Cambridge charity, Cambridge Past Present & Future (CambridgePPF) are delighted to announce that a blue plaque will be erected in Barrington to recognise the work of Dr Elsie Widdowson who lived in the South Cambridgeshire village for over 60 years. Elsie was a pioneering nutrition scientist who helped to develop war time rations.

The blue plaque will be installed on the wall of the former bakery in Barrington, which once made the bread for all of Elsie’s studies. The bakery is now a house, next to the village shop.

Elsie gained her BSc and PhD at Imperial College, London, in chemistry. In a pivotal moment in 1933, Elsie met Dr Robert McCance in the kitchens of Kings College Hospital, London and was brave enough to tell him that his values for the sugars in apples were too low.

The pair moved to the Department of Experimental Medicine in Cambridge in 1938. During the first months of the war in 1939, they felt they must do something to further the war effort. Their studies showed that good health could be supported by a very restricted diet. They were also the first to advocate for the fortification of food, specifically bread, with vitamins and minerals such as calcium. Their work became the basis for formulating the wartime rationing of Britain during World War II.

Elsie was extremely proud to be awarded her Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1976, closely followed by her CBE in 1979. She became one of Britain’s most famous scientists when she was made a Companion of Honour in 1993. Living in her thatched cottage on the River Cam in Barrington, Cambridgeshire with her cats for company, growing fruit and vegetables, she remained scientifically productive until her death, at the age of 93, in 2000.

James Littlewood, Chief Executive of the charity Cambridge Past, Present & Future, which runs the plaque scheme says “The Cambridge & District Blue Plaque Scheme commemorates people and events that have made a significant impact on the area, the UK or, indeed, the world. We are really pleased to be installing a plaque for Elsie Widdowson, whose work had a positive impact on everyone living in war-time Britain and thereafter.”

The plaque for Elsie was the idea of Dr Margaret Ashwell OBE RNutr FAfN who was Elsie’s friend, colleague and biographer, and who will be speaking at the unveiling:  Margaret says “My idea to write a book about McCance and Widdowson was the best idea I have ever had. Working alongside Elsie, I appreciated her scientific rigour and her amazing desire for perfection.  Throughout the last 21 years since Elsie died, I have been delighted to help  those who have promoted Elsie as an outstanding woman scientist. Elsie’s scientific genius was balanced by her overflowing human warmth and a genuine interest in people. Many of us are so lucky to have benefitted from both”.

The Blue Plaque and the event have been sponsored by The Nutrition Society, the British Dietetic Association, the British Nutrition Foundation, The Royal Society, Barrington Parish Council, M M Wealth Management and Stuart Barker of Barker Brothers Butchers in Great Shelford.