Dr Winifred CurtisThe grand lady of Tasmanian botany

University & Study

Winifred was a pioneer researcher in plant embryology and cytology, but her chief contributions were to plant taxonomy.

Obitury by Gintaras Kantvilas, The Mercury, 7 November 2005

Winifred's graduation portrait, 1927

Undergraduate study 

Winifred spent her childhood in England and India.  In 1924, Winifred was accepted to University College, London to study botany, chemistry, mathematics and physics.

At the end of the first year, I won a University of London Scholarship that I am still quite proud of because there was only one scholarship in botany and it was an open, competitive exam, and it gave me 80 pounds so it almost paid my fees for the second year…

Winifred Curtis

Bachelor of Science & Biology Honours

Winifred graduated in 1927 with a Bachelor of Science and won a gold medal, scholarships and prizes.  She then enrolled for an honours degree in Botany which she completed in 1928 and stayed on as an Honorary Demonstrator which gave valuable teaching experience. Winfred spent the 1930s travelling Europe and teaching in England before moving to Tasmania with her family in 1939.

You didn’t get paid but you had the honour of demonstrating. Quite fun, good experience.

I entered a …competitive examination for a job at the British Museum and I topped the list and I didn’t get the job. The man who got the job failed in his essays paper but he was a man.

Winifred Curtis

University exercise books

Botany drawing

University of London postcards 

Postgraduate study

Master of Science

In 1939 Winifred gained her Master of Science degree for research on dandelions and Spartina townsendii. The Spartina x townsendii sterile hybrid created the fertile Spartina anglica (cord grass/ rice grass)  which was introduced to Tasmania and other Australian states. 

Professional Doctorate

In 1950, Winifred Curtis was awarded her PhD from the University of London for her botanical research on experimental taxomomy and variation in Tasmanian plants, while based at the University of Tasmania.