Thursday, July 3, 2008

Florence Gwendolen Rees (1906-1994), zoologist

Well, for my very first female scientist entry, I get a (relatively, for me) easier one--a zoologist!

I'm afraid Google images don't have scandalous pictures of her... but the Royal Society did make her Fellow of the Month (jolly good, eh?) in March 2005.

Not only was she featured in Vogue magazine in 1975, but she also had a career. She was a parasitologist and studied parasitic worms (helminths), publishing a total of 68 papers over her tenure at the University College of Wales.

While many sources mention her work ethic and strong publication record, if you dig deep enough, you find she certainly was no curmugeon.

Many girls now fortunately realise that it is possible to combine gaiety
with with Greek, laughter with Latin, chic with chemistry, and a zest for life
with zoology. Existence would certainly be appalling without some measure
of frivolity, and pottering about has its valued place in the education of every
woman. Life is for living and it would be a poor return for work if we had
no time for pleasure (1973).

Interesting, eh? We've been talking about balancing work and life as women scientists for decades... and is it any better?

Those words aside, she somehow managed to finish her PhD work in 18 months. MY. DEAR. GOD. She studied the trematodes that cause live fluke disease in sheep. On the right, you can see one of her illustrations from her PhD thesis: Cercaria 'Z' sp. n. from Limnaea palustris.

She was an accomplished horsewoman, and was noted for her zest for life. She never married...and it's been speculated the following is the cause:

...the outrageous rule enforced at that time by the University that, in the case
of non-professorial, female members of the academic staff, marriage would be
taken as notice of resignation from one's post (Biographical Memoirs of the Fellows of the Royal Society).

Can you imagine it? I wonder what scandalous tales of unrequited love are out there...


The Royal Society
Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, Vol. 43, (Nov., 1997), pp. 445-459

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