Obituary: Dame Janet Vaughan
Thursday 14 January 1993
Among her ancestors were a 17th-century alchemist, twin brother to the poet Henry Vaughan, and an 18th-century President of the Royal College of Physicians. Her grandfathers were Halford Vaughan, Regius Professor of History at Oxford, and John Addington Symonds, historian of the Italian Renaissance.
She moved easily from her Oxford laboratory to the elegance of Radcliffe House, or her later home at Wolvercote, with her beautiful china, the engravings from Thornton's Temple of Flora, the little Signac watercolour. There she would fling herself eagerly into talk about politics, poetry, gardens or the latest book about Bloomsbury, on which she could be quite caustic, having known all the main characters herself.
She had gone down from Somerville in 1922, before I went up, and I only met her after the Second World War though I already knew her husband David Gourlay, through whose Wayfarers' Travel Agency my husband and I had done all our foreign travel in the Thirties. Kindly, humorous and utterly dependable, David provided exactly the right balance to his wife's brilliance. As consort to the Principal of Somerville he played his part beautifully, but with a kind of amused detachment. Their holidays in Italy, France and the Alps were high points in her life, and when he died in 1963, printed on the order of service for his funeral were Tennyson's lines:
O love, we two shall go no longer
To lands of summer across the sea
nor did Janet go abroad on holiday again. Retirement from Somerville meant more time for research, for reading, for her garden, her family and her friends - whom she had a genius for helping in any problem or distress. Still slim and handsome, her hair still raven till late into her seventies, she and her yellow Mini were a familiar sight all over Oxford. She had had an eventful career, but her talk seldom lingered on the past. It was all on the present and the future: political developments all over the world, new knowledge in science, her grandchildrens' interests and careers, Her intelligence was as quick as ever. She was often consulted about the effects of radiation; she revelled in the stimulus of discussing intricate problems with scientists half her age - whom she would then treat to a delicious lunch cooked by herself. In her 80th year she was elected FRS on the strength of recent research. Two years ago she told me sadly: 'I've written my last paper, and I can't any longer grasp the physics and mathematics I need for my subject.'
She was a great Principal, a great presence, and a marvellous friend.
- 2 Why this father didn’t hide his daughter’s heroin overdose in her obituary
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 The most powerful passports in the world
Nepal earthquake in pictures: Photos show devastation caused by 7.8 magnitude earthquake
Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
Nepal earthquake: The race is on to help thousands trapped under rubble around Kathmandu, while remote villages face a long wait for help
Royal baby: Live updates as superbug closes ward at St Mary's Hospital where Duchess of Cambridge is due to give birth
Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...
£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...