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Reference GC/97
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Level Collection
Extent 12 boxes
Title McCance, Robert Alexander (1898-1993), and Widdowson, Elsie May (1908-2000)
Date 1929-1993
Ordering Instructions This archive record describes a grouping of orderable items: to order any of them for consultation, order copies or view them if they have been digitised, navigate down the archive hierarchy to Item level.
Name McCance, Robert Alexander, CBE, MD, FRCP, FRS (1898-1993), and Widdowson, Elsie May, CBE, PhD, DSc, FRS (1908-2000)

The collection includes material on several research projects undertaken by McCance and Widdowson, as well as a small amount of personalia. There are notebooks recording the first research on Analysis of Foodstuffs: carried out in the UK, started by McCance when in the Diabetes Department of King's College Hospital, after R D Lawrence asked him to analyse cooked foods. Widdowson joined him in 1933 and together they devised the separate methods for estimating different carbohydrates (glucose, fructose, sucrose, starch and dextrose). In 1940 their findings were published as Chemical composition of foods, the first of now regularly produced Standard Food Composition publications. There are notebooks and photographs of self-experimentation undertaken within the department, on salt-deficiency, conducted by McCance on himself, colleagues and medical students, involving not only a salt-free diet, but exposure to a hot air bath to sweat the salt out of the body, and also on absorption and excretion of iron. There is also his diary of the experimental study of rationing undertaken in 1939. There are 220 complete questionnaires from their survey of female colleagues and acquaintances for a study of physical and emotional periodicity in women, undertaken 1929-1930. There are experimental notebooks and files relating to research into body composition and development from 1944 onwards. This collection represents only a part of the diversity of research undertaken during the course of their long careers.


A. Analysis of foodstuffs, 1929-1944

B. Self-experimentation

B.1 Experiments on salt deficiency in man, 1934-1937

B.2 Experiments on absorption and excretion of iron in man, 1937

B.3 Experimental study of rationing, 1939-1940

C. Study of physical and emotional periodicity in women, 1929-1930

D. McCance and Widdowson: personal and biographical materials

D.1 McCance and Widdowson: a scientific partnership of 60 years, 1933 to 1993 ed. Margaret Ashwell, British Nutrition Foundation, 1993

D.2 R A McCance, 1940-1993

D.3 Elsie Widdowson, 1932-1999

E. Study of changes in composition during development in different species, 1944-1974, n.d.

E.1 Analysis of composition and development in various species, 1944-1971

E.2 Analysis of composition and development in rats, including small and large litters, 1944, n.d

E.3 Pigs - effects of undernutrition, 1944-1974, n.d.

Historical Background Further information on McCance and Widdowson can be found in the volume McCance and Widdowson: a scientific partnership of 60 years, 1933 to 1993, ed. Margaret Ashwell, British Nutrition Foundation, 1993 (GC/97/D.1). See also Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, Vol 41, 1995 (McCance) and Vol 48, 2002 (Widdowson) and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquisition Details The records of research at King's College Hospital Medical School, London, were mainly received from Professor McCance and Dr Widdowson in November 1986 and November 1990. The periodicity tables (Section C), apart from the file of samples, were collected from Professor John Cowley of Hatfield Polytechnic in November 1990. A celebration of McCance and Widdowson's partnership published in 1993 was received in 1994. Additional material was received after Dr Widdowson's death from her sister Dr Eva Crane in December 2000. Accession 1900 was received in Apr 2012 from the Food Standards Agency and is not yet catalogued.
Accession Number 246
Accession Number 365
Accession Number 887
Accession Number 1900

The following is an interim description of material that has been acquired since this collection was catalogued. This description may change when cataloguing takes place in future:

One transfer box of material was received in April 2012 (acc.1900), consisting of a collection of reprints predominantly written by Elsie Widdowson and Robert McCance, 1929-1984; three small framed colour photographs of Elsie Widdowson, c.1990; McCance and Widdowson, 60 years commemorative book, written by Margaret Ashwell, 1993 with accompanying slides; and a file entitled 'Diary of McCance and Widdowson Mar-Apr 1946 in The Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark.'

Access Status Certain restrictions apply
Access Conditions

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, except for the files in Section C, which are restricted until 1 Jan 2014: readers must complete an application for permission to see restricted materials.

This collection contains uncatalogued material which is currently unavailable to researchers. We regret that we are unable to provide access to this material. For further information, please contact

Reproduction Conditions Photography is permitted for non-commercial research and private study. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.
Language English
Finding Aids Hard-copy catalogue available in Wellcome Library
Related Material McCance and Widdowson were both involved as scientific experts with the Nutritional Survey of the effects of additional foodstuffs given ante-natally to mothers in "Special Areas" in the 1930s, begun under the auspices of the National Birthday Trust Fund and continued by the Research Committee of the Joint Council on Midwifery: archives of the National Birthday Trust Fund, SA/NBT/T. McCance was the first president of the Neonatal Society, SA/NNS, and Dr Widdowson its treasurer. There is also correspondence with them in a number of other collections, including the papers of C E Dent (PP/CED), R Ranyard West (PP/RRW), and Sir Edward Mellanby (PP/MEL) and the archives of the Strangeways Research Laboratory (SA/SRL).
Subject Sex


Subject Women in Medicine
Subject Physiology
Subject Science
Subject Animal Experimentation
Subject Laboratory Animal Science
Subject Fetus
Subject Diet
Subject Dietetics
Subject Religion
Subject World War II


Subject AWards and prizes
Subject Menstruation
MaterialType Archives - Non-digital
System No. cf6e823c-67f9-45c3-8858-f4e6c822cf4e