Dorothy Mary Moyle Needham. 22 September 1896 – 22 December 1987

Mikuláš Teich


In July 1994 I was approached by The Royal Society asking whether I would be willing to help in putting together a biographical memoir for Dr Dorothy Moyle Needham, who died in December 1987. For a variety of reasons, the Fellow of The Royal Society who originally undertook to write the memoir had been unable to deliver it before his death. After responding that I would be happy to assist, I was informed that I would, no doubt, be contacted by the writer who undertook to complete the task. As it turned out, I heard nothing more and, while occasionally wondering at the unusual delay in the publication of the memoir, I left it at that. That is, until in the spring of 2000 when I noticed that there was still no memoir on ‘Dophi’, as she was known to friends and colleagues. I found this very strange in view of the fact that almost 111/2 years had elapsed since her death and that she was among the first 10 elected female Fellows of The Royal Society.

After some hesitation, I wrote on 7 May 2000 to The Lord Lewis of Newnham FRS (then Warden of Robinson College, Cambridge), alerting him to the situation. He was more than surprised and, following his enquiries, in July 2000 I became the third author invited to prepare Dr D.M. Needhams biographical memoir.

As in private duty bound, I accepted the invitation, although not without anxiety over predicaments perceived beforehand. For one thing, though I had been collaborating with Dorothy Needham since 1972, the subject was history of biochemistry. Usually a biographical memoir is prepared by a person acquainted at first hand with the experimental/theoretical features of the work of the deceased Fellow. For another thing, I realized that I would be able to work on the memoir only intermittently because of other commitments, including prolonged stays abroad. All this has something to do with the delay in preparing this memoir, including the format.

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