Ida Smedley Maclean (1895)

Ida Smedley Maclean and her sister, Constance Maxwell Armfield, grew up in a home where independence of thought and action were encouraged and where the atmosphere was very much ahead of its time. Both sisters were clever and artistic but their careers were to follow very different roads.

The two sisters were pupils at KEHS towards the end of the 19th century. Under the tutelage of Miss Creak, Ida became the first in a long succession of Science Scholars to attend Newnham College, Cambridge. She had a brilliant career. After taking the Natural Sciences Tripos with honours in both parts, she proceeded almost at once to research in Chemistry, soon becoming a Fellow of the Institute. She was the first female Fellow of the chemical Society. In 1906 she became Assistant Lecturer in Chemistry at Manchester University and it was at this time that the difficulties which she encountered as a woman with regard to promotion in the University and funds for research letter to propose the formation of a Federation of University Women, from which grew the international Federation. From the start of their movement to work for the removal of gender discrimination, Ida held a high office and represented women in many parts of the world. She followed her lifelong friend and fellow Edwardian Professor Winifred Cullis as president in 1929.

In 1910, Ida obtained one of the first Beit Research Fellowships and began her work at the Lister Institute of Preventative Medicine on the metabolism of facts, a subject on which she became a recognised authority. At the Institute she met and collaborated with Dr Hugh McLean, professor of Medicine at St Thomas's Hospital, whom she later married. She was connected with the Lister Institute the rest of her life. She was an associate of Newham College from 1906 to 1921. In 1913 she was awarded the Ellen Richards Prize given by the American Association of Universal Women to the woman making the most outstanding contribution of the year to science. During the Great War she did valuable work for the ministry of munitions and the Admiralty. She contributed numerous papers to learned and technical journals.