Muriel Wheldale Onslow

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Muriel Wheldale Onslow
Muriel Wheldale Onslow.jpg
Born (1880-03-31)31 March 1880
Birmingham, England
Died 19 May 1932(1932-05-19) (aged 52)
Fields Biochemical genetics
Alma mater University of Cambridge

Muriel Wheldale Onslow (31 March 1880–19 May 1932) was a British biochemist. She was born on 31 March 1880 in Birmingham, England. She attended the King Edward VI High School in Birmingham and then matriculated at Newnham College, Cambridge in 1900.

At Cambridge she majored in botany. She received no degree from Cambridge, despite taking First Class Honours in both parts of the Natural Sciences Tripos, because Cambridge did not award degrees to women until 1948.

In 1903 she joined William Bateson's genetics lab at Cambridge where she began her study of the inheritance of petal color in Antirrhinum (snapdragons). This work culminated in the 1916 publication of her first book, The Anthocyanin Pigments of Plants.[1]

In 1914 Onslow joined the biochemistry lab of Frederick Gowland Hopkins, where she pursued the biochemical aspects of petal color, whose genetics she had elucidated at Bateson's lab. In combining genetics and biochemistry she became one of the first biochemical geneticists and paved the way for the later successes of such seminal investigators as Edward Tatum and George Beadle.

In 1919 Onslow married biochemist Victor Alexander Herbert Huia Onslow, second son of the 4th Earl of Onslow. Victor Onslow was paraplegic and died in 1922.

In 1926 she was one of the first women appointed as a lecturer at Cambridge.

Muriel Onslow died on 19 May 1932.

In 2010 the Royal Institution of Great Britain staged a play, entitled "Blooming Snapdragons," about four early-20th-century women biochemists, one of whom was Muriel Onslow.

Books by Muriel Onslow[edit]

  • The Anthocyanin Pigments of Plants, 1916, revised in 1925
  • Practical Plant Biochemistry, 1920
  • Principles of Plant Biochemistry, Volume 1, 1931


  1. ^ Wheldale, Muriel (1916). The Anthocyanin Pigments of Plants. University Press, Cambridge. 

External links[edit]