toddler feeding and the nice private tragedy in her life, the demise 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 At a gathering, as I recall of the Society for Endocrinology, I used to be approached by just a little outdated girl. She had been despatched to speak to me by Alfred Cowie, later to turn out to be a very good buddy, whom I learnt later she commonly badgered for data on the endocrine management of lactation. She stated to me one thing alongside the strains of, ‘All these persons are poisoning all of the infants in Britain by making up milk too robust. 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 potential within the perception of the extra meals the higher. When blended with the proper quantity of water, the milk would have a a lot larger osmotic focus and probably result in dehydration in addition to having a long-termdeleterious impact on a new child’s kidneys. Thus started a brief experiment wherein I crammed as a lot child method right into a measuring scoop as potential 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The little outdated girl was Mavis Gunther and I take advantage of the time period within the sense that in all sports activities and any card recreation it’s clever to watch out for the little outdated girl as a result of at tennis you’ll quickly be 6-0 down, at golf all her putts will drop and at playing cards or any board recreation you’ll be toast. Mavis requested pertinent questions, didn’t undergo fools, particularly her fellow clinicians and different well being professionals, gladly and had trenchant views on obstetric follow and the care of infants. She was annoyed by the angle of of her fellow physicians and, realising that information of lactation had very not often come from that supply, that’s the reason at conferences she sought out those that had been learning 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 provide 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 ebook, 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 Nineteen 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 ebook was talked about by individuals 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? Nonetheless, 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 can 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 just lately have I found that her husband, Eustace Rolfe Gunther (referred to as Rolfe), to whose reminiscence her ebook was devoted, was a zoologist and that his demise was an completely tragic occasion amongst all of the tragedies in wartime Britain.

Mavis Gunther (née Carr)

Nonetheless, earlier than turning to Rolfe, I have 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 College 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 Jap 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 basically follow in 1939 Register (an emergency census), the Medical Listing for 1940 signifies that Mavis did various medical jobs round London, masking actions from antenatal clinics to psychological illness. She was an area councillor within the late Thirties however resigned instantly after the demise of her husband.

Inside weeks of Rolfe’s demise in 1940, she and the kids 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 partially, signifies {that a} posthumous letter from her husband urged her to hunt security for the kids in Canada. Mates 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 had 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 struggle. McCance knew meals had been and can be brief in Germany and that numerous specialists may examine the consequences of undernutrition and to assist the native inhabitants. As one of many specialists 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 Faculty Hospital, London, the place she was given lodging and services. She expanded a clinic for ladies 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 identified, maybe irreverently, to most of the college students as “The Breast Queen”, however her work in her light persuasive approach was invaluable to the moms within the days when method feeding was not very dependable. She helped 1000’s of infants within the first weeks of their lives and is remembered with affection by girls who had their infants throughout her reign’.

The journalist Katharine Whitehorn (1928-2021) in her Foreword to Mavis’s ebook wrote of her experiences within the maternity ward of College Faculty 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 obtained 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 Faculty round 1972. I solely keep in mind writing to her at her house handle 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 have to be free to decide on breast or bottle relying on their particular person circumstances. She printed analysis on various subjects together with allergic reactions to exploit, the potential causes of ‘cot demise’, 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 totally different producers and breast pumps. In obstetrics she studied the switch of blood between child and placenta instantly after beginning. She burdened the significance of contemplating the mom and little one as a unit, and to be supported as such. She argued that the behavioural initiation of breast feeding shouldn’t be 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, mates, 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 Thirties and early Forties which recommended 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 obligations on the Zoo had general 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 dad and mom 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 demise, 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 demise 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 stories 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 intently 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 struggle and commissioned 2nd Lt within the 72nd Anti-aircraft Regt RA. In Could 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 procure 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 Dwelling Guard. Gunther reached the home. The Constable returned with some additional Dwelling Guard members and after asking Gunther at hand over his gun, by accident shot him within the higher leg.

Rolfe Gunther bled to demise in Norwich hospital on 31 Could 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 attributable to a rifle Inadvertently discharged’. 

It doesn’t want a lot deductive energy to envisage the response within the first 12 months of the struggle of the Particular Constable to the looks of an armed officer with a German surname at his door purportedly in search of a possible German spy. It might not have crossed his thoughts that the very last thing a German spy may do can be to make use of a German surname. A Particular Constable, for these readers not within the U.Ok., 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 but it surely actually does appear to be the entire affair was coated up since, struggle or no struggle, whichever one of many three obtained issues so mistaken, 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 anyone suspected of signalling to the enemy of sea? And by his motion may not the zealous constable have tipped off the suspect that he was underneath 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 struggle, Gunther joined the territorials as a sapper and was commissioned a 12 months later. On inquiry about one of the best use a person of his coaching is perhaps, he was suggested to enter the searchlight service, and his eager powers of remark had been of explicit 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 wherein, 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 Instances, praised his buddy and colleague Gunther extremely:

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

It was my privilege to be intently 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, typically underneath the troublesome circumstances offered by the Southern Ocean, one was frequently impressed by his deep sense of responsibility, his devotion to his work, and his tireless vitality. His enthusiasm was all the time mixed with a scrupulous regard for accuracy: each within the subject and the working-up of knowledge. After working on the nets and water-bottles for thirty-six hours on finish, apart from odd moments snatched for hurried meals, it was solely the concern 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 dedication 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 elements. 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 Struggle was spent in engaged on the fabric collected throughout a trawling survey, partly carried out underneath 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 ultimately be printed. 

Along with his extensive pursuits in zoology and oceanography, Gunther was all the time delighted to document any uncommon pure phenomenon ; his latest letter in NATURE on the ice storm in Wiltshire is an instance of this. Color and surroundings had 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, endeavor 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 notice he was being taken too removed from the primary concern; reluctantly they had been placed on one facet for some later out there 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 providers 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 crucial memorable—and one of the crucial 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. Nonetheless, I now discover that there have been circumstances of dehydration linked to overconcentrated child method and I see all types of warning about making up the powders correctly.


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