Friday, October 15, 2010

In History: Alice Stewart

This is the 47th post in a weekly feature here at Spare Candy, called "In History." Some posts might be little more than a photo, others full on features. If you have any suggestions for a person or event that should be featured, or would like to submit a guest post or cross post, e-mail me at rosiered23 (at) sparecandy (dot) com.

 Dr. Alice Mary Stewart was born in Sheffield, England, in October, 1906, and lived until June, 2002. She studied pre-clinical medicine at Girton College in Cambridge. According to The Guardian, "She was, however, one of only four women among 300 men on her course, and recalled having to run the gauntlet of hostile male students stamping their feet in protest at the women's attendance at lectures." In 1932, Stewart completed her clinical studies at the Royal Free Hospital in London. She worked in hospital posts in Manchester and London before returning to the Royal Free Hospital as a registrar. In 1941, Stewart took a teaching post at the Oxford University Medical School, where she developed her interest in social medicine, advising on health problems experienced by wartime munitions workers.

As a physician and epidemiologist, Stewart specialized in social medicine and the effects of radiation on health. In 1953, the Medical Research Council allocated funds to Stewart's pioneering study of x-rays as a cause of childhood cancer, which she worked on from 1953 until 1956. Her findings on fetal damage caused by x-rays of pregnant women were eventually accepted worldwide and the use of medical x-rays during pregnancy and early childhood was curtailed as a result.

Stewart retired in 1974, but she continued doing notable work, including working on the controversial Hanford (Wash.) plutonium production plant study that ultimately found a far higher incidence of radiation-induced ill health than was noted in official government studies. (You can read much more about that here; it's quite interesting.)

For even more information, check out the New York Times' obituary for Stewart.

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