toddler feeding and the nice private tragedy in her life, the loss of life of her husband, the zoologist Rolfe

This can be a story that for me started within the early Nineteen Seventies. At a gathering, as I recall of the Society for Endocrinology, I used to be approached by a little bit outdated girl. She had been despatched to speak to me by Alfred Cowie, later to develop into a great pal, whom I learnt later she recurrently badgered for info on the endocrine management of lactation. She stated to me one thing alongside the strains of, ‘All these individuals are poisoning all of the infants in Britain by making up milk too sturdy. You realize one thing about milk osmolality and tonicity and issues, do not you?’. She defined that some moms and helpers crammed as a lot child method (already too wealthy in sodium) into the provided measuring scoop as attainable within the perception of the extra meals the higher. When combined with the proper quantity of water, the milk would have a a lot larger osmotic focus and presumably result in dehydration in addition to having a long-termdeleterious impact on a new child’s kidneys. Thus started a brief experiment by which I crammed as a lot child method right into a measuring scoop as attainable to see simply how overconcentrated the milk might be made*.

Mavis Gunther at a symposium on the
Ciba Basis, London, 1965

The little outdated girl was Mavis Gunther and I take advantage of the time period within the sense that in all sports activities and any card sport it’s smart to watch out for the little outdated girl as a result of at tennis you’ll quickly be 6-0 down, at golf all her putts will drop and at playing cards or any board sport you may be toast. Mavis requested pertinent questions, didn’t endure fools, particularly her fellow clinicians and different well being professionals, gladly and had trenchant views on obstetric observe and the care of infants. She was annoyed by the angle of of her fellow physicians and, realising that information of lactation had very hardly ever come from that supply, that’s the reason at conferences she sought out those that have been finding out lactation funded in Britain, like most of mammalian reproductive biology, as a part of agricultural analysis.

Because of our contact and dialog I requested her to present a paper on human lactation and toddler feeding at a symposium I organised for the Zoological Society of London in November 1976. She was then 73 and I believe that was the final time we met.

Shortly earlier than she sought me out, Mavis had written a e-book, Toddler Feeding, printed by Methuen in 1971. She then produced a revised version for a paperback printed by Penguin in 1973. It was extremely influential and her views on mother-infant interactions are nonetheless referred to as we speak. I keep in mind studying it on the time however within the Nineties after I was extolling Mavis’s virtues and trying to find a duplicate of the duvet with which for instance a lecture, I couldn’t discover a second-hand copy. I needed to borrow a duplicate from the Nationwide Lending Library. The issue of getting maintain of the e-book was talked about by contributors after I talked about Mavis at a seminar organised by the Wellcome Basis in 2007. Was it as a result of so many copies had been bought and held onto or had the print-run been inadequate to satisfy demand? Nevertheless, a few weeks in the past I discovered a duplicate of the Penguin version on the market and paid the £4.56 together with postage. It has solely taken 49 years.

By now those that know something about reptiles will probably be asking the query that I requested 50 years in the past. Was she associated to the German-born Albert Charles Lewis Gotthilf Günther FRS (1830-1914) of the Pure Historical past Museum in London? ‘Sure’, she replied, ‘He was my late husband’s grandfather’. Solely lately have I found that her husband, Eustace Rolfe Gunther (referred to as Rolfe), to whose reminiscence her e-book was devoted, was a zoologist and that his loss of life was an totally tragic occasion amongst all of the tragedies in wartime Britain.

Mavis Gunther (née Carr)

Nevertheless, earlier than turning to Rolfe, I need to return to Mavis’s life. She was born Mavis Hilda Dorothea Carr on 17 June 1903 in Bromley, Kent. She was educated at Bedales Faculty after which Cambridge for pre-clinical drugs, graduating in 1925. She certified on the Royal Free Hospital, then within the centre of London in 1928. In 1929 she married Rolfe. In 1935 she was co-author of a paper on the genetics of epiloia (now referred to as tuberous sclerosis) a uncommon situation. She was within the Analysis Division of the Royal Japanese Counties Establishment for the Mentally Faulty in Colchester working with Lionel Penrose (1898-1972, elected FRS in 1953). She had younger kids, born in 1930, 1933 and 1937. Described as being normally observe in 1939 Register (an emergency census), the Medical Listing for 1940 signifies that Mavis did numerous medical jobs round London, masking actions from antenatal clinics to psychological illness. She was an area councillor within the late Nineteen Thirties however resigned instantly after the loss of life of her husband.

Inside weeks of Rolfe’s loss of life in 1940, she and the youngsters left Liverpool on board Canadian Pacific’s R.M.S. Duchess of Atholl which crossed the Atlantic unescorted after having arrived in convoy carrying Canadian troops. An article behind a ludicrously excessive paywall which I’ve solely seen partly, signifies {that a} posthumous letter from her husband urged her to hunt security for the youngsters in Canada. Pals apparently invited her to work within the Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology on the College of Toronto; whereas there she was supported by the the Banting Analysis Basis for analysis in human lactation. A few of her work she described in a paper within the Canadian Medical Affiliation Journal.

Mavis’s daughter reported that they have been in Canada for 4 years. Someday earlier than 1946 she joined Robert Alexander McCance’s (1898-1953; FRS 1948) well-known workforce in Cambridge and its equally well-known mission to Wuppertal in Germany after the top of the battle. McCance knew meals had been and can be brief in Germany and that varied consultants may examine the consequences of undernutrition and to assist the native inhabitants. As one of many consultants with earlier expertise, Mavis Gunther studied the quantity and composition of breast milk.

At a while she was awarded the M.D. diploma by Cambridge.

It seems that Mavis was a member of the Medical Analysis Council’s workers however I’ve not been capable of finding if this employment started with the Wuppertal mission or earlier. We do know although that in 1948 she was seconded the College School Hospital, London, the place she was given lodging and amenities. She expanded a clinic for girls with issues breastfeeding and it was recalled: ‘Mavis Gunther used to go spherical the ladies every day speaking to them about breastfeeding and breast issues. She was recognized, maybe irreverently, to lots of the college students as “The Breast Queen”, however her work in her mild persuasive approach was invaluable to the moms within the days when method feeding was not very dependable. She helped hundreds of infants within the first weeks of their lives and is remembered with affection by ladies who had their infants throughout her reign’.

The journalist Katharine Whitehorn (1928-2021) in her Foreword to Mavis’s e-book wrote of her experiences within the maternity ward of College School Hospital:

Into this overheated ambiance there got here just one voice of utter kindness and sense: the Breast Girl, who got here calmly spherical and sorted us all out, and acquired an important many people fortunately established at breast feeding who may by no means in any other case have managed it.

At some stage she will need to have moved from obstetrics to paediatrics and to a lecturer’s place. I believe she will need to have retired from College School round 1972. I solely keep in mind writing to her at her dwelling tackle in Esher, Surrey.

Mavis Gunther collaborated extensively in pursuit of enhancing toddler feeding and understanding the issues confronted by moms and infants, whereas gathering the proof on which recommendation must be primarily based. She was no breast-feeding zealot, arguing that mom’s should be free to decide on breast or bottle relying on their particular person circumstances. She printed analysis on numerous subjects together with allergy symptoms to take advantage of, the attainable causes of ‘cot loss of life’, comparisons of breast and bottle feeding, colostrum and milk as a supply of antibodies, mastitis, sore nipples, human milk composition, using mineral components in milk method from completely different producers and breast pumps. In obstetrics she studied the switch of blood between child and placenta instantly after beginning. She pressured the significance of contemplating the mom and youngster as a unit, and to be supported as such. She argued that the behavioural initiation of breast feeding isn’t an instinctive course of and that the mom wants some extent of instruction both by remark throughout life and/or by the assistance of household, associates, docs and midwives. She primarily based a part of that argument on following up early observations on Chimpanzees in captivity by contacting London Zoo and studying of their experiences within the Nineteen Thirties and early Forties which steered that solely these introduced into captivity late succeeded in breast-feeding their younger.

On the 1976 symposium on the Zoo I discussed above, she described her contacts with Geoffrey Marr Vevers (1890-1970) who, with a human obstetrician, described the beginning and rearing of the child chimp ‘Jubilee’ (named for George V’s 25 years on the throne) in 1935. Vevers, was then Superintendent and like Mavis, medically certified. Listening was Geoffrey Vevers’s son, Gwynne (1916-1988) who amongst his quite a few tasks on the Zoo had total cost, splendidly delegated, of scientific conferences and publications.

Mavis Gunther died on 30 June 1997. She was buried alongside he husband, at Heacham, a city in Norfolk, not that removed from the place Rolfe was killed, the place his mother and father had a home, and the place he was born.

Rolfe Gunther

Eustace Rolfe Gunther

So as to describe the tragic occasions which led to Eustace Rolfe Gunther’s loss of life, I’ve drawn on an account given by his daughter, Rosalind, for the Dictionary of Falklands Biography. In response to an article in a village journal recording her loss of life in 2021, aged 90, she did so as a result of the information are closed till 2040 and she or he believed there had been an official cowl up. Certainly, the studies of the inquest within the native press are perfunctory. I’ve additionally drawn on the obituary written by Alister (later Sir Alister) Hardy, who labored carefully with Rolfe, and my very own delvings into the happenings in a Norfolk village. That is what Rosalind wrote:

…As a member of the Territorial Military he was referred to as up on the outbreak of battle and commissioned 2nd Lt within the 72nd Anti-aircraft Regt RA. In Might 1940 he was stationed close to North Walsham in Norfolk. When approaching Barton Turf on foot to test that somebody was not signalling to the enemy at sea he referred to as at a cottage to learn his map and acquire instructions to the suspect home. The resident, a Particular Constable, directed him on foot, cycled to the home by one other route and borrowed a gun from the newly armed Residence Guard. Gunther reached the home. The Constable returned with some additional Residence Guard members and after asking Gunther at hand over his gun, by accident shot him within the higher leg.

Rolfe Gunther bled to loss of life in Norwich hospital on 31 Might 1940.

The native newspaper’s account of the inquest carried no element of the examination of witness, simply the conclusion of the native coroner: ‘died from a gunshot wound brought on by a rifle Inadvertently discharged’. 

It doesn’t want a lot deductive energy to envisage the response within the first yr of the battle of the Particular Constable to the looks of an armed officer with a German surname at his door purportedly on the lookout for a possible German spy. It could not have crossed his thoughts that the very last thing a German spy would possibly do can be to make use of a German surname. A Particular Constable, for these readers not within the U.Okay., is a part-time, unpaid voluntary police officer. I found to a level of amazement that the tiny village of Barton Turf had three particular constables in 1939 nevertheless it actually does appear to be the entire affair was coated up since, battle or no battle, whichever one of many three acquired issues so improper, ought to have been charged with manslaughter.

I can see why there have been different unanswered questions. For instance, why was Rolfe, an officer in a searchlight regiment (not anti-aircraft, as indicated above) investigating any individual suspected of signalling to the enemy of sea? And by his motion won’t the zealous constable have tipped off the suspect that he was beneath investigation?

So as to add to the tragedy, Mavis was referred to as by the police and drove to the hospital; when she arrived Rolfe had simply died.

Hardy for an obituary in Nature wrote: ‘In 1937, distressed by Nice Britain’s unpreparedness for battle, Gunther joined the territorials as a sapper and was commissioned a yr later. On inquiry about the very best use a person of his coaching could be, he was suggested to enter the searchlight service, and his eager powers of remark have been of specific use in coaching spotters’. His territorial unit was the thirtieth (Surrey) anti-aircraft battalion of the Royal Engineers (later transferred to the Royal Artillery), the unit by which, by coincidence, my father served from 1941). Gunther was commissioned within the 72nd Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery, in February 1939.

Hardy within the obituary and in one other I believe he additionally wrote for The Occasions, praised his pal and colleague Gunther extremely:

Educated at Winchester and Caius School, Cambridge, he was appointed as zoologist in 1924 to be one of many unique members of the scientific workers of the Discovery Committee arrange by the Colonial Workplace to analyze the assets of the antarctic seas, significantly in regard to the components, organic and bodily, governing the nice whale fisheries of these waters. 

It was my privilege to be carefully related to Gunther on the R.R.S. Discovery on her voyage of 1925-27, on the smaller ship R.R.S. William Scoresby, and afterwards within the joint authorship of an intensive report upon the ecology of the antarctic plankton. He was a person of sterling qualities. Working with him day and evening, usually beneath the tough situations offered by the Southern Ocean, one was frequently impressed by his deep sense of responsibility, his devotion to his work, and his tireless power. His enthusiasm was all the time mixed with a scrupulous regard for accuracy: each within the area and the working-up of knowledge. After working on the nets and water-bottles for thirty-six hours on finish, aside from odd moments snatched for hurried meals, it was solely the worry of being inaccurate within the readings and recordings, not fatigue itself, which persuaded him to relaxation. He had a love of the ocean and the open life; he was an actual deep-water oceanographer, with the willpower to deliver again outcomes. 

In 1931 on the R.R.S. William Scoresby, Gunther led a extremely profitable expedition to analyze the Peru Coastal Present (generally referred to as Humboldt’s Present) and printed in 1936 a complete report on its bodily, chemical and organic features. Later he once more visited the Antarctic on a whale-marking expedition to review migrations, and made precious observations on the swimming and respiration habits of whales (a paper now within the press). A lot of his time earlier than the Conflict was spent in engaged on the fabric collected throughout a trawling survey, partly carried out beneath his course, on the intensive banks mendacity between the Falkland Islands and South America. It’s to be hoped that each one the work he put into this may finally be printed. 

Along with his vast pursuits in zoology and oceanography, Gunther was all the time delighted to file any uncommon pure phenomenon ; his latest letter in NATURE on the ice storm in Wiltshire is an instance of this. Color and surroundings have been an important pleasure to him, and he did splendid water-colour drawings, each sea and panorama, in addition to correct color research of marine animals. Many will treasure his privately printed “Notes and Sketches made throughout two years on the Discovery Expedition”. 

It was attribute of Gunther’s capability for work that his lengthy depart after the 1925-27 expedition drugs within the College of Pennsylvania, on ought to have been spent within the Division of Biochemistry at Cambridge, enterprise researches on the fatty and vitamin content material of plankton (printed in collaboration with G. Collin, J. C. Drummond [later Sir Jack who also died in tragic circumstances] and T. P. Hilditch). His printed work, whereas intensive, is not any actual measure of his trade. He was all the time being attracted by facet branches which he felt it his responsibility to discover, and solely when he had carried them a great distance did he understand he was being taken too removed from the principle difficulty; reluctantly they have been placed on one facet for some later accessible time–alas, now no extra. 

…He has been a worthy upholder of the custom set by his father, his grandfather, Dr. A.G.L.G. Gunther, F.R.S., and his great-uncle, Prof. W.C. Mcintosh, F.R.S. 

In 1941 Eustace Rolfe Gunther was posthumously awarded the Polar Medal in Bronze for ‘good companies between the years 1925-1939 within the Royal Analysis Ships “Discovery II” and “William Scoresby”’


Amongst the many individuals I’ve met Mavis Gunther was one of the memorable—and one of the price remembering.

*About thirty years later I met a paediatrician at a gathering who knew of this work and I requested him if  overconcentration had proved to be an issue. He stated no, the toddler may cope. Nevertheless, I now discover that there have been instances of dehydration linked to overconcentrated child method and I see all kinds of warning about making up the powders correctly.

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