Mabel FitzGerald is now renowned for making the great discovery that it is oxygen, and not carbon dioxide, which determines how hard we breathe and sets the haemoglobin concentration in our blood. This incredible finding was made while travelling around Colorado in 1911 making detailed physiological measurements of the state's populations living at different altitudes.
However, she went unknown for much of her life. She attended physiology classes informally at the University of Oxford from 1896 - 1899. But despite achieving top marks, she was not awarded a degree because women could not be officially enrolled at the time.
It was not until three-quarters of a century later that she would be formally acknowledged. In 1972, with the help of the then Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir Richard Doll, the University of Oxford finally bestowed a Master of Arts degree on her. She was the first centenarian to receive one.
In 1913, she became the second female member of the American Physiology Society, based on her pioneering work in Colorado. In 1973, she was made an honorary member of the British Physiology Society.
This year's Lecture, entitled Neuronal calcium channel trafficking and function: relevance to chronic pain, was given by Professor Annette C. Dolphin FRS, from UCL's Department of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology, hosted by Professor Stephanie Cragg.
Annette Dolphin is an ion channel physiologist, and a leader in the field of neuronal voltage-gated calcium channels. Her most recent work investigates the role of these channels in peripheral pain pathways.
Professor Dolphin is a University of Oxford graduate with a BA in Natural Sciences, and holds a PhD from the University of London's Institute of Psychiatry, where she first became interested in Neuropharmacology. She completed her postdoctoral studies in Paris, Yale, and National Institute for Medical Research, before undertaking a lectureship in the Pharmacology Department of St. George’s Hospital Medical School.
Professor Dolphin has enjoyed an impressive career: she was appointed Chair of the Department of Pharmacology at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in 1990, she was elected to the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1999, the Royal Society in 2015 and Academia Europea in 2018. She is a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator, and held a Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research fellowship from 2016 - 17.
“I feel privileged to have been asked to give this very special lecture that both honours women in science and encourages young women to embark on a career in scientific research. I enjoyed my day in Oxford enormously; it gave me the chance both to meet some inspiring young researchers, as well as to catch up with old friends” - Prof Dolphin.
The lecture was followed by a drinks reception in the foyer.
Special thanks to Colin Beesley for the photographs.