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Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Ada Lovelace Day post: sisters in science

To commemorate the achievements of women in STEM today, I thought I'd mention two women who are perhaps not among the most well-known of women in science in spite of their significant achievements.
Elsie Widdowson, self-experimentation

Elsie Widdowson spent 60 years in a fruitful collaboration with Professor R A McCance, working principally on questions of nutrition. Together they were responsible for inaugurating Standard Food Composition publications with their 1940 Chemical composition of foods, and were also extremely influential on World War II rationing policies. They and their research team went to the Lake District and self-experimented, trying the various recommendations for adequate nutrition and then going fell-walking to test them. Widdowson continued to be research active into her 80s.

Her sister, Eva Crane, although she initially studied physics, achieving a PhD in the subject when women in physics were very rare birds, and even being appointed a university lecturer in the subject, became a world-renowned authority on bees and apiculture following the gift of a hive as a wedding present. She similarly remained active into her 80s.

A draft letter by Widdowson in the McCance/Widdowson papers in the Wellcome Library suggests that they had an unusual background in that their parents were Exclusive Brethren.

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