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Elsie WiddowsonElsie Widdowson was one of the founding members of the Neonatal Society. Born in 1906 she was one of the first ever female graduates from Imperial College, London. Her first calling was chemistry, and her PhD thesis concerned the chemistry of ripening fruit, but during the 1930s her interest turned towards dietetics.

Whilst studying at the Courtauld Institute she met Robert McCance and the two formed a strong scientific partnership which ended only with the death of Professor McCance in 1993. Much of their work was seminal; in particular, their study of calcium availability in breads during World War II led to the statutory fortification of flour with chalk, a huge contribution to the health of the nation during difficult times.

Elsie Widdowson's research has been of great significance to perinatal medicine, not least her work on human body composition and infant feeding. She became head of the Infant Nutrition Research Division at the Medical Research Council's Dunn Nutrition Laboratory, before she a moved to the Department of Investigative Medicine in Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge. Elsie was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1976, following which she took up the Presidency of the Nutrition Society (1977 - 1980), before becoming President of the Neonatal Society (1978 - 1981) and then Honorary President of the British Nutrition Foundation (1986 - 1996).

Elsie Widdowson CBE died on June 14th, 2000. In 2004 the Neonatal Society decided to name one of its regular lectures in honour of her; the first Widdowson lecture was held that year, delivered by Professor Hugo Lagercrantz.

The lectures given so far are:

2017, London: Professor Pierre Gressens
Genomics and Preterm Brain Injury

2016, London: Professor Jeremy Farrar
Fighting emerging infectious diseases in developing countries

2015, London: Professor John Mathers
The Science of Nutrigenomics

2014, London: Professor Andrew Prentice
Conceptions, pregnancies and neonates: Lessons from rural Africa

2013, London: Dr Susan Ozanne
Intrauterine nutrition and life-long health

2012, London: Professor Michael Weindling
Growth and development in the preterm brain

2011, London: Professor David Edwards
Tissue oxygenation in the newborn infant

2010, London: Professor Colin Morley
Newborn resuscitation research

2009, London: Professor Alan Lucas
Counter-intuitive concepts in early nutrition

2008, London: Professor Fiona Broughton-Pipkin
Molecular mechanisms of Pre-eclampsia

2007, London: Larry Nogee
Genetic mechanisms of surfactant deficiency

2006, Cambridge: Olav Oftedal
Adaptive lactation strategies

2005, London: Professor Michael Symonds
Leptin - its role in adaptation at birth and later health and disease

2004, London: Professor Hugo Lagercrantz
The development of the brain and the emergence of the mind

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