Margaret Seward

Margaret Seward
Margaret Seward - 1885 (cropped).jpg
Margaret Seward at Somerville College in 1885
Born22 January 1864
Blackburne House, Liverpool
Died29 May 1929
Spouse(s)John McKillop (m. 1891)

Margaret Seward MBE (22 January 1864 - 29 May 1929) became the earliest Chemist on staff at the Women's College (of which she was a founding Lecturer), from 1896 to 1915. She became the pioneer woman to obtain a first class in the honour school of Natural Science and later received an MBE for her work on nutrition during World War I.

Early life and education

Margaret Seward, daughter of James Seward, Master at the Liverpool Institute, was born on 22 January 1864 and educated at Blackburne House, Liverpool. She entered Somerville College, Oxford, in 1881; In 1884, she was the first Oxford female student to be entered for the honour school of Mathematics. Seward then changed her focus to Chemistry, and in 1885 became the pioneer woman to obtain the first class honour school of Natural Science.[1]


Upon graduation, Seward was immediately appointed Natural Science tutor at Somerville, in addition to undertaking research with the Oxford chemist, W.H. Pendlebury. Two publications on chemical reactions resulted from her work, one of which was read to the Royal Society. These were a study on the reaction kinetics between hydrogen chloride and potassium chlorate[2] and a study of this reaction in the presence of iodide ions.[3] Seward was appointed as lecturer in Chemistry at Royal Holloway College in 1887, where she taught Martha Whiteley.[4] She resigned in 1891 to travel to Singapore to marry John McKillop, an engineer.[1]

When she returned to Britain in 1893, she taught at several institutions including the Girl's Grammar School, Bradford and Rodean School. In 1895 she was appointed to King's College, Women's Department in 1896 to teach chemistry in the new chemical laboratory. She was described there as "one of the foremost women science-lecturers", but in 1912, King's College decided to appoint a male lecturer, and McKillop was reassigned to library work.[1]

McKillop's position was terminated in 1914, and during World War I, Seward (by then known by her married name Margaret McKillop) worked in the Ministry of Food and wrote the book Food Values, What They Are and How to Calculate Them.[5][6] She was awarded an M.B.E. in 1919 for her wartime studies on nutrition.[1]

Political activity

Margaret Seward McKillop joined the Fabian Society in 1894 and was a leading figure in its Women's Group, serving as chair for several years.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d Rayner-Canham, Marelene Rayner-Canham; Rayner-Canham, Geoff (2008). Chemistry was their life : pioneer British women chemists, 1880-1949. London: Imperial College Press. pp. 105–107. ISBN 186094986X.
  2. ^ Pendlebury, W. H.; Seward, M. (1888). "An Investigation of a Case of Gradual Chemical Change". Proc. R. Soc. Lond. 45: 124–126. Bibcode:1888RSPS...45..124P.
  3. ^ Pendlebury, W. H.; Seward, M. (1888). "An Investigation of a Case of Gradual Change: The Interaction of Hydrogen Chloride and chlorate n the presence of Potassium Iodide". Proc. R. Soc. Lond. 45: 396–423. Bibcode:1888RSPS...45..396P.
  4. ^ Raynham-Carter, Marelene; Raynham-Carter, Geoff. A Chemical Passion: The forgotten story of chemistry at British independent girls' schools, 1820s–1930s. UCL IOE Press. pp. 44 (Appendix). ISBN 1782771883.
  5. ^ "July 1915: Forage, Farming & Food: Women in Agriculture". Somerville and the Great War. Retrieved 2017-06-12.
  6. ^ McKillop, Margaret (1922). Food values, what they are, and how to calculate them . London, G. Routledge & Sons, limited; New York, E.P. Dutton & Co.
  7. ^ "Obituary". Fabian News. July 1929.

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