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Janet Vaughan

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Janet Vaughan

Janet Vaughan
Clack and white portrait photograph of Janet Vaughan
Vaughan in 1963
6th Principal of Somerville College, Oxford
In office
Preceded by Helen Darbishire
Succeeded by Barbara Craig
Personal details
Born Janet Maria Vaughan
(1899-10-18)18 October 1899
Died 9 January 1993(1993-01-09) (aged 93)
Education North Foreland Lodge
Alma mater Somerville College, Oxford
Profession Physician
Academic administrator
Awards DBE (1957)
FRS (1979)

Dame Janet Maria Vaughan, DBEFRS (18 October 1899 – 9 January 1993) was a British physiologist, academic, and academic administrator.[1][2] From 1945 to 1967, she was Principal of Somerville College, Oxford.

Early life

Born in Clifton, Bristol, she was the daughter of William Wyamar Vaughan, a cousin of Virginia Woolf and later headmaster of Rugby. Vaughan was educated at home, and later at North Foreland Lodge and Somerville College, Oxford, where she studied medicine under Charles Sherrington and J. B. S. Haldane.

Later she received a scholarship from the Rockefeller Foundation to study at Harvard University.[3]


As a female doctor, discovered that she had difficulties gaining access to the patients and experimented on pigeons. Virginia Woolf described her as 'an attractive woman; competent, disinterested, taking blood tests all day to solve abstract problems'.[3] She suffered from prejudice for her research.[4]

As a young pathologist at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith Hospital in 1938 she initiated creation of national blood banks in London, setting one up with Federico Duran-Jorda. The modified milk bottle for blood collection and storage was named "MRC bottle" or "Janet Vaughan".[3][5]

From 1945 until her retirement in 1967, she was Principal of Somerville College. She was Principal while Shirley Catlin (later Shirley Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby) and Margaret Roberts (who would later become the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) studied there.

She studied blood disease, blood transfusion, the treatment of starvation, and the effect of radioactivity on the bone and bone marrow.[6]


She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 1957 New Year Honours.[7] She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1979.[8]


  • Vaughan, Janet. The Anemias. London: Oxford University Press, 1934.
  • Vaughan, Janet. "Leuco-erythoblastic Anemias", Journal of Pathology and Bacteriology 17 (1936):541-64.
  • Vaughan, Janet. "Conditions at Belsen Concentration Camp", British Medical Journal, Physiology and treatment of starvation ser. (1945):819
  • Vaughan, Janet. The Physiology of Bone. Oxford: Claredon Press, 1969.
  • Vaughan, Janet. The Effect of Irradiation of the Skeleton. Oxford: Claredon Press, 1973.

Personal life

She married David Gourlay, of the Wayfarers' Travel Agency, in 1930. They had two daughters.


  1. ^ Evelyn Irons, Obituary: Dame Janet Vaughan, The Independent, 12 January 1993.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 40960. p. 11. 28 December 1956. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  8. ^

External links

  • Royal College of Physicians profile of Dame Janet Vaughan contains a detailed account of her life, based in part on her 1993 Independent obituary
  • Red Gold: Innovators & Pioneers — Jane Vaughan, PBS
  • Longreads article on Janet Vaughan by Rose George : A very naughty little girl : The extraordinary life of Janet Vaughan, who changed our relationship with blood
Academic offices
Preceded by
Helen Darbishire
Somerville College, Oxford

Succeeded by
Barbara Craig

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