Reporter 420, 11 May 1998

New Manton building to be named after popular botanist

The scientist who pioneered research into plant electron microscopy is to be honoured ten years after her death – by having one of the University’s buildings named after her. Professor Irene Manton held the Chair in Botany at Leeds from 1946 to 1969, during which time she kept the University at the cutting edge of her research field.

A decade after her death (in May 1988) the University has secured her family’s approval to rename the original Astbury building on the main campus the Irene Manton Building. The new Biomolecular Sciences building is now known as the Astbury building, named after William Astbury, who pioneered research into X-ray crystallography.

Born in 1904, Professor Manton came to Leeds after periods in Cambridge, Stockholm and Manchester. Many colleagues still at the University have fond memories of her.

“She was an extraordinary teacher, her whole life was an act of teaching,” says Dr Ellis Tinios from the School of History. “She would size people up and work out what would interest them. If she had a visitor who was a medic she would bring out an early microscope she thought would appeal to them. She delighted in making conversations and connections with people.”

Dr Tinios shared with Professor Manton an interest in Chinese and modern art. He recalls her commitment to combining fine art with what she called ‘fine science’, and remembers her home being full of art, books and antiques.

Professor Manton also had a strong interest in music – in earlier years she was a talented violinist with her own string quartet.

Isobel Tupper met Professor Manton when she worked in the Music Department. “I think it’s a wonderful idea to name a building after her – she should be remembered,” said Mrs Tupper. “She was a real character. She had a temper but she was also very generous. I remember she asked somebody who worked in her department where he was going on holiday that year. He said he couldn’t afford to go away and the next day she presented him with tickets to France for his whole family.”

After her retirement Professor Manton continued her research for another 19 years.

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