Rosalind Pitt-Rivers

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Rosalind Pitt-Rivers
Rosalind Venetia Pitt-Rivers (1907-1990) - Restoration.jpg
Born Rosalind Venetia Henley
(1907-03-07)7 March 1907
London, England
Died 14 January 1990(1990-01-14) (aged 82)[1]
Hinton St Mary, Sturminster Newton, Dorset, England
Nationality British
Institutions National Institute for Medical Research
Alma mater Bedford College
Notable awards FRS (1954)[2]
Spouse George Pitt-Rivers

Rosalind Venetia Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers FRS[2] (4 March 1907 – 14 January 1990) was a British biochemist.[1] She became the second president of the European Thyroid Association in 1971. She succeeded Jean Roche and was followed by Jack Gross in this position, all three names inextricably linked with the discovery of the thyroid hormone triiodothyronine (T3).[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Pitt-Rivers was born Rosalind Venetia Henley on 4 March 1907 in London, the eldest of four daughters of the Hon. Anthony Morton Henley (1873–1925), a Captain in the 5th Lancers, and his wife the Hon. Sylvia Laura Stanley (1882–1980).[4] Her father was the third son of Anthony Henley, 3rd Baron Henley[5] and her mother the daughter of Lord Stanley of Alderley.[1]

She was educated at home and later at Notting Hill High School at the age of thirteen. Her interest in chemistry began at the age of twelve when an uncle gave her a chemistry set.[2] She later studied at Bedford College where she was awarded a Bachelor of Science in 1930 with first class honours, and an MSc in 1931.[1][6]

Personal life[edit]

In 1931 she married as his second wife George Pitt-Rivers (1890–1966), anthropologist and eugenist and a grandson of Augustus Pitt Rivers (1827–1900), who founded the anthropology museum named after him in Oxford. She became stepmother to the two boys from his first marriage, Michael and Julian. She gave birth to a son, Anthony, in 1932, but the marriage was dissolved in 1937.[1][6][7] During their marriage, her husband had become increasingly pro-eugenics and anti-semitic, drawing closer to German eugenicists and praising Mussolini and Hitler; by 1940 he was interned in the Tower of London under the Defence Regulation 18B.[8]


Only after she separated from Pitt-Rivers in 1937, did she return to study and gain a PhD in Biochemistry from University College medical school in 1939.[9]

She joined the scientific staff of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in Mill Hill London in 1942, the largest institute of the UK Medical Research Council (MRC).[2] She later became head of the Division of Chemistry, and retired in 1972.[10]

After helping Jack Gross with the discovery of the T3 hormone and publishing their findings in The Lancet in 1952[11] she gained international recognition.[1] She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1954.[2] In 1973 she was made a fellow of Bedford College, London, in 1983 an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, and in 1986 an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.,[1]

Her publications with Jamshed Tata include The Thyroid Hormones (1959); The Chemistry of Thyroid Diseases (1960); and (with W. R. Trotter) The Thyroid Gland (1964).[1][12][13]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Rivers, Rosalind Venetia Lane Fox Pitt- (1907–1990)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Tata, J. R. (1994). "Rosalind Pitt-Rivers 4 March 1907-14 January 1990". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 39: 326–326. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1994.0019. 
  3. ^ Milestones in European Thyroidology
  4. ^ "Rosalind Venetia Henley (Person Page – 5631)". The Peerage. Retrieved 1 November 2012. 
  5. ^ Mosley, Charles, ed. (1999). Burke's Peerage & Baronetage (106 ed.). Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd. p. 1373. ISBN 2-940085-02-1. 
  6. ^ a b Haines, Catherine M. C.; Stevens, Helen M. (2001). "Pitt-Rivers, Rosalind Venetia". International Women in Science: A Biographical Dictionary to 1950. Santa Barbara, Calif. [u.a.]: ABC-CLIO. pp. 247–248. ISBN 978-1-57607-090-1. 
  7. ^ Hart, Bradley W. (2015). George Pitt-Rivers and the Nazis. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 71, 176. ISBN 978-1-4725-6995-0. 
  8. ^ Hart, Bradley W. (2015). George Pitt-Rivers and the Nazis. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-1-4725-6995-0. 
  9. ^ "PITT-RIVERS, Dr Rosalind Venetia". Who Was Who. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  10. ^ Medical Research Council Annual Report 1972-1973. 129: HMSO. 1973. ISBN 0102355738. 
  11. ^ Gross, J.; Pitt-Rivers, R. (1952). "The Identification of 3:5:3'-L-Triiodothyronine in Human Plasma". The Lancet. 259 (6705): 439. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(52)91952-1. 
  12. ^ "The chemistry of thyroid diseases (Book, 1960) []". WorldCat. Retrieved 1 November 2012. 
  13. ^ "Pitt-Rivers, Rosalind [WorldCat Identities]". WorldCat. Retrieved 1 November 2012.