Miriam Louisa Rothschild (1908-2005)
The Rothschild Archive has very few private papers of Miriam Rothschild.
Dame Miriam Louisa Rothschild, born on 5 August 1908, was the eldest child of Nathaniel Charles Rothschild and Rozsika von Wertheimstein.
Career a as a natural historian
Miriam was a zoologist, entomologist and parasitologist who was a world authority on fleas, butterflies, pyrazines and chemical communication. Lacking a formal education, she was inspired by the work of her father and uncle. Miriam studied zoology at Chelsea Polytechnic, now part of King’s College, London. Her early work was as a marine biologist, specifically looking at larval trematodes. Following bomb damage to her research material while living in Plymouth during the Second World War and a later move inland, Miriam turned her attention to fleas. She investigated the jumping mechanism of the plague carrying flea Xenospylla cheopis, a species first described by her father, Charles Rothschild, in 1903. Later, in connection with her research on the rabbit flea as a vector of myxomatosis she discovered that its breeding cycle was controlled by that of its host. Miriam co-authored a collection of volumes detailing the taxonomy and morphology of her father’s collection of fleas. Miriam was also interested in the ways in which insects consume and store toxins from food plants, specifically in the context of butterflies and this research led to allied examinations of warning coloration and mimicry.
Nature conservation and social causes
In addition to her academic work, Miriam championed nature conservation and was actively involved in a broad range of civic, social and political causes, including providing scientific evidence to the Wolfenden Committee whose report assisted in decriminalising homosexuality. She was active in the field of mental health, establishing the Schizophrenia Research Fund. Miriam’s garden at Ashton Wold in Northamptonshire was described as ‘an outstanding example of wildflower and grassland gardening’. Her expertise in nature conservancy led to her advising HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales when he was creating an experimental wildflower meadow at his Highgrove Estate. She was editor of Novitates Zoologicae between 1938 and 1941; a journal of zoology established by her uncle, Walter, 2nd Lord Rothschild, in 1894 which was published by the Tring Natural History Museum. She was with the Foreign Office between 1940 and 1942. During the Second World War, she joined a group of distinguished scientists, linguists and other personnel at the British Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, where she worked as a translator. She received a Defence Medal in 1945 from the British Government for her work. She aided refugee Jewish scientists during and after the war and she also worked with several organisations dedicated to helping Jewish children escape from Germany and Austria, often housing some of these refugees in her own home at Ashton Wold, Oundle, Northamptonshire, which was used by the Red Cross as a convalescent hospital for military personnel.
Scientific publications and recognition
Dame Miriam published over three hundred scientific papers during her lifetime. Miriam Rothschild used different names throughout her life, often inconsistently. In her professional scientific career, she was known as Mrs Lane, Dr. Lane and Dr. Rothschild. For administrative and legal matters, she was known as Mrs Lane and from 2000 Dame Miriam Rothschild. For ease of reference, the name ‘Miriam Rothschild’ is most commonly used by The Rothschild Archive.
Having been educated at home from a young age, she was awarded several honorary degrees throughout her life including Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) by Oxford University in 1968, Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) by Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden, in 1983, and Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) by Cambridge University in 1999.
Dame Miriam was also decorated with several awards in recognition of her work. She was decorated with the award of the Bloomer Award (of the Linnean Society) in 1968, the Wigglesworth Gold Medal (of the Rota Entomological Society) in 1982, and she was invested as a Commander, Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in 1982. In 1985 she was invested as a Fellow, Royal Society, and became, with her brother Victor, the only brother and sister to have both been made Fellows of the Royal Society. She was decorated with the award of the Victoria Medal of Honour (of the Royal Horticultural Society) in 1991 and was decorated with the award of the Mendel Award (of the Czech Science Academy) two years later in 1993. She was invested as a Dame Commander, Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2000. Dame Miriam died 20 January 2005, aged 96.
Dame Miriam was Sue Lawley's guest on Desert Island Discs, on 23 April 1989. Listen to the broadcast on the BBC website here.
Miriam Rothschild, photographs, c.1995
000/538, 1 item
Photograph of Miriam Rothschild. Miriam is shown in a headscarf, under a tree with a shetland sheepdog, in a field of bluebells, on the Ashton estate.
Miriam Rothschild, obituaries, 2005
000/2604, 1 folder
Folder of originals and photocopies of international, national and local newspaper, magazine and newsletter obituaries and articles concerning Dame Miriam Rothschild and her life and work. Published in 2005 upon Dame Miriam's death, aged 96. Includes pieces from The Guardian, Tring Residents' Association, The Jewish Chronicle, The Times, the Economist, The Evening Standard, The Daily Mail, Berkhamsted & Tring Gazette, The Independent, Dienstag, The New York Times, and print-outs of pages from websites, such as The Wildlife Trusts.
Miriam Rothschild, memorial service, Order of Service and related papers, 2005
000/1536, 1 file, 1 CD
Miriam Rothschild: memorial service for the Hon. Dame Miriam Louisa Rothschild , FRS (1908-2005) held at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St.John's Wood, London, on 7 April 2005:
- Order of Service;
- Invitation; list of acceptances;
- Transcripts of eulogies given at the service by Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, Anthony Lester and J.B.Gordon;
- CD audio recording of the service, 7 April 2005.
Miriam Rothschild, recording of appearance on 'Desert Island Discs', 1989
000/2378/2, 1 digital file
BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs with Miriam Rothschild (1908-2007). First aired on Friday 28 April 1989. 'Sue Lawley's castaway is biologist Miriam Rothschild.' Music played:
- If you were the only girl in the world
- Paul Robeson: Some enchanted evening
- Paul Robeson: My Lindy Lou (Castaway's favourite)
- Johann Sebastian Bach: Cello Suite No. 5 - Prelude
- Sound effects: Nightingale song
- Henry Purcel: Fantasia in D Minor for Four Viols
- Paul Francis Webster: Somewhere my Love (Lara's Theme)
- Teddie St Denis & Co: Lambeth Walk
- Book choice: The complete works of Proust
- Luxury choice: Bag of wild flower seed
Miriam Rothschild, secondary sources, 'LIFE' magazine, 1956
000/2704, 1 item
Copy of LIFE Magazine, 10 September 1956. This edition carried an article ‘An Eminent Company of Amateur Naturalists - Part-time scientists add to man's store of knowledge'. Miriam Rothschild is one of a number of 'amateur' scientists featured. The article is accompanied by an image of Miriam in a laboratory, presumed to be her Oxford laboratory although the image is uncaptioned. This photograph and a number of others were taken for LIFE magazine by Carl Mydans on 1 January 1956. Although only one image was published, a number of other unpublished images from the photoshoot are available from the Getty Image library.
Miriam Rothschild, secondary sources, 'Homes and Gardens', 1986
000/2006, 1 item
Homes and Gardens magazine October 1986, featuring the article 'Two Lady Gardeners: Rosemary Brown and Dr Miriam Rothschild'. Miriam Rothschild talks about her garden at Ashton Wold.
Miriam Rothschild, secondary sources, 'Miriam Rothschild', 1990
000/787, 1 item
Pamphlet Miriam Rothschild, in the series Women in Science, Shell Educational Supplement, 1990.
Miriam Rothschild, secondary sources, 'BBC Wildlife Magazine', 1991
000/1403/4, 1 item
Article 'Return of the Wild Rose', by Miriam Rothschild, BBC Wildlife Magazine, June 1991.
Miriam Rothschild, secondary sources, 'Properties', 2000
000/1884, 1 item
Copy of (London and Country) Properties, Spring/Summer 2000. Includes an article 'Wildflower Warrior', an interview with Miriam Rothschild.
Miriam Rothschild, secondary sources, 'Country Life', 2003
000/2373/1, 1 item
Country Life, 13 November 2003. Includes an article, 'The Gardens of Ashton Wold' in which Miriam Rothschild describes" the flora an fauna that run wild in her untamed and beautiful garden."
Miriam Rothschild, secondary sources, 'Dame Miriam Louisa Rothschild CBE (1908-2005)' , 2006
000/2447, 1 item
Printed monograph Dame Miriam Louisa Rothschild CBE (1908-2005) by Helmut F van Endem and Sir John Gurdon (The Royal Society, 2006).
Miriam Rothschild, secondary sources, 'Country Life', 2008
000/2373/2, 1 item
Country Life, 17 January 2008. Includes an article 'Meadow Miracle' about Miriam Rothschild's Wildflower Seeds, [Note: not a complete magazine just the extracted article].
Miriam Rothschild, secondary sources, 'Scientists', 2013
000/2172, 1 item
Exhibition catalogue for 'Scientists' held at The Royal Society, summer 2013. The cover features the bronze bust of Dame Miriam Rothschild by Marcus Cornish, which was loaned by The Rothschild Archive London for the exhibition.
Miriam Rothschild, secondary sources, 'Seven Wonders of the World', 1995
000/1487, 1 VHS cassette
Recording of Seven Wonders of the World, broadcast on BBC 2, 1995 , featuring Miriam Rothschild. The programme consists of interview with Miriam at Ashton Wold, as she gives her personal choices for the wonders of the world: the Monarch buterfly, the jump of the flea, the dawn on the Jungfrau, the Zoological Museum at Tring, the worm Halipegus, Carotenoids C40 H56 and the city of Jerusalem.
Miriam Rothschild, secondary sources, 'Rothschild Inheritance', 1996
000/552, 1 cassette tape
Rothschild Inheritance, featured on Good Morning Suffolk, BBC Radio Suffolk, 4 December 1996.
Miriam Rothschild, secondary sources, 'Growing Spaces', 1997
000/578, 1 cassette tape
Recording of Growing Spaces, broadcast on Radio 4, 9 May 1997, featuring Miriam Rothschild, Lionel de Rothschild and Beth Tomassini.
Miriam Rothschild, secondary sources, 'Paradise Gardens', 1997
000/548, 1 VHS cassette
Recording of Geoff Hamilton’s Paradise Gardens, broadcast on BBC 2, 28 January 1997, featuring Miriam Rothschild.
Miriam Rothschild, secondary sources, 'Eureka', 1997
000/1999, 1 cassette tape
Recording of Eureka, broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 11 June 1997, featuring an interview with Miriam Rothschild on her life and work as a naturalist.
Miriam Rothschild, secondary sources, 'Changing Places', 2002
000/1126, 1 cassette tape
Recording of Changing Places, broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 5 July 2002, featuring Miriam Rothschild.
Miriam Rothschild, secondary sources, 'Dame Miriam Rothschild', 1993; 2005
000/1559, 2 CDs
Recording of Dame Miriam Rothschild 1908-2005, broadcast on ABC Radio (Australia), 26 March 2005. First broadcast in 1993, revised in 2005 following Dame Miriam's death.
Publications and scientific papers
The Archive does not hold copies of all of Miriam's published works. A comprehensive list of all her published works, including books (on a variety of topics) and scientific books and articles will be found here Rothschild bibliography: Miriam Rothschild »
Copies of published works in the Archive collection are listed below, in order of publication date. In addition to the items listed below, further publications will be found in the Reading Room Library.
Miriam Rothschild, publications, Reference Set of scientific articles and offprints, 1932-2004
000/1401/1, 8 volumes
A comprehensive collection of scientific articles and offprints of papers authored by Miriam Rothschild (or Miriam Rothschild and others) from the private library of Dame Miriam Rothschild at Ashton Wold. Included in the collection are some biographical monographs and obituaries written by Miriam Rothschild. The collection was originally transferred to the Archive loose in several boxes; they were sorted and bound into six slip-cased volumes in 2011. Added to this collection are two copies bound in white vellum of the collected scientific articles of Miriam Rothschild, 1932-1959. These volumes would appear to have been bound c.1959 at Miriam’s request.
- Miriam Rothschild: scientific articles and offprints, 1932-1959 [two duplicate volumes];
- Miriam Rothschild: scientific articles and offprints, 1960-1964;
- Miriam Rothschild: scientific articles and offprints, 1965-1969;
- Miriam Rothschild: scientific articles and offprints, 1970-1979, Part 1;
- Miriam Rothschild: scientific articles and offprints, 1970-1979, Part 2;
- Miriam Rothschild: scientific articles and offprints, 1980-1989;
- Miriam Rothschild: scientific articles and offprints, 1990-2004.
Miriam Rothschild, publications, Reserve Collection of scientific articles and offprints, c.1959-2004
00/1402/2/1-8, 8 boxes
A collection of duplicate articles and other publications from which the bound volumes in 000/1401/1 were compiled. Note that 000/1401/2 may contain additional items not bound into the reference set in 000/1401/1, such as press cuttings and other secondary publications featuring Miriam Rothschild.
Miriam Rothschild, publications, 'The Schizophrenia Research Fund', n.d.
000/1496, 1 item
Pamphlet The Schizophrenia Research Fund by Miriam Rothschild. Miriam founded the Schizophrenia Research Fund in 1962, an independent registered charity formed “to advance the better understanding, prevention, treatment and cure of all forms of mental illness and in particular of the illness known as Schizophrenia”. In March 2006, following her death, the name of the Fund was changed in her memory to the Miriam Rothschild Schizophrenia Research Fund.
Miriam Rothschild, publications, 'Catalogue of the Rothschild Collection of Fleas', 1953-1971
000/1401/3, 22 volumes
Copies of the six volume work An Illustrated Catalogue of the Rothschild Collection of Fleas; one full set plus sundry duplicate copies. Note: a complete six volume set is kept in the Reading Room.
- Volume I: An Illustrated Catalogue of the Rothschild Collection of Fleas: Tungidae and Pulicidae, G.H.E. Hopkins and Miriam Rothschild, The Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History), 1953 (6 copies)
- Volume II: An Illustrated Catalogue of the Rothschild Collection of Fleas: Vermipsyllidae and Xiphiopsylladae, G.H.E. Hopkins and Miriam Rothschild, The Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History), 1956 (2 copies)
- Volume III: An Illustrated Catalogue of the Rothschild Collection of Fleas: Histricopsyllidae, G.H.E. Hopkins and Miriam Rothschild, The Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History), 1962 (2 copies)
- Volume IV: An Illustrated Catalogue of the Rothschild Collection of Fleas: Histricopsyllidae Concluded, G.H.E. Hopkins and Miriam Rothschild, The Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History), 1966 (4 copies)
- Volume V: An Illustrated Catalogue of the Rothschild Collection of Fleas: Leptopsyllidae, G.H.E. Hopkins and Miriam Rothschild, The Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History), 1971 (5 copies)
- Volume VI: An Illustrated Catalogue of the Rothschild Collection of Fleas: Pygiopsyllidae, D.K. Mardon, G.H.E. Hopkins and Miriam Rothschild, The Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History), 1971 (1 copy)
Miriam Rothschild, publications, A revised glossary of terms used in the Taxonomy and Morphology of Fleas, 1971
000/1401/4, 5 volumes
Copies of A revised glossary of terms used in the Taxonomy and Morphology of Fleas, by Miriam Rothschild and Robert Traub. Reprinted from An Illustrated Catalogue of the Rothschild Collection of Fleas (Siphonaptera) in the British Museum (Natural History), Volume V, pp 8-85, Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History), London, 1971. Note: a copy is kept in the Reading Room.
Miriam Rothschild: publications, 'Dear Lord Rothschild, Birds, Butterflies and History', 1983
000/2740, 1 volume
Miriam Rothschild: publications, Dear Lord Rothschild, Birds, Butterflies and History, Miriam Rothschild (London, Hutchinson, 1983). This volume of family history focuses of the life and work of Miriam's uncle, Lionel Walter, 2nd Lord Rothschild (1868-1937), the noted scientist and natural historian, famed for the private menagerie and museum of natural history that he established at his father Nahaniel's Tring Park estate. Note: this volume has a manuscript signature of the author.
Miriam Rothschild, publications, 'The Rothschild Collection of Fleas, The Ceratophyllidae', 1983
000/1401/5, 5 volumes
Copies of The Rothschild Collection of Fleas, The Ceratophyllidae, by Robert Traub, Miriam Rothschild and John Haddow . Published privately by Miriam Rothschild and Robert Traub, Academic Press Inc. (London), 1983. Note: a copy is kept in the Reading Room.
Miriam Rothschild, publications, 'John Foster' and 'John Foster and the Jews', 1986; 1998
000/678/2-3, 4 items
Miriam Rothschild was lifelong friends with Sir John Galway Foster QC (1903-1982). John Foster was a distinguished MP and member of the English Bar. He was educated at New College, Oxford and was called to the Bar in 1927 (Inner Temple) and took silk in 1950. He specialised in private international law and tax law. He was committed both as parliamentarian and advocate to the protection of human rights in this country and abroad. Foster was elected a Conservative Member of Parliament for the Northwich division of Cheshire in 1945, a seat he held without interruption until his retirement in 1974. Throughout his life, he fought tirelessly on behalf of the victims of persecution, working with Miriam Rothschild both in securing entry to the UK for German Jews fleeing persecution, after the war, in winning compensation for them and restoring their confiscated property. The John Galway Foster Human Rights Trust was formed in 1986 by Dame Miriam Rothschild, Sir Isaiah Berlin and Lord Lester, in memory of John Foster KBE, QC. In 2006, the name of the trust was altered to include that of Miriam Rothschild.
- John Foster, an address given on the occasion of the first John Foster Memorial Lecture, held at University College London, 4 November 1986. (privately printed, 1986);
- Sir John Foster and the Jews, by Miriam Rothschild (privately printed, 1998).
Miriam Rothschild, private papers: research notes, 'The Rothschild Gardens', copy images from the National Monuments Record, c.1990
000/529/26, 1 folder
Research papers for the book The Rothschild Gardens, Miriam Rothschild, Kate Garton and Lionel de Rothschild (London: Gaia Books, 1996): a collection of 46 reproduction photographs of various Rothschild houses and gardens, from the collections of the National Monuments Record (numbers in brackets are National Monuments Record reference numbers):
- 000/529/26/1 Ascott: garden (1507)
- 000/529/26/2 Ascott: garden (1508)
- 000/529/26/3 Ascott: garden (1509)
- 000/529/26/4 Ascott: garden (1512)
- 000/529/26/5 Ascott: garden (1514)
- 000/529/26/6 Ascott: garden (10348-3)
- 000/529/26/7 Ascott: garden (10348-4)
- 000/529/26/8 Ascott: garden (10348-7)
- 000/529/26/9 Ascott: garden (10348-10)
- 000/529/26/10 Ascott: garden (10348-12A)
- 000/529/26/11 Ascott: garden (10348-20)
- 000/529/26/12 Ascott: gardener Jennings in his garden (10348-24)
- 000/529/26/13 Ascott: garden (10348-25)
- 000/529/26/14 Ascott: garden (12323-8)
- 000/529/26/15 Ascott: garden (12324-3)
- 000/529/26/16 Ascott: garden (12324-4)
- 000/529/26/17 Ascott: garden (12324-9)
- 000/529/26/18 Ascott: garden (9075)
- 000/529/26/19 Ascott: garden (no ref)
- 000/529/26/20 Gunnersbury Park: garden (825)
- 000/529/26/21 Gunnersbury Park: garden (828)
- 000/529/26/22 Gunnersbury Park: Orangery from across lake (830)
- 000/529/26/23 Gunnersbury Park: terrace (CC56/24)
- 000/529/26/24 Gunnersbury Park: the alcove (CC56/25)
- 000/529/26/25 Gunnersbury Park: garden (CC56/30)
- 000/529/26/26 Gunnersbury Park: the Japanese Garden (CC88/84)
- 000/529/26/27 Gunnersbury Park: the Japanese Garden (CC88/85)
- 000/529/26/28 Gunnersbury Park: the Temple Garden (CC88/86)
- 000/529/26/29 Gunnersbury Park: view of Temple through trees (L3666-3674)
- 000/529/26/30Gunnersbury Park: rose arches on lawn (L3666-3674)
- 000/529/26/31 Gunnersbury Park: terrace (L3666-3674)
- 000/529/26/32 Gunnersbury Park: terrace (L3666-3674)
- 000/529/26/33 Gunnersbury Park: house viewed through arch (L3666-3674)
- 000/529/26/34 Halton: gardens, 1892 (BL 11772)
- 000/529/26/35 Halton: gardens, 1892 (BL 11778)
- 000/529/26/36 Halton: gardens, 1892 (BL 11779)
- 000/529/26/37 Mentmore Towers: gardens (BB77/11585)
- 000/529/26/38 Tring Park: ladies on terrace, 1892 (Lady Emma Rothschild on right) (11785-1)
- 000/529/26/39 Tring Park: ladies on terrace, 1892 (Lady Emma Rothschild on right) (11785-2)
- 000/529/26/40 Tring Park: view of mansion, 1892 (11789-12)
- 000/529/26/41 Tring Park: gardens, 1892 (11790-14)
- 000/529/26/42 Tring Park: gardens, 1892 (11792-20)
- 000/529/26/43 Tring Park: gardens (11798-26)
- 000/529/26/44 Tring Park: topiary (L3063-3066)
- 000/529/26/45 Tring Park: man clipping bush in front of tennis court (L3063-3066)
- 000/529/26/46 Waddesdon Manor: gardens with mansion behind (L3345-3350-3349)
Miriam Rothschild, private papers: research notes, 'The Rothschild Gardens', c.1990-1995
000/529/1-25, 6 boxes
Research papers for the book The Rothschild Gardens, Miriam Rothschild, Kate Garton and Lionel de Rothschild (London: Gaia Books, 1996). The papers are arranged in folders by name of Rothschild property: Château Boulogne-Billancourt, Boulogne-sur-Seine and Château d'Armainvilliers, Seine-et-Marne; Villa Victoria, Grasse; Château de Pregny, Geneva: Gunnersbury Park; Château de Ferrières, Seine-et-Marne, Tring Park; Bockenheimer Landstrasse, Frankfurt; Aston Clinton; Exbury; Villa Ile-de-France, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat; Mentmore Towers; Hohe Warte, Vienna; Halton; Ascott; Ramat Hanadiv; Waddesdon Manor. The files contain very few original documents, mainly photocopies and copy photographs. See 000/781 for research papers of David (Lionel) de Rothschild relating to this publication; a copy of the published volume can be found in 000/529/28.
Miriam Rothschild, Kate Garton, Lionel de Rothschild: publications: 'The Rothschild Gardens', 1996
000/529/28, 1 volume
Copy of The Rothschild Gardens, Miriam Rothschild, Kate Garton, Lionel de Rothschild (Gaia Books, 1996).
Miriam Rothschild, publications, 'Isaiah Berlin', 1998
000/678/1, 1 item
Privately printed pamphlet by Miriam Rothschild: Isaiah Berlin by Miriam Rothschild (privately printed, 1998). Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) was a Latvian-born British social and political theorist, philosopher, and historian of ideas.