Dame Ida Mann

(1893—1983) ophthalmologist

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(1893–1983), born London, an international authority on eye diseases, the first professor of ophthalmology in Britain and the first woman to hold a chair at Oxford University, left school early and spent three years working as a clerk before she discovered her vocation. Studying at night, she matriculated in 1914 and began her life as a student at the London School of Medicine for Women. She held a number of positions as an ophthalmic surgeon and researcher, including senior surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital and in the Second World War was head of a research team for the Ministry of Supply. Appointed professor of ophthalmology at Oxford University in 1945, she became an honorary fellow in 1947. In 1944 she married W.E. Gye, director of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, and accompanied him to Perth, WA, on his retirement in 1949. She continued to live in WA after his death in 1952, although she travelled extensively. In Australia she continued her research and extended it to include the epidemiology of WA. In a series of surveys in the 1950s she uncovered the high incidence of trachoma among Aborigines and subsequently isolated and cultivated the organism and extended her research to New Guinea, the Trobriand Islands, Taiwan and South America. The recipient of numerous honours, she was made CBE in 1950 and in 1980 appointed DBE for services to Aboriginal welfare. As well as textbooks on her subject and travel books, Ida Mann wrote an autobiography, The Chase (1986), edited by Ros Golding. A frank and inward story, the autobiography reveals her energy and appetite for life, disregard for social convention and streak of mysticism which recognised ‘a veiled and mysterious It (or Id) … that all-knowing, timeless universal subconscious within me which opens up the inevitable future with alluring flashes, so that I do not know whether it chases me or I pursue it’.

From The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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