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[Perspectives] Battling for life: the wartime work of Janet Vaughan

Tags: General

In A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf fabricated an imaginary novel about two young women who worked in a medical laboratory. Pretending that this fictional book actually existed, she described her feelings on reading that Chloe and Olivia “were engaged in mincing liver, which is, it seems, a cure for pernicious anaemia”. In real life, Woolf's friend and distant relative Janet Vaughan was employed as a clinical pathologist at University College Hospital, where she had secretly arranged for anaemic patients to be given liver. After the patients' recovery, which the senior ward physician attributed to his own prescription of arsenic, Vaughan prepared extracts at home with a mincing machine borrowed from Woolf, initially trying them out on herself to convince her sceptical superiors that this was research worth pursuing.

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