"b.18 Oct 1899 d.9 Jan 1993
DBE(1957X)OBE(1944) BM BCh Oxon(1925)DM(1931) MRCP(1933)FRCP(1939)Hon DCL Oxon(1967)Hon ScD Wales(1964) DCL Lond(1968)Hon DSc Leeds(1970)Hon DSc Liverp(1973)FRS(1979)"
Dame Janet Maria Vaughan was one of the six women who were featured in the BBC’s series Women of our Century in 1984. She was tall and distinguished looking and at first acquaintance a rather imperious personage who would clearly stand no nonsense; yet deep down she was warm and generous. She was the daughter of William Vaughan, headmaster of Rugby School, and his wife Margaret Symonds, both of whom had had ancestors distinguished in medicine and historical research, according to Janet Adam Smith in The Independent 14 January 1993. One ancestor had been an 18th century president of the College and her grandfathers, Halford Vaughan and John Addington Symonds, had been respectively regius professor of history at Oxford and an historian of the Italian Renaissance.
Janet herself was educated at home until she was 15 and it was only after a struggle that she managed to get admitted to Somerville College, Oxford, where she obtained a first class degree in physiology. She had developed a keen interest in politics and this led her to study medicine in the belief that a career in medicine would best enable her to fight social injustice and poverty. She pursued her clinical studies at University College Hospital in London, where she had obtained a Goldsmith’s entrance scholarship. After qualification, following an appointment as assistant clinical pathologist at UCH, she was awarded successively a Rockefeller fellowship 1929-30, a Beit memorial fellowship 1930-33, and a Leverhulme fellowship 1933-34. During these appointments she came under the stimulating influence of several outstanding men of her time, including Sir Thomas Lewis [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IV, p.531], Montague Maizels [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.372] and Cecil Price-Jones at UCH; Donald Hunter [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.288] and Hubert Turnbull [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p. 425] at The London Hospital and George Minot [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.286] and William Castle [q.v.] at the Boston City Hospital; she remembered her year at the Thorndike Laboratory in Boston as one during which she learned the full meaning of medicine both as an art and a science’. In 1934 she was appointed to the potentially important post of assistant in clinical pathology at the newly founded British Postgraduate Medical School (now the Royal Postgraduate).
She had early become interested in anaemia and was a pioneer in the use of liver extracts, at first home-made by herself, in pernicious anaemia. It was not long before she became a leader in the then almost embryonic specialty - in the UK at least - of haematology. In addition to her work on pernicious anaemia and liver extracts, she participated in the characterization of the various types of anaemia which was being brought about in the early 1930s by the careful measurement of red cell diameter, volume, thickness and haemoglobin content. In 1934 she summarized her own discoveries and experience, and the contemporary literature, in a remarkable book The Anaemias, Oxford, OUP, 2nd edn 1936, a classic of its time.
At the British Postgraduate Medical School, although appointed as clinical pathologist, her remit was in effect to teach haematology to postgraduates, to carry out research and to take charge of the routine haematological and blood transfusion services at Hammersmith Hospital. She undertook these tasks with apparently tireless enthusiasm and a rigorous insistence on high standards. She insisted, for instance, that all blood films should be kept as part of each patient’s laboratory record. She stressed, too, the importance of carefully standardizing laboratory methods and the necessity of having proper controls. Her research interest widened - from the establishment of normal haematological values to leuco-erythroblastic anaemia, myelosclerosis, acholuric jaundice (hereditary spherocytosis) and the anaemia of infection.
In 1938 and ’39 she began to take an increasing interest in blood transfusion. She had recognized"
(Volume IX, page 541)
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