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The Hon. Dame Miriam Rothschild FRS

The Hon. Dame Miriam Rothschild FRS

Miriam Rothschild, entomologist, parasitologist, nature conservationist and chemical ecologist was also active in a broad range of civic, social and political causes. During World War II, she joined a group of distinguished scientists working at Bletchley Park on the Enigma decryption project working as a code breaker. She received a Defence Medal from the British government for her work. She aided refugee Jewish scientists during and after the war and she also worked with several organisations dedicated to helping Jewish children escape from Germany and Austria, often housing some of these refugees in her own home at Ashton Wold which was used by the Red Cross as a convalescent hospital for military personnel.

Rothschild was moved by her sister Liberty’s illness to found the Schizophrenia Research Fund in 1962. This Fund is dedicated to promoting the understanding, treatment, and cure of schizophrenia. She also helped marshal scientific evidence on homosexuality for the Wolfenden Committee (the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution) whose resulting Report (1963) led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.

She was the first woman to serve on the National Trust’s Committee for Conservation and the first woman to become a Trustee of the Natural History Museum (1967 – 1975). She also became the President of the Society for the Study of Insects, Vice-President of Fauna and Flora International and served on committees for the Royal Entomological Society, the Zoological Society of London and the Marine Biological Association.

She participated in committee work for her father's Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves, and in the vice presidency of its successor organisations, the Royal Society for Nature Conservation (1981) and at the Royal Society for Wildlife Trusts (2004). She also edited the Tring Museum Journal, Novitates Zoologicae (1938 – 1941).

Her first book, co-written with Theresa Clay, Fleas, Flukes, and Cuckoos, was published in 1952. She co-authored six volumes cataloguing her father’s collection of fleas – the largest such collection in existence. She wrote and co-authored a further six books and published 369 scientific papers.

Including those from Oxford and Cambridge she was awarded eight honorary degrees and numerous fellowships for her scientific research as well as serving as visiting Professor of Biology at the Royal Free Hospital, where she taught first year medical students, from 1968 to 1973. In 1985 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

In 1982, she was awarded a CBE for her services to systematics and, in 2000, a DBE for services to nature conservation and biochemical research.

She was born on 5 August 1908 and died 20 January 2005, aged 96.

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