Miriam Rothschild

Dame Miriam Louisa Rothschild DBE FRS (5 August 1908 – 20 January 2005)[1] was a British natural scientist and author with contributions to zoology, entomology, and botany.

Miriam Louisa Rothschild

Miriam Rothschild
Born5 August 1908
Died20 January 2005 (aged 96)
Known forResearch on fleas
George Henry Lane
(m. 1943–1957)
AwardsH. H. Bloomer Award (1968)
Scientific career
FieldsEntomology, botany

Early life

Miriam Rothschild was born in 1908 in Ashton Wold, near Oundle in Northamptonshire, the daughter of Charles Rothschild of the Rothschild family of Jewish bankers and Rozsika Edle Rothschild (née von Wertheimstein), a Hungarian sportswoman, of Austrian Jewish descent.[2] Her brother was Victor Rothschild, 3rd Baron Rothschild and one of her sisters (Kathleen Annie) Pannonica Rothschild (Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter) would later be a bebop jazz enthusiast and patroness of Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker.

Her father had described about 500 new species of flea, and her uncle Lionel Walter Rothschild had built a private natural history museum at Tring. By the age of four she had started collecting ladybird beetles and caterpillars and taking a tame quail to bed with her. World War I broke on the eve of Miriam's sixth birthday in 1914, while the Rothschilds were holidaying in Austro-Hungary. They hurried home on the first westward train but, unable to pay, had to borrow money from a Hungarian passenger who commented "This is the proudest moment of my life. Never did I think that I should be asked to lend money to a Rothschild!" Her father died when she was 15 and she became closer to her uncle. She was educated at home until the age of 17, when she demanded to go to school. She thence attended evening classes in zoology at Chelsea College of Science and Technology and classes during the day in literature at Bedford College, London. [3]


During the 1930s she made a name for herself at the Marine Biological Station in Plymouth, studying the mollusc Nucula and its trematode parasites (Rothschild 1936, 1938a, 1938b). Because of her inherited wealth, she never had to apply for any grants or funding. As a result of this and her lack of formal education—all her doctorates were honorary—she would always be an "amateur".

Prior to World War II, she pressed the UK Government to admit more German Jews as refugees from Nazi Germany. During the war, she worked at Bletchley Park on codebreaking.[4]

Personal life

In 1943, she married Captain George Lane, MC.[5] a WW2 commando, who was a non-practicing Hungarian Jew whose surname had been changed from Lanyi for security reasons.[6] They had seven children, four of whom survived to adulthood.[6] The marriage was dissolved in 1957 and in 1963 Lane married Elizabeth Heald, daughter of Sir Lionel Heald.[6]

Science and entomology

Miriam Rothschild 2003
Clay bust of Dame Miriam Rothschild, by Marcus Cornish (2003), at the Royal Society, London

Rothschild was a leading authority on fleas. She was the first person to work out the flea's jumping mechanism. She also studied the flea's reproductive cycle and linked this, in rabbits, to the hormonal changes within the host. Her New Naturalist book on parasitism (Fleas, Flukes and Cuckoos) was a huge success. Its title can be explained as: external parasites (e.g. fleas), internal parasites (e.g. flukes) and others (the cuckoo is a 'brood parasite'). The Rothschild Collection of Fleas (founded by Charles Rothschild) is now part of the Natural History Museum collection, and her catalogue of the collection (in collaboration with G. H. E. Hopkins) is a master-work.

Rothschild was a member of the Oxford genetics school during the 1960s, where she met the ecological geneticist E.B. Ford. She was one of the few women with whom Ford was on good terms and she campaigned with Ford for the legalisation of homosexuality.[7]

Rothschild authored books about her father (Rothschild's Reserves – time and fragile nature) and her uncle (Dear Lord Rothschild). She wrote about 350 papers on entomology, zoology and other subjects.

Funding for schizophrenia research and art therapy

Rothschild founded the 'Schizophrenia Research Fund' in 1962, an independent registered charity formed “to advance the better understanding, prevention, treatment and cure of all forms of mental illness and in particular of the illness known as Schizophrenia”. In March 2006, following her death, the name of the Fund was changed in her memory to the 'Miriam Rothschild Schizophrenia Research Fund'.[8] The pioneer of British Art Therapy, Edward Adamson and his partner and collaborator, John Timlin, were regular visitors to Ashton Wold.[9] Between 1983 and 1997, the influential Adamson Collection of 6000 paintings, drawings, sculptures and ceramics by people living with major mental disorder at Netherne Hospital, created with Adamson’s encouragement in his progressive art studios at the hospital, was housed and displayed to the public in a medieval barn at Ashton. Rothschild was both a Trustee and, subsequently, Patron of the Adamson Collection Trust.[10] "All my life," she said, "I have tilted against hopeless windmills".[11] The Adamson Collection is now almost all re-located to the Wellcome Library. All Adamson's papers, correspondence, photographs and other material are currently being organised as the 'Edward Adamson Archive', also at the Wellcome Library.


Rothschild was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1985 and was made a Dame in 2000. In 1973 she was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[12] She received honorary doctorates from eight universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. She gave the Romanes Lecture for 1984–5 in Oxford.

In 1986 the John Galway Foster Human Rights Trust was established; in 2006 the name of the trust was expanded to The Miriam Rothschild & John Foster Human Rights Trust. This funds an annual lecture on human rights.


Miriam Rothschild appearing on "After Dark", 2 July 1988 - alternative
Appearing on television programme After Dark in 1988

* "I must say, I find everything interesting."[4]



  • Rothschild, Miriam and Clay, Theresa (1953) Fleas, Flukes and Cuckoos: a study of bird parasites. The New Naturalist series. London: Collins
  • Hopkins, G. H. E. and Rothschild, Miriam (1953–81) An Illustrated Catalogue to the Rothschild Collection of Fleas 6 volumes (4to.) London: British Museum (Natural History)[13]
  • Rothschild, Miriam (1983) Dear Lord Rothschild: birds, butterflies and history. London: Hutchinson (ISBN 0-86689-019-X)
  • Rothschild, Miriam and Farrell, Clive (1985) The Butterfly Gardener. London: Michael Joseph
  • Rothschild, Miriam (1986) Animals and Man: the Romanes lecture for 1984–5 delivered in Oxford on 5 February 1985. Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • Rothschild, Miriam et al. (1986) Colour Atlas of Insect Tissues via the Flea. London: Wolfe
  • Rothschild, Miriam (1991) Butterfly Cooing Like a Dove. London: Doubleday
  • Stebbing-Allen, George; Woodcock, Martin; Lings, Stephen and Rothschild, Miriam (1994) A Diversity of Birds: a personal voyage of discovery. London: Headstart (ISBN 1-85944-000-2)
  • Rothschild, Miriam and Marren, Peter (1997) Rothschild's Reserves: time & fragile nature. London: Harley (ISBN 0-946589-62-3)
  • Rothschild, Miriam; Garton, Kate; De Rothschild, Lionel & Lawson, Andrew (1997) The Rothschild Gardens: a family tribute to nature. London: Abrams
  • Van Emden, Helmut F. and Rothschild, Miriam (eds.) (2004) Insect and Bird Interactions Andover, Hampshire: Intercept (ISBN 1-898298-92-0)


  • Rothschild, M. (1936) Gigantism and variation in Peringia ulvae Pennant 1777, caused by infection with larval trematodes. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 20, 537–46
  • Rothschild, M. (1938)a. Further observations on the effect of trematode parasites on Peringia ulvae (Pennant) 1777. Novavit Zool. 41, 84–102
  • Rothschild, M. (1938)b. Observations on the growth and trematode infections of Peringia ulvae (Pennant) 1777 in a pool in the Tamar saltings, Plymouth. Parasitology, 33(4), 406–415. doi:10.1017/S0031182000024616
  • [many more]


  1. ^ Van Emden, H. F.; Gurdon, J. (2006). "Dame Miriam Louisa Rothschild. 5 August 1908 -- 20 January 2005: Elected FRS 1985". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 52: 315–330. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2006.0022.
  2. ^ Naomi Gryn, Rothschild, Dame Miriam, Jewish Women Encyclopedia, retrieved 3 March 2012
  3. ^ Rothschild, Miriam (22 January 2005). (68291). The Times http://gdc.galegroup.com.ezphost.dur.ac.uk/gdc/artemis/NewspapersDetailsPage/NewspapersDetailsWindow?disableHighlighting=false&displayGroupName=DVI-Newspapers&docIndex=1&source=fullList&prodId=TTDA&mode=view&limiter=&display-query=OQE+miriam+rothschild&contentModules=&action=e&sortBy=&windowstate=normal&currPage=1&dviSelectedPage=&scanId=&query=OQE+miriam+rothschild&search_within_results=&p=TTDA&catId=&u=duruni&displayGroups=&documentId=GALE%7CIF0502894830&activityType=BasicSearch&failOverType=&commentary=. Retrieved 2 January 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ a b David McCullough. Brave Companions: Portraits in History. Simon & Schuster, 1992. p. 166ff. ISBN 978-0-671-79276-3.
  5. ^ "Colonel George Lane". The Daily Telegraph. London. 26 March 2010. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
  6. ^ a b c Naomi, Gryn. "Dame Miriam Rothschild 1908 – 2005". Jewish Women's Archive.
  7. ^ "Dame Miriam Rothschild, obituary". The Oundle Chronicle (blog). Archived from the original on 8 October 2007. Retrieved 6 May 2007.
  8. ^ "Schizophrenia Research Fund". www.srf-uk.com.
  9. ^ Adamson, E. (1984). 'Art as Healing'. London, Coventure
  10. ^ O'Flynn, D. (2011). 'Art as Healing: Edward Adamson'. Raw Vision, 72, Spring 2011, pp. 46–53.
  11. ^ Marren, P. (2005). "Obituary: Dame Miriam Rothschild. Expert on fleas and energetic campaigner for nature conservation." The Independent, 22 January 2005
  12. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter R" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  13. ^ "Rothschild (Charles) Collection of Fleas". Retrieved 18 April 2009.

External links

Arthur Smith (illustrator)

Arthur Smith (1916–1991) was a British natural history illustrator who specialised in entomology. He was born in the village of Eastburn, between Skipton and Keighley in Yorkshire, UK.

During his youth he developed a keen interest in natural history from walks on the York Moors. At 15 he attended Keighley College of Arts and Crafts and then the Royal College of Art in London. He graduated with a Silver Medal awarded for Special Distinction in the School of Design (then the highest order).

In 1940 he commenced his career as a freelance illustrator at the British Museum (Nat. Hist.). To avoid the disruption of the London Blitz during World War II he moved to Letchworth at the invitation of a colleague, Frederick Wallace Edwards. Edwards died shortly afterwards, but had put Smith in touch with James Edward Collin, for whom he produced 950 illustrations for the latter’s book on British empididae. The book was eventually published in 1961.

Smith also collaborated with Dame Miriam Rothschild illustrating her book: Fleas, Flukes and Cuckoos (Rothschild and Clay, 1952). This led to him illustrating, with over 1000 drawings, An Illustrated Catalogue of the Rothschild Collection of Fleas (Siphonaptera) in the British Museum (Natural History), an enormous work of 5 large volumes published between 1953 and 1971.

His work illustrated over 60 books, pamphlets and reports in addition to other freelance work for magazines.

In 1960 he became a member of staff of the British Museum (Nat. Hist.) as the first (and possibly the last) insect illustrator to be employed in the Department of Entomology.

Smith's last major undertaking was the illustration of a two volume work, British Tortricoid Moths, co-authoring with J. D. Bradley and W. G. Tremewan. However, before the publication of the book he had retired to Shaftesbury, Dorset. He continued to produce art work up to a few weeks before his death.

Arthur Smith married Margaret Eagle in 1940 and they produced three children, one of whom predeceased them in 1978.

Ashton, East Northamptonshire

Ashton is a village and civil parish about ¾ mile east of Oundle in the east of the English county of Northamptonshire forming part of the district of East Northamptonshire. The population of the civil parish at the 2011 census was 219.

Ashton Wold

Ashton Wold is a 54.0 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) east of Oundle in Northamptonshire. It is part of the Ashton Estate, which was purchased in 1860 by Lionel de Rothschild, a banker and politician. His grandson, Charles Rothschild, the founder of the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves, now The Wildlife Trusts, built Ashton Wold House, which was designed by Wiliam Huckvale. The house and its garden are listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by English Heritage for their historic interest, and part of the garden is woodland which is designated as Ashton Wold SSSI. Part of the estate is the subject of a Restrictive Covenant between Charles's daughter Miriam Rothschild and the National Trust in 1945.

Charles Rothschild

Nathaniel Charles Rothschild (9 May 1877 – 12 October 1923), known as "Charles", was an English banker and entomologist and a member of the Rothschild family. He is remembered for The Rothschild List, a list he made in 1915 of 284 sites across Britain that he considered suitable for nature reserves.

Château de Montsoreau-Museum of Contemporary Art

The Château de Montsoreau-Museum of Contemporary Art, situated in the Loire valley,is a private museum open to the public. The project was initiated in November 2014, and was inaugurated the 8 of April 2016. The permanent collection, gathered over the past 25 years by Philippe Méaille, is not only intended to be exhibited at the Château de Montsoreau, but also to be lent to other institutions. His collection is the world's largest collection of works by the radical conceptualists Art & Language, who has played an important role in the invention of conceptual art. The Philippe Méaille collection has also been on long-term loan since 2010 at the MACBA of Barcelona, which brings the two institutions to collaborate regularly.It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ecological Genetics (book)

Ecological Genetics is a 1964 book by the British biologist E. B. Ford on ecological genetics. Ford founded the field and it is considered his magnum opus. The fourth and final edition was published in 1975.

Ford's work was celebrated in 1971 by Ecological Genetics and Evolution, a series of essays edited by Robert Creed, publ. Blackwell, Oxford. This included contributions from Cyril Darlington, Miriam Rothschild, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Bryan Clarke, A.J. Cain, Sir Cyril Clarke and others.

Ford and Ronald Fisher represented one side of a dispute with the American Sewall Wright over the relative roles of selection and drift in evolution.

Elsie Burrell

Elsie Burrell (10 February 1885 – 1 February 1955) was an English artist, watercolourist and portrait painter.

Born in Thetford (Norfolk), she was the daughter of Robert George Burrell, a manufacturer of steam engines, and Ellen Alborough Cockayne.She showed a talent for watercolour: at the age of eleven, she won a prize in a local exhibition. She specialized in portraits, and by 1913, she had moved to London for a career as a society portraitist. Among those whose portraits she painted were actresses Gladys Cooper, Marie Löhr, Muriel Beaumont and Irene Vanbrugh, and society individuals, such as Miriam Rothschild as a young girl and Lady Marjorie Duff. In May 1913, an exhibition of her portraits was held in New Bond Street, London, and in March-April 1914, another was held at the Dudley Galleries, Piccadilly. Her exhibitions were reported by several newspapers and society magazines such as Tatler and The Sketch, which published black and white reproductions. Colour reproductions were sold during her exhibitions and as postcards. Reviewers noted that her style had "grace and simplicity"; despite the "over-prettiness" of her works, it evolved to "a happy knack of catching likenesses" and a "gift of depicting life-like expression".

In 1915 she painted and exhibited portraits of soldiers. During a sitting, she met Major Boyd Alexander Cuninghame (born in Australia in 1871); who had fought in the Boer War and, during WWI, against the Germans in Rhodesia, in December 1914 and in 1915. He was wounded and sent back to Britain to recuperate. They married on 12 July 1916; the Tatler had published her photo with the caption "Miss Elsie Burrell. The well-known artist who is shortly to be married to Major Boyd Cuninghame (late Scots Greys), who has been serving with the Northern Rhodesia Rifles". As Major Cuninghame had two farms in Makeni (Lusaka, Rhodesia), Elsie followed him to Africa, abandoning her artistic career and watercolour practice. Less than one year later, in March 1917, Major Cunninghame died of typhoid fever in Elisabethville (Congo). Elsie continued to manage both farms successfully, and samples of wheat she had grown won a prize in London.In 1920, Randolf Baker, a British politician, met Elsie in Makeni. They married on 29 June 1920 in Livingstone (Rhodesia). The couple ran the farms and divided their time between Rhodesia and Ranston House, near Blandford Forum in Dorset. Their daughter Selina Baker was born in 1925. Elsie died at Ranston House on 1 February 1955.

Extinct Birds

Extinct Birds (complete title: Extinct birds. An attempt to unite in one volume a short account of those Birds which have become extinct in historical times—that is, within the last six or seven hundred years. To which are added a few which still exist, but are on the verge of extinction.) is a book by Walter Rothschild which covers globally extinct and rare birds, as well as hypothetical extinct species which include bird taxa whose existence is based only on written or oral reports or on paintings. The accounts of the extinct bird taxa are based on Rothschild's lecture On extinct and vanishing birds published in the Proceedings of the 4th International Ornithological Congress 1905 in London.

Subsequent authors like Errol Fuller were influenced by Rothschild's reference work. Fuller published an eponymous book in 1987 with a foreword written by Miriam Rothschild and also used color plates from Rothschild's work.


Flea, the common name for the order Siphonaptera, includes 2,500 species of small flightless insects that survive as external parasites of mammals and birds. Fleas live by consuming blood or hematophagy, from their hosts. Adult fleas grow to about 3 mm or .12 in long, are usually brown, and have bodies that are "flattened" sideways, or narrow, enabling them to move through their host's fur or feathers. They lack wings, but have strong claws preventing them from being dislodged; mouthparts adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood, and hind legs extremely well adapted for jumping. They are able to leap a distance of some 50 times their body length, a feat second only to jumps made by another group of insects, the superfamily of froghoppers. Fleas' larvae are worm-like with no limbs; they have chewing mouthparts and feed on organic debris left on their host's skin.

The Siphonaptera are most closely related to the snow scorpionflies, or snow fleas in the UK, formally the Boreidae, placing them within the Endopterygote insect order Mecoptera. Fleas arose in the early Cretaceous, most likely as ectoparasites of mammals, before moving on to other groups including birds. Each species of flea is more or less a specialist with respect to its host animal species: many species never breed on any other host, though some are less selective. Some families of fleas are exclusive to a single host group; for example, the Malacopsyllidae are found only on armadillos, the Ischnopsyllidae only on bats, and the Chimaeropsyllidae only on elephant shrews.

The oriental rat flea, Xenopsylla cheopis, is a vector of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium which causes bubonic plague. The disease was spread by rodents such as the black rat, which were bitten by fleas that then infected humans. Major outbreaks included the Plague of Justinian, c. 540 and the Black Death, c. 1350, both of which killed a sizeable fraction of the world's population.

Fleas appear in human culture in such diverse forms as flea circuses, poems like John Donne's erotic The Flea, works of music such as by Modest Mussorgsky, and a film by Charlie Chaplin.

George Henry Evans Hopkins

George Henry Evans Hopkins OBE (22 March 1898 – 20 February 1973) was an English entomologist.

Hopkins made major contributions in scientific research into three groups of insects – lice, fleas and mosquitoes. He was regarded as a great scientist, with multidisciplinary training and experiences.

George Lane (British Army officer)

George Henry Lane, MC (18 January 1915 – 19 March 2010) was a British Army officer in the Commandos during World War II, achieving the rank of colonel. He performed a number of missions behind enemy lines. Captured on one such mission, Lane was spared after he had tea with Erwin Rommel, and later escaped.

Highgrove House

Highgrove House is the family residence of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, situated southwest of Tetbury in Gloucestershire, England. Built in the late 18th century, Highgrove and its estate were owned by various families until it was purchased in 1980 by the Duchy of Cornwall from Maurice Macmillan. Charles remodelled the Georgian house with neo-classical additions in 1987. The duchy manages the estate and the nearby Duchy Home Farm. The house is noted for its extensive gardens which receive more than 30,000 visitors a year. The house and gardens are run according to Charles's environmental principles, and have been the subject of several books and television programmes. Charles frequently hosts various charitable events at the house.

John Foster (British politician)

Brigadier Sir John Galway Foster (21 February 1903 – 1 February 1982) was a British Conservative Party politician, British Army officer and legal scholar. He served as Member of Parliament for the Northwich constituency in Cheshire from 1945 to February 1974, and was Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations from 1951 to 1954.

List of women in Bletchley Park

Women made up the majority of the 10,000 people who worked at Bletchley Park. The following is a list of women who worked at Bletchley Park who have Wikipedia articles.

Louisa de Rothschild

Louisa de Rothschild (née Montefiore), Lady de Rothschild (28 May 1821 – 22 September 1910), was an Anglo-Jewish philanthropist, and founding member of the Union of Jewish Women.

Born in England, the daughter of Abraham Montefiore, she married Baron Anthony de Rothschild in 1840, and was influential and able to push conventions that traditionally bound Jewish women at the time.She founded the first independent Jewish women's philanthropic associations, the Jewish Ladies' Benevolent Loan Society and the Ladies' Visiting Society in London in 1840.

Martin Roth (psychiatrist)

Sir Martin Roth (6 November 1917, Budapest – 26 September 2006, Cambridge) was a British psychiatrist.He was Professor of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, 1977–85, then Professor Emeritus, and was a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge from 1977. He was one of the pioneers in developing Psychogeriatrics as a subspecialty. Roth was also a trustee of the Schizophrenia Research Fund, a charity founded by Miriam Rothschild.

He is buried in Cambridge City Cemetery.


Rothschild (German pronunciation: [ˈʁoːt.ʃɪlt]) is a name derived from the German zum rothen Schild (with the old spelling "th"), meaning "with the red sign", in reference to the houses where these family members lived or had lived. At the time, houses were designated by signs with different symbols or colors, not numbers. The name Rothschild in Yiddish means "red coat" (coat as in heraldic coat of arms). The Rothschild banking family's coat of arms features in the center of its heraldry a red shield.

The German surname "Rothschild" is not related to the Scottish/Irish surname of "Rothchilds" from the United Kingdom.

William Sutherland (biologist)

William James Sutherland (born 27 April 1956) is the Miriam Rothschild Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Cambridge. He is currently the President of the British Ecological Society. He has been a Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge since 2008.

Banking and

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