International Day of Women and Girls in Science: Pauline Meadow

Posted on February 11, 2022   by Microbiology Society

In 1981, Pauline Meadow became the first female Editor-in-Chief of Microbiology (previously Journal of General Microbiology) and was in this role until 1985. Unfortunately, Pauline passed away last year but, as part of the 75th anniversary of Microbiology, we are very pleased to share her reflections on microbiology at the time, and her experience as Editor-in-Chief. 

Please tell us a bit about yourself (who you are, what you worked on and where you were based). 

I was born on 5 March 1930, the first child of Sam (an accountant) and Doris (who had been a gym mistress). The latter was very unusual then. I was the only person at school with a mother who had worked outside the home. 

How did you get involved in the Society for General Microbiology (SGM) and then the Journal of General Microbiology (JGM)? (Who were the early Editors and people involved with the journal? What were they like?)  

I wanted to be an accountant like my father but he said no man would ever trust a woman with his money – true in those days – so I chose science, chemistry, and got a scholarship to go to Oxford. Despite having Dorothy Hodgkins as my personal tutor, I did not enjoy the subject. I was one of eight girls among with one hundred men in my year. It was possible to take Biochemistry or Pharmacology as a supplementary subject. This did not contribute to the class of the degree but enabled me to learn a new subject. I chose Biochemistry and was lucky enough to work with Donald Woods who had been one of Marjory Stephenson’s pupils in Microbiology, a subject which I found fascinating. Donald invited me to stay in Oxford and take a PhD. However, all my friends were going to London (to which I had never been) so I chose to go there and work with Robert Knox, Bacteriologist, at Guy’s Hospital Medical School. There I was only one of two women in the staff dining room. I met my husband, John Enticknap, there and went to the Biochemistry Deptment at University College London (UCL) as a lecturer. Bob Murray, Professor of Microbiology in London, Ontario, wrote to ask if I could take Susan Koval, one of his students, as a technician. She and her husband came over and both completed PhDs in London. Susan caused me to read the JGM and take an interest in the Society. I became a member of Council and eventually Editor-in-Chief of the Journal. 

What was the process like when you were handling papers? (And the role of the SGM staff in this) 

The Journal was edited by the editors who selected the papers to be published but proof reading was done in the Reading office.  

How did you work with the Editorial Board? (Did you have Editorial Board meetings? How did you discuss submitted papers?)  

Board meetings were held in Reading. 

What were the hot topics when you were Editor-in-Chief and where was this research happening?  

Microbial Resistance to antibiotics and how to prevent it. The work was mainly in the U.K. and Canada. 

What were some of your highlights as Editor-in-Chief, and your biggest challenges in the role?  

I am proud that I appointed Hilary Bower as Editorial secretary in Reading. 

How do you think things changed for women working in science over the course of your career? 

It has become normal as opposed to very rare. 

Why does microbiology matter?  

This year [2020] has provided the proof.