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Lady Jean Medawar

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 09 June 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1392

A family planning pioneer

Jean Medawar was the wife of Sir Peter Medawar, the distinguished UK transplant immunologist and Nobel laureate. She spent her life supporting her husband's career and working hard for causes she cared about and believed in—the global environment, population control, and family planning.

She was one of a redoubtable group of women who had to combat the most extraordinarily hostile attitudes in the early days of family planning. She was fond of quoting a letter published in the Lancet in 1930, when she was 17, saying that the subject “was something that no decent man would handle with a pair of tongs.”

In 1954, when she was 31, she met Margaret Pyke, chairwoman of the Family Planning Association, and this started her considerable contribution to the movement. She became a member of the executive in 1960, and was chairwoman from 1968 to 1970. For two decades, from 1957 to …

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