Life

International Women’s Day 2017: Celebrating Professor Winifred Pennington

For International Women's Day, we are celebrating the work and achievements of Professor Winifred Pennington FRS. You can download a free poster of her life at the end of this article.

Prof Winifred Pennington. Photo: Prof Rick Battarbee, 1976.

Winifred (“Anne”) Pennington (Mrs TG Tutin; 1915-2007) made major contributions to environmental biology and vegetational history.

She joined the University of Leicester in 1947 as a demonstrator and lecturer, finally becoming an Honorary Professor in 1980. She divided her time between work in Leicester and at the Freshwater Biological Association in the Lake District. Her pioneering work in palaeolimnology, showing the first evidence for late-glacial climatic oscillation in Britain led to her election as a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1979. She had four children during the late 1940s and early 1950s, while lecturing in Leicester on many biological topics. She also worked with botanical volunteers, including science-based surveys and expeditions.

Her research writings were notable for their clear and accessible style, while bringing across novel and complex aspects of lakes and other bodies of fresh water, including inorganic and organic sediment chemistry, and the changes in pollen and diatoms. Her detailed history of vegetation patterns across Northern Europe over the last 30,000 years underpins most modern work on climate change.

Prof Rick Battarbee FRS, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Change at UCL, took the photo of Prof Pennington. The occasion was the field excursion on Mikołajskie Lake in the Masurian Lake District of Poland in the summer of 1976, during the Second International Symposium on Paleolimnology. Prof Battarbee was delighted to provide this photo and see Prof Pennington’s work recognised: “Prof Pennington was one of my most important mentors as a young scientist. Her pioneering studies of sediment cores from lakes in the English Lake District played an important role in the development of palaeoecological science in the UK. Her subsequent work on the role of sediment records to reconstruct past changes in lake ecosystems contributed significantly to environmental debates on the causes of lake eutrophication and acidification, issues that have dominated my own research career”.

Lakes at dawn
Lakes at dawn. Photo by Pat Heslop-Harrison.

Further information about the life of Professor Pennington is given in Birks HJ, Birks HH. 2007. Winifred Tutin (1915–2007). Journal of Paleolimnology 38(4):601-605. DOI 10.1007/s10933-007-9152-8 and at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winifred_Pennington.

Download the poster FREE (put together by Prof Pat Heslop-Harrison, Leicester University):

Free poster (PDF) by Pat Heslop-Harrison.

Reference

Birks, H. J. B., & Birks, H. H. (2007). Winifred Tutin (1915–2007). Journal of Paleolimnology, 38(4), 601–605. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10933-007-9152-8

About the author

Editor Pat Heslop-Harrison

Pat Heslop-Harrison is Professor of Molecular Cytogenetics and Cell Biology at the University of Leicester. He is also Chief Editor of Annals of Botany.