cylchgrawn Prifysgol Aberystwyth; The Magazine of Aberystwyth University" (PDF). Cylchgrawn Prifysgol Aberystwyth. 18: 1–48.
- "The Geological Society of London - Murchison Fund". www.geolsoc.org.uk. Retrieved 2018-08-10.