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McCance, Robert Alexander (1898-1993), and Widdowson, Elsie May (1908-2000)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 GC/97
Held at: Wellcome Library
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Full title: McCance, Robert Alexander (1898-1993), and Widdowson, Elsie May (1908-2000)
Date(s): 1929-1993
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 13 boxes
Name of creator(s): McCance | Robert Alexander | 1898-1993 | nutritionist
Widdowson | Elsie May | 1908-2000 | nutritionist
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Further information on McCance and Widdowson can be found in the volume McCance and Widdowson: a scientific partnership of 60 years, 1933 to 1993, ed. Margaret Ashwell, British Nutrition Foundation, 1993 (GC/97/D.1). See also Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, Vol 41, 1995 (McCance) and Vol 48, 2002 (Widdowson) and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


Scope and content/abstract:

The collection includes material on several research projects undertaken by McCance and Widdowson, 1929-1993, as well as a small amount of personalia. There are notebooks recording the first research on analysis of foodstuffs carried out in the UK, started by McCance when at the Diabetes Department of King's College Hospital, after R D Lawrence asked him to analyse cooked foods. Widdowson joined him in 1933 and together they devised the separate methods for estimating different carbohydrates (glucose, fructose, sucrose, starch and dextrose). In 1940 their findings were published as Chemical composition of foods, the first of now regularly produced Standard Food Composition publications. There are notebooks and photographs of self-experimentation undertaken within the department, on salt-deficiency, conducted by McCance on himself, colleagues and medical students, involving not only a salt-free diet, but exposure to a hot air bath to sweat the salt out of the body, and also on absorption and excretion of iron. There is also his diary of the experimental study of rationing undertaken in 1939. There are 220 complete questionnaires from their survey of female colleagues and acquaintances for a study of physical and emotional periodicity in women, undertaken 1929-1930. There are experimental notebooks and files relating to research into body composition and development from 1944 onwards. This collection represents only a part of the diversity of research undertaken during the course of their long careers.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

A. Analysis of foodstuffs, 1929-1944; B. Self-experimentation - B.1 Experiments on salt deficiency in man, 1934-1937; B.2 Experiments on absorption and excretion of iron in man, 1937; B.3 Experimental study of rationing, 1939-1940; C. Study of physical and emotional periodicity in women, 1929-1930; D. McCance and Widdowson: personal and biographical materials; D.1 McCance and Widdowson: a scientific partnership of 60 years, 1933 to 1993 ed. Margaret Ashwell, British Nutrition Foundation, 1993; D.2 R A McCance, 1940-1993; D.3 Elsie Widdowson, 1932-1999; E. Study of changes in composition during development in different species, 1944-1974, nd; E.1 Analysis of composition and development in various species, 1944-1971; E.2 Analysis of composition and development in rats, including small and large litters, 1944, nd; E.3 Pigs - effects of undernutrition, 1944-1974, nd.

Conditions governing access:

Certain restrictions apply. The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking, except for the files in Section C, which are restricted until 1 Jan 2014: readers must complete an application for permission to see restricted materials.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:

Hard-copy catalogue available in Wellcome Library.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The records of research at King's College Hospital Medical School, London, were mainly received from Professor McCance and Dr Widdowson in November 1986 and November 1990. The periodicity tables (Section C), apart from the file of samples, were collected from Professor John Cowley of Hatfield Polytechnic in November 1990. A celebration of McCance and Widdowson's partnership published in 1993 was received in 1994. Additional material was received after Dr Widdowson's death from her sister Dr Eva Crane in December 2000.

Allied Materials

Related material:

McCance and Widdowson were both involved as scientific experts with the Nutritional Survey of the effects of additional foodstuffs given ante-natally to mothers in 'Special Areas' in the 1930s, begun under the auspices of the National Birthday Trust Fund and continued by the Research Committee of the Joint Council on Midwifery: archives of the National Birthday Trust Fund, SA/NBT/T. McCance was the first President of the Neonatal Society, SA/NNS, and Dr Widdowson its treasurer. There is also correspondence with them in a number of other collections, including the papers of C E Dent (PP/CED), R Ranyard West (PP/RRW), and Sir Edward Mellanby (PP/MEL) and the archives of the Strangeways Research Laboratory (SA/SRL).

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Entry comiled from Wellcome Library online catalogue by Barbara Ball.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
September 2008.

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