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The newly renamed Florence Buchanan Lecture Theatre is testament to Dr Buchanan’s pioneering career in physiology, in line with the Department's ongoing commitment to acknowledge the significant contribution of women to DPAG and its predecessor departments.

This month, the former Sherrington Small Lecture Theatre has been renamed the Florence Buchanan Lecture Theatre in recognition of pioneering physiologist Dr Florence Buchanan, one of the Department's earliest prominent women.

The Florence Buchanan Lecture Theatre, situated on the Sherrington building's second floor, hosts world renowned speakers delivering guest seminars and also classes for the University's preclinical medicine and biomedical sciences undergraduate cohorts.

Dr Buchanan was a Research Scientist at the Laboratory of Physiology from 1894-1904, where she advanced our understanding of the electrical responses of muscle alongside John Burdon-Sanderson. In 1904, she set up her own lab at the University's Museum of Natural History to study the frequency of the heart rate, and how it varied in different species, in hibernating animals and during exercise. She went onto become the first woman proposed to become a member of The Physiological Society, joining formally with 5 other women in 1915. She is now widely renowned for her discoveries on the transmission of reflex impulses in mammals, birds and reptiles, and the neural control of the heartbeat during exercise.

Dr Buchanan was never formally recognised by the University of Oxford, but was awarded a DSc by University College in 1902. In March 2021, DPAG honoured her scientific legacy with a new blue plaque from The Physiological Society pride of place outside the Sherrington Building main entrance, opposite the blue plaque honouring Sir Charles Sherrington. 

Naming the Small Lecture Theatre after Florence Buchanan recognises the trail blazing work she undertook for women in physiology
- Head of Department Professor David Paterson

The Lecture Theatre name change in her honour, proposed by the Department's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and implemented with the full support of Head of Department Professor David Paterson, follows on from a recent departmental project to redress the balance and ensure that women are visually represented alongside their men contemporaries.

This project was undertaken as part of the centenary of women being awarded degrees at Oxford University, and in recognition of the fact that women have been largely excluded from DPAG's history, leading to profiling more than 60 women past and present. Unfortunately, we do not have a verified photograph of Dr Buchanan, but several photographs of other profiled former staff and student alumni now adorn the walls of our Sherrington Building, alongside those of men.

More information about Dr Florence Buchanan can be found on the recently launched Women in Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics website.

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