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Manton, Irene

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(1904–88) British botanist: set up the first laboratory for the ultrastructural study of plants.

Irene Manton was the younger sister of ; both became Fellows of the Royal Society, the first case of sisters gaining this distinction. She was an undergraduate and a postgraduate at Cambridge, and after a short time in Stockholm she gained a lectureship at the University of Manchester in the early 1930s. Her research at this period was on the spiralization of chromosomes in Lilium and Tradescantia , and on the cytotaxonomy of ferns.

In 1946 she was appointed to the chair of botany in Leeds and, while maintaining an interest in her previous internationally known work, her research changed direction. Realizing the possibilities of the electron microscope, she visited the Rockefeller Institute in New York and, on her return to England, borrowed time on electron microscopes in medical schools and published remarkable results. She set up a laboratory for the ultrastructural study of plants and maintained a place at the front of this research. She and her colleagues discovered ultra-structural classics such as the ‘9 plus 2’ structure of cilia, thylakoid organization of choroplasts and scale formation in Golgi bodies. She had begun her pioneering work with the use of the electron microscope in the study of algal flagella, with observations on the spermatozoids of brown algae. She had a fruitful collaboration with Mary Winifred Parke (1908–89), resulting in 14 papers adding to knowledge of the smaller marine flagellates and revealing many novel features of fine structure.

In 1961 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and was president of the Linnean Society of London from 1973–6.

Manton, Sidnie Milana [next] [back] Mantell, Gideon Algernon

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