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Leicester Special Collections

Dr E. N. Miles Thomas (b.1876 - d.1944)

Miles Thomas, 1932

Miles Thomas, 1932.

Ethel Nancy Miles Thomas, or ‘Miles’ as she was cited in articles and publications, was a prominent female botanist of the early 20th century.

Thomas was the first person in Britain to publish research into double fertilisation in flowering plants. Her seminal paper ‘Double Fertilization in a Dicolyledon Caltha Palastris’ was well received by the scientific community.

Thomas was among the first cohort of staff in the early years of the University College, working for 14 years (1923-37) and is noted for ‘almost alone’ setting up its first biological sciences programme.[1]  She was known for her passionate and unflinching approach to scientific research.

Double Fertilization in a Dicotyledon-Caltha palustris, Annals of Botany, Volume 14, Issue 3, 1, 1900

Double Fertilization in a Dicotyledon-Caltha palustris, Annals of Botany, 1900.

Described by her fellow botanist as ‘a striking and complex personality’, Thomas was well aware of her position as a woman working within a male-dominated community, and presided for some time over the Leicester Branch of the British Federation of University Women.[2]

[1] Ladies in the laboratory? American and British women in science, 1800-1900: a survey of their contributions to research, Vol. 1, Scarecrow Press, Mary & Thomas Creese, (1998)

[2] Ladies in the laboratory? American and British women in science, 1800-1900: a survey of their contributions to research, Vol. 1, Scarecrow Press, Mary & Thomas Creese, (1998)