Thursday, 15 August 2019

Women Physiologists in the Naughty Nineties

A group portrait of physiologists and embryologists awarded honorary doctorates by Cambridge University in 1898 was the subject of a previous post (here). A friend noted there were no women among them. The Fourth International Congress of Physiology did, however, have several female participants listed in the proceedings. In addition, research by an Oxford physiologist was presented by Gustav Mann and the findings of four Russian scientists by Hugo Kronecker. In trying to identify them some interesting stories emerged.

Miss J. Brinck, London. Julia Maria Brinck (1854-1926) was born in Helsingborg, Sweden. She trained initially as a physiotherapist and then studied medicine at the London School of Medicine for Women (later the Royal Free Hospital). She could not obtain a licence to practice in the UK but obtained one from Dublin in 1886. She worked in Berne under Kronecker and received an M.D. degree in 1887, the first Swedish woman to obtain a higher degree in medicine.

Miss M. Greenwood, Lecturer in Physiology, Newnham. Marion Greenwood later Bidder (1862-1932) read Natural Sciences at Girton College Cambridge. As a woman she was denied a degree due to a policy confirmed by a vote in 1897 and not reversed until 1947. She was Director of Studies in Biology at Newnham and Tutor in Physiology. From 1890 to 1899 she was Director of the Balfour Biological Laboratory for Women (see here). Greenwood was one of the first women to do independent research at Cambridge and published several papers in Journal of Physiology. In 1899 she married marine biologist George Parker Bidder.

Ordre des Palmes (Officier d'Académie)
Miss H. J. Hutchinson, Nottingham. Harriet Jane Hutchinson (1860-1946) was Lecturer in Physiology and Histology and Warden of Foreign Students at University College, Nottingham. She retired in December 1934 after more than 35 years of service and in the following year was made an Officier d'Académie of the Ordre des Palmes in recognition of her support of French students attending the College. 

Miss Sowton, London. Sarah Charlotte March Sowton (1853-1929) was among the first six women admitted to the Physiological Society (see here). She studied the effects of carbon dioxide on skeletal and cardiac muscle at St. Mary’s Hospital, London. At the 1898 meeting, she read a paper on the current of injury in medullated nerve and, with Alice Waller, another on the action of muscarine, choline and neurine on isolated nerve.

Miss M. C. Tebb, London. Mary Christine Tebb later Rosenheim (1868-1953) read physiology at Girton College, Cambridge. Like Marion Greenwood, she was not awarded a degree. She worked in Cambridge and later at King’s College London, where she met and married a German physiologist, Sigmund Otto Rosenheim. She published a paper on the hydrolysis of glycogen in the same year as the Congress.
The Augustus Desiré Waller Family
Wellcome Collection CC BY 4.0
Mrs A. D. Waller, London. Alice Mary Waller née Palmer (1859-1922) is here listed with her husband’s initials. She studied at the London School of Medicine for Women where she was a student of her husband, Augustus Desiré Waller FRS, who created the first practical ECG machine. One of his biographers wrote, “the wife helped her husband in his work and her name appears with his on some of his published work.” At the 1898 meeting she read a paper on the influence of salts on the electrical mobility of medullated nerve.

Miss F. A. Welby, Demonstrator in Physiology, Women’s School of Medicine, London. Frances Alice Welby (1862-1947) was then a demonstrator at that institution. She is best known as an author and translator of physiological and other texts.
(Mary) Edith Pechey-Phipson by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe
albumen cabinet card 1870s NPG x12740
(C) National Portrait Gallery
Mrs E. Pechey Phipson Bombay. As Edith Pechey (1845-1908) she was one of the Edinburgh Seven, the first women to matriculate at any British University. Despite this achievement, they were not allowed to proceed to a degree (they were awarded posthumous medical degrees by Edinburgh University in July 2019). Edith Pechey therefore completed her education at Berne where she also achieved an M.D. for a thesis on uterine catarrh (endometritis). Like Julia Brinck she got a licence to practice at Dublin. She practised for six years in Leeds before going to Bombay as Senior Medical Officer at the Cama Hospital for Women and Children. She married Herbert Musgrave Phipson, a wine merchant who was Secretary to the Bombay Natural History Society.  After her return to England in 1905, she was active in the suffragette movement.

Miss M. B. Wilson, Instructor in Physiology at Women’s College Infirmary, New York. Margaret Barclay Wilson (1863-1945) was born in Dunfermline but migrated to the United States with her parents. She studied at the Normal College of the University of New York (later Hunter College) and received her M.D. from the Women’s College Infirmary and M.S. from New York University. She later taught physiology and hygiene at Hunter College, where she was Head of the Department of Physiology.


Nadine Lomakina, Bern, paper on innervation of heart in dog and horse read by H. Kronecker. Nadezhda Lomakina (1873-?) was from Moscow and read medicine at Bern 1893-1899. She was awarded her doctorate in 1900.

Pélagia Betschasnoff, Bern, paper on heart rate of the frog read by H. Kronecker. Pélagia Beschasnova (1860-?) was from St. Petersburg and read medicine first at Zurich then at Bern but did not graduate.

Julia Devine, Bern, paper on respiration of the toad heart read by H. Kronecker. Juliia Devine (1868-?) was born in Moscow but had a British family background. She read medicine at Bern 1893-1899.

Ludmila Schilina, Bern, paper on Ludwig’s kymograph and Hürthle’s tonometer read by H. Kronecker. Liudmila Schilina (1872-?) was born in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia and read medicine at Bern 1893-1898.

An account of the Russian scientists in Kronecker’s laboratory is given by Creese, M. R. S. Ladies in the Laboratory IV: Imperial Russia’s Women in Science, 1800-1900; Lanham MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015.

Lily H. Huie, Oxford, paper on the gland cells of Drosera read by Gustav Mann. Eliza Henrietta (Lily) Huie (1862-1930) was a botanist and Drosera is the sundew. She worked at the Physiological Laboratory in Oxford 1896-1898 and later at the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh.

There is a brief mention of Lily Huie in Creese, M. R. S. Ladies in the Laboratory? American and British Women in Science, 1800-1900, Lanham Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1998.

No comments:

Post a Comment