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Highlights from Elsie Widdowson’s Personal Diary of Her Meetings With Early US Nutrition Pioneers in 1936

Ashwell, Margaret PhD, OBE, FAfN; Fialkoff, Lauren BS; Berdanier, Carolyn PhD; Dwyer, Johanna DSc, RD

doi: 10.1097/NT.0000000000000156
Food and Culture

During 3 months in 1936, a young Dr Elsie Widdowson undertook a trip to the United States to discuss mutual research interests with colleagues there. This article picks out highlights from Elsie’s personal diary, focusing on the contributions her US colleagues were making to the study and practice of dietetics and to nutrition research. Virtually all her meetings were with women who were pioneers in the new science of nutrition 80 years ago. Elsie was just a beginner, but they treated her with great kindness, and they made a deep impression on her. In this way, they helped Elsie on her way to becoming one of the greatest woman scientists in the 20th century.

Margaret Ashwell, PhD, OBE, FAfN, is director of Ashwell Associates, Ashwell, UK, and is a Senior Visiting Fellow at City University London, England. She has just been elected President of the Association for Nutrition in UK; the body which is concerned with protecting the public and promoting high standards in evidence-based science and professional practice of nutrition. Dr Ashwell’s personal research interests have focused on the use of waist-to-height ratio to determine early health risk. Looking back, she reckons it was the inspiration which she took from Elsie Widdowson, and which led to her writing her biography in 1993, was one of the highlights of her whole career.

Lauren Fialkoff, BS, Frances Stern Nutrition Center, Combined Dietetic Internship and Master’s Program at Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts. Ms Fialkoff is interested in the nutritional management of acute and chronically ill patients. She earned her Bachelors of Science in dietetics from State University of New York College at Oneonta.

Carolyn Berdanier, PhD, is professor emeritus and former head department of Food and Nutrition, University of Georgia, Athens.

Johanna Dwyer, DSc, RD, is professor of Medicine and Community Health Tufts University School of Medicine and Professor of Nutrition at Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts.

This study was supported in part by the US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service Agreement 58-1950-0-014 with the Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and the Fund for Research and Teaching, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence: Lauren Fialkoff, BS, Frances Stern Nutrition Center Clinic, 800 Washington St, Box #783, Boston, MA 02111 (

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