Muriel Bristol

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Muriel Bristol
Born(1888-04-21)21 April 1888
Croydon, Surrey, England
Died15 March 1950(1950-03-15) (aged 61)
Bristol, Gloucestershire, England
Other namesBlanche Muriel Bristol-Roach
Known forSubject of the "lady tasting tea experiment"
Scientific career

Blanche Muriel Bristol (21 April 1888 – 15 March 1950) was a British phycologist who worked at Rothamsted Research (then Rothamsted Experimental Station) in 1919.[1] Her research focused on the mechanisms by which algae acquire nutrients.[2]

Statistics and tea[edit]

One day at Rothamsted, Ronald Fisher offered Bristol a cup of hot tea that he had just drawn from an urn. Bristol declined it, saying that she preferred the flavour when the milk was poured into the cup before the tea. Fisher scoffed that the order of pouring could not affect the flavour. Bristol insisted that it did and that she could tell the difference. Overhearing this debate, William Roach said, "Let's test her."[3]

Fisher and Roach hastily put together an experiment to test Bristol's ability to identify the order in which the two liquids were poured into several cups. At the conclusion of this experiment in which she correctly identified all eight, Roach proclaimed that "Bristol divined correctly more than enough of those cups into which tea had been poured first to prove her case".[3]

This incident led Fisher to do important work in the design of statistically valid experiments based on the statistical significance of experimental results.[3] He developed Fisher's exact test to assess the probabilities and statistical significance of experiments.

Family life[edit]

Bristol was born on 21 April 1888, the daughter of Alfred Bristol, a commercial traveller, and Annie Eliza, née Davies. She studied botany and completed a PhD on algae at Birmingham, under the tutelage of George Stephen West.[4] Bristol married William Roach in 1923. She died in Bristol on 15 March 1950 of ovarian cancer.[5]


The green algae species Chlamydomonas muriella is named after her[6] and possibly the genus Muriella[citation needed].


  1. ^ Daniel F. Jackson, Algae, Man, and the Environment: Proceedings of an International Symposium (1969) [1]
  2. ^ B. Muriel Bristol Roach, "On the Carbon Nutrition of Some Algae Isolated from Soil". Annals of Botany, vol. 41, no. 163 (1927): 509-17. [2]
  3. ^ a b c Sturdivant, Rod. "Lady Tasting Tea" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 July 2004. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  4. ^ G., W.B. (1919). "George Stephen West, MA, DSc, FLS (1876-1919)". Journal of Botany, British and Foreign. 57: 283–284. Retrieved 17 April 2022.
  5. ^ Tea for three: Of infusions and inferences and milk in first, Stephen Senn, Significance
  6. ^ Lund, J. W. G. (1947) Observations on soil algae III: Species of chlamydomonas EHR in relation to variability within the genus. New Phytologist, 46, 185–194.