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Leicester Special Collections

Winifred Tutin (b.1915-d.2007)


A book written in tribute to Tutin's work in the field of limnology, Lake Sediments and Environmental History. Eds. Haworth & Lund, 1984

Winifred Tutin (née Pennington) was a key figure in the University College’s Department of Botany during the mid-late 20th century. Both her research and her published repertoire have majorly influenced the standard of academic and scientific study at the University.

Winifred was closely linked to both the University College and the Freshwater Biological Association for a large part of her scientific career. Her specialism was in palaeoecology and palaeolimnology - branches of botany that concern themselves with the study of plant remains in bodies of water and the ecological and geological stories these sedimentary histories tell.

Appointed as a Demonstrator and Temporary Lecturer in 1947, Winifred was made Part-Time Lecturer in 1948, until 1961, when she became Special Lecturer, Honorary Reader (1971-79) and finally Honorary Professor (1980-2007). Tutin published under her maiden name Pennington (with the exception of one paper) and had her work published and acknowledged by the University College as early as 1948.

As one of a new generation of women researchers, Tutin, ‘Mrs. T’ or ‘Anne’ as she has been more commonly referred to, was widely respected in her field both nationally and internationally.[1] During her employment at the University College the number of women working in science steadily increased, with the academic year 1960-61 seeing women outnumber men for the first time in the Botanical Sciences. She notably became a Fellow of the Royal Society before her husband, Thomas Tutin, the University College’s Head of Botany and eminent taxonomist.

Her profound interest in the connection between history and landscape, as well as her significant contribution to modern scientific inquiry has broadened our collective knowledge and understanding of a specific but integral part of botanical, ecological and environmental research. In a biography of her life, it has been claimed that Winifred never fully considered herself a palaeolimnologist or palaeoecologist. Instead she would retort that she only studied lake history or ecological history’.[2]

Winifred’s modesty is at odds with the esteem that many in the scientific community have held her in. As one observer remarked:

“What a determined character W. Pennington is and how well she knows what she wants and goes on firmly till she gets it”.[3]



[1] ‘Pollen, women, war and other things: reflections on the history of palynology’, Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, - (March, 2018), Vol. 27, No. 2p.327

[2] ‘Obituary: Winifred Tutin’, Journal of Palaeolimnology, (November, 2007), Vol. 38, No. 4p.604

[3] Lake Sediments and Environmental History, Eds. Haworth & Lund, Leicester University Press, 1984, p.3