Margaret Todd (doctor)

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Dr. Margaret Todd

Dr Margaret Todd (c. 1859 – 3 September 1918)[1] was a Scottish doctor and writer who in 1913 suggested the term isotope to chemist Frederick Soddy.


A Glaswegian schoolteacher, in 1886 Todd became one of the first students at the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women after hearing that the Scottish Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons had opened their exams to women. She took eight years to complete the four-year course because, using the pseudonym Graham Travers, during her studies she wrote a novel, Mona Maclean, Medical Student.[citation needed]

This was described by Punch magazine as "a novel with a purpose — no recommendation for a novel, more especially when the purpose selected is that of demonstrating the indispensability of women-doctors". After graduating in 1894 she took her MD in Brussels and was appointed Assistant Medical Officer at Edinburgh Hospital and Dispensary for Women and Children but retired after five years.[citation needed]

Her first book having been exceptionally well received and into further editions, she published Fellow Travellers and Kirsty O’ The Mill Toun in 1896, followed by Windyhaugh in 1898, always using her male pen name, although by 1896 reviewers were calling her "Miss Travers". By 1906 even her publishers added "Margaret Todd, M.D." in parentheses after her pseudonym. In addition to six novels she wrote short stories for magazines.

Personal life[edit]

Todd was the romantic partner of Dr Sophia Jex-Blake, founder of Dr Todd's university and place of employment (source?). On Jex-Blake's retirement in 1899, they moved to Windydene, Mark Cross, where Todd wrote The Way of Escape (1902) and Growth (1906). After Jex-Blake's death she wrote The Life of Dr Sophia Jex-Blake (1918) under her own name. The book was described as ‘almost too laboriously minute for the general reader’.[1]


Todd was a family friend of chemist Frederick Soddy, then a lecturer at the University of Glasgow. In 1913, Soddy explained to her the research on radioactivity for which he later won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1921. He had shown that some radioactive elements have more than one atomic mass, although the chemical properties are identical, so that atoms of different masses occupy the same place in the periodic table. Todd suggested that such atoms be named isotopes, Greek for at the same place.[2][3] This term was accepted and used by Soddy, and has become standard scientific nomenclature.


She died aged 58, three months after her book on Jex-Blake was published.

According to one source[citation needed], she committed suicide; her Times obituary states only that she died in a nursing home in London. After her death a scholarship was created in her name at the LSMW.

Selected writings[edit]

  • Fellow Travellers (1896)
  • Kirsty O’ The Mill Toun (1896)
  • Margaret Georgina Todd, Graham Travers (1899). Windyhaugh. D. Appleton and company.  (1899)


  1. ^ a b "Dr. Margaret Todd". The Times. London, England. 5 September 1918. p. 9. 
  2. ^ Nagel, Miriam C. (1982). "Frederick Soddy: From Alchemy to Isotopes". Journal of Chemical Education. 59 (9): 739–740. doi:10.1021/ed059p739. 
  3. ^ Scerri, Eric R. The Periodic Table (Oxford University Press 2007), chap.6, note 44 (p.312) citing Alexander Fleck, described as a former student of Soddy's
  • National Book League (Great Britain) (1902). Book News.  - brief biographical information for Margaret Todd

External links[edit]