10 famous scientists from East Anglia

Norfolk astronomer Mark Thompson

Norfolk astronomer Mark Thompson - Credit: Archant

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson 
If one word could be used to describe Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, it would have to be ‘trailblazer’. A native of Aldeburgh, she was the first British woman to qualify as a surgeon and physician. Wanting to grant her fellow women the same opportunities, she later went on to co-found the first hospital staffed by women. Elizabeth was also a suffragist, and eventually became the mayor of Aldeburgh – making her the first female mayor in Britain. Without Elizabeth pioneering the path for many women after her, the world would certainly look a lot different.  

Norman Heatley 
While the name Sir Alexander Fleming is synonymous with penicillin, Woodbridge scientist Norman Heatley certainly played his part in helping discover the life-saving antibiotic. After Fleming grew the mould by accident – it was Norman himself who worked out how to purify penicillin in bulk. Without his contribution, the team at Oxford may never have been able to produce enough to test the antibiotics on humans. Who knows where we’d be without this life-changing discovery? 

Dorothy Hodgkin 
A former pupil of Sir John Leman Grammar School in Beccles, Dorothy Hodgkin grew up to be one of the most important and influential women in science. During her time at the Suffolk school, she was one of only two girls allowed to study chemistry. Upon leaving, she studied at both Oxford and Cambridge before advancing the technique of X-Ray crystallography. It is this technique that’s allowed us to determine the structure of biomolecules – and has since become a vital tool in the manufacturing of penicillin and insulin. In 1964, Dorothy also became the third women to win the Nobel Prize in chemistry – following in the footsteps of Marie Curie (née Sklodowska) and Irène Joliot-Curie.   

Sir Charles Scott Sherrington 
Another former Suffolk school pupil, Sir Charles Scott Sherrington attended the historic Ipswich School before going on to become one of the world’s leading neurologists. He spent 50 years researching the central nervous system, and in 1932 received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine along with Edgar Adrian for their work on the functions of neurones.  

Paul Nurse  
This Nobel-winning geneticist was born in Norwich in 1949, and throughout his career has spent many years advising British and European governments on science and technology. In addition, he was also the president of the Royal Society as well as the chief executive of Cancer Research UK. 

James Paget 
One of the most important surgeons of the 19th century, Sir James Paget was born in Great Yarmouth in 1814 and went on to make a number of vitally important medical discoveries. James, along with Rudolf Virchow, is considered one of the pioneers of scientific medical pathology, and he has a number of medical conditions named after him including Paget’s disease of the bone, extramammary Paget's disease, and Paget–Schroetter disease. Paget – who was surgeon to Queen Victoria for 41 years – is also the namesake of the hospital in his hometown.  

Jennifer Lonsdale 
Born in Great Ryburgh near Fakenham, Jennifer Lonsdale is one the region’s most important environmental activists. She is the founder and director of the International Environmental Investigation Agency, whose aims are to investigate and campaign against environmental crime and abuse. She has also volunteered with Greenpeace, and still campaigns to protect our oceans from pollution. 

Ben Garrod  

Professor Ben Garrod

Professor Ben Garrod - Credit: Denise Bradley

Biologist, primatologist and broadcaster Ben Garrod was born in Great Yarmouth, and is currently based at the University of East Anglia, where he has been Professor of Evolutionary Biology and Science Engagement since 2019. He has also appeared on a number of television shows including The One Show, Secrets of Bones, Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur, Baby Chimp Rescue, and Springwatch.  

Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker 
A leading figure in the field of botany, Halesworth-born Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker lived a fascinating life. He followed in father’s footsteps as director of Kew Gardens, and was also friends with Charles Darwin. He also took part in a number of scientific voyages across the globe, including the Ross expedition to the Antarctic between 1839-43, and various trips to India and the Himalayas.  

Mark Thompson 
This Norfolk-born astronomer, author, podcaster and television presenter is one of the biggest names in the field of British stargazing. He is a council member of the Royal Astronomical Society, and has appeared on various television shows including The One Show and Stargazing Live. In 2018, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of East Anglia.  

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