Dame Stephanie returning to Oswestry
She has been named one of top 100 UK scientists and also one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK.
But Dame Stephanie Shirley is perhaps best known for giving away the fortune – around £135million – that she made in the computer industry. And she says her childhood in Shropshire helped turn her into a philanthropist.
Dame Stephanie – or Steve, as she prefers to be called – is now 81 and has no plans to slow down.
Next week she will fly from America to take part in an 'encore' event to round off the Oswestry Literary Festival, showcasing her autobiography, appropriately titled Let it Go.
The event, at the Lion Quays on April 8 at 7pm will be a nostalgic one for Dame Stephanie as she lived in Oswestry in the immediate post-war years.
"I was a one of the Kindertransport children who arrived in Britain from Germany unaccompanied and was placed with a wonderful Christian couple in the Midlands during the war," she said.
"We were officially known as 'friendly enemy aliens' and we had to register at the police station where we lived."
"Amazingly both my parents survived the war and came to Britain where we were reunited. I am not sure why we moved to Oswestry but I am very glad we did."
The 12-year-old Stephanie Buchthal became a pupil at the Oswestry Girls High School and immediately made an impression.
"I always knew that I wanted to be a mathematician but at the time you couldn't study maths at the girls' school," she said.
"I had to have an assessment before I was given permission to have lessons at Oswestry Boys High School. I would walk across and the boys would all be watching out of the windows or making comments."
In 1962, and despite the prejudice she came up against as a woman, she founded the computer software company F.I. Group.
She changed her name to Steve to make life easier writing letters – catching out those too sexist to respond to a woman – and employed only women software specialists and women working from home. Her team's projects included programming Concorde's black box flight recorder, among other projects.
Dame Stephanie officially retired at the age of 60 and decided she would become a philanthropist. "For me it was to say thank you for the kind way that I had been treated as a child. In Oswestry I had six wonderful years of peace. I simply felt the need to give something back," she said.
Much of her philanthropy has been connected with autism in memory of her autistic son, Giles, who died following an epileptic seizure at the age of 37.
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