Helen Gwynne-Vaughan

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Portrait by William Orpen, 1918.

Dame Helen Charlotte Isabella Gwynne-Vaughan, GBE (née Fraser; 21 January 1879 – 26 August 1967) was a prominent English botanist and mycologist.

Life and work[edit]

Gwynne-Vaughan was educated at Cheltenham Ladies' College and King's College London, and she also studied under Margaret Jane Benson, head of the Department of Botany at Royal Holloway College.[1] In 1909, she was named head of the botany department at Birkbeck College in London. In 1911 she married David Thomas Gwynne-Vaughan, who died four years later.

In 1917, she was appointed Controller of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in France, alongside Mona Chalmers-Watson, Chief Controller of the WAAC in London [2] For her service she became the first woman to receive a military CBE in 1918.[citation needed] She served as Commandant of the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) from September 1918 until December 1919.[3]

Honours and distinctions[edit]

Gwynne-Vaughan received her DBE in 1919.[4] In 1921, she became a professor at Birkbeck College and continued her studies on fungi genetics as well as becoming involved in politics. In 1929, she was elevated to GBE.

She was also active in Girl Guides and was honoured with the Silver Fish. In 1930, Gwynne-Vaughan chaired the Guides' Sixth World Conference. At this conference, the constitution of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts was agreed and Olave Baden-Powell was unaminiously voted World Chief Guide. Gwynne-Vaughan was first Chief Controller of the Auxiliary Territorial Service from 1939-41. She returned to Birkbeck and retired as Professor Emeritus in 1944.[citation needed]

The primitive plant species Rhynia gwynne-vaughanii was named by her colleagues R. Kidston and W.H. Lang in her honour after her death.[5]


  1. ^ Joyce Harvey and Marilyn Ogilvie, The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: Pioneering Lives from Ancient Times to the Mid-Twentieth Century, Volume 1 (Google eBook), p. 116, Taylor & Francis US, 2000.
  2. ^ Noakes, Lucy. Women in the British Army Routledge, 2006, p. 68
  3. ^ RAF bio of Helen Gwynne-Vaughan
  4. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 31378. p. 7026. 30 May 1919. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  5. ^ "Rhynia". Rhynie Chert News. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 


  • Kerr, Rose (1976). Story of the Girl Guides 1908-1938. London: Girl Guides Association. 
  • Noakes, Lucy (2006). Women in the British Army; War and the Gentle Sex, 1907-1948. London: Routledge. 
Military offices
Preceded by
Violet Douglas-Pennant
Commandant, Women's Royal Air Force
Succeeded by
Appointment abolished
Preceded by
New appointment
Director, Auxiliary Territorial Service
Succeeded by
Mrs Jean Knox