Sargant, Ethel (1863–1918)
Sargant, Ethel (1863–1918)
British botanist. Born in 1863 in London, England; died in 1918; daughter of Henry Sargant and Catherine (Beale) Sargant; attended North London Collegiate School and Girton College in Cambridge, 1884.
Was the first woman to serve on the council of the Linnaean Society; served as president of Botanical Section of the British Association meeting (1913); served as president of the Federation of University Women.
A Theory of the Origin of Monocotyledons Founded on the Structure of Their Seedlings; The Evolution of Monocotyledons; and The Reconstruction of a Race of Primitive Angiosperms.
Ethel Sargant was born in London in 1863, the daughter of Henry and Catherine Beale Sargant. A student of natural science, Ethel was educated at North London Collegiate School and subsequently graduated from Girton College in Cambridge. From 1892 to 1893, she studied research methodologies at Kew Gardens with D.H. Scott. Sargant spent some time in the observation of working laboratories during a visit to Europe in 1897, including the Bonn laboratory of Adolf Strasburger.
Sargant was a gifted "basic" researcher. She examined specimens for the sole purpose of collecting knowledge, and she had little patience for researchers who embarked on what she considered prejudicial research, performed for the purpose of substantiating preconceived theories. Sargant, who conducted her research experiments largely from her mother's home, eventually moved her residence to Girton Village in Cambridge. She was not renowned for her teaching skills, but was an adept researcher who provided invaluable counsel to students with regard to research methods.
Sargant's principal areas of study included cytology and the morphology of plants. By 1895, she embarked on extensive research into monocotyledons. In the course of her observations and experiments, she studied monocotyledon seedlings, especially to learn how they entrench themselves into the soil. She also studied the vascular systems and phylogenetics associated with those plants. Her writings include A Theory of the Origin of Monocotyledons Founded on the Structure of Their Seedlings, The Evolution of Monocotyledons, and The Reconstruction of a Race of Primitive Angiosperms.
In 1913, Sargant was elected to an honorary fellowship at her alma mater, Girton College, and served as a section president of the meeting of the British Association during that same year. Among other honors, she was accepted as a fellow of the Linnaean Society and distinguished herself as the first woman to serve on the council of that organization. She was also the president of the Federation of University Women. Sargant died in 1918.
Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey. Women in Science. Boston, MA: Cambridge Press, 1993.
Gloria Cooksey , freelance writer, Sacramento, California