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Archive of Ida Mann


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The papers comprise correspondence with colleagues, draft lectures, patient records, off-prints of journal articles, as well as personal photographs, and her draft autobiography. Additionally there are papers relating to Ida Mann, comprising correspondence of her colleague, Dorothy Potter; papers and correspondence of Anthony Bron, and correspondence and photographs relating to the Ida Mann Lecture and Medal.


  • Creation: 1921-2007


2.2 Linear metres (20 shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Some patient records are restricted to protect patient confidentiality.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Eng. c. 7891, fols. 1-2].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Eng. c. 7891-7892, 7896-7902, d. 4008-4014; MSS. Photogr. a. 40, c. 498-500

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 6556


Papers of Ida Mann, ophthalmologist (1893-1983), and papers relating to her.

Biographical / Historical

Ida Mann was born in 1893 in West Hampstead, London, and educated at Wycombe House School, Hampstead. Having passed the Civil Service Girl Clerks' exam, she secured a job at the Post Office Savings Bank, aged seventeen. A benevolent visit to the London Hospital in Whitechapel revived a fierce desire to study medicine and she was amazed to discover that such a career was possible if she enrolled at the only medical school open to women, the London School of Medicine for Women. Despite opposition from her father, she passed the London matriculation exam in 1914, one of only eight women out of hundreds of passes. She completed her studies, 'with no trouble and intense delight' (Mann 1986: 64), and qualified in 1920. After applying for many junior posts, she was appointed to work under the Ophthalmic House Surgeonship at the hospital. Although she had no particular interest in eyes, she soon realised that this fascinating subject was to be her life's work. She developed her specialism in ophthalmology and embryology and at the same time acquired her qualification in general surgery, becoming F.C.R.S. in 1924. She was appointed to a staff post at Moorfields in 1927 (an unpaid but prestigious position) and was the first woman to achieve this seniority. She funded her independence by establishing a private practice in Harley Street. Her curiosity led to research into the comparative anatomy of the invertebrate eye, working with the reptiles in London Zoo.

In 1941 she was appointed the Margaret Ogilvy Reader in Ophthalmology at Oxford University. During her tenure she oversaw the building of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology, appointed Antoinette Pirie as Biochemist, replaced the matron with a more competent sister from Moorfields, re-started the diploma courses, inaugurated the Orthoptic School and re-instituted the Oxford Congress. She also continued her work for the war effort as the head of a research team working for the Chemical Defence Research Department, testing the effects of toxic chemicals on the eye. She collaborated with Rudolph Peters, biochemist, who had discovered British anti Lewisite, an antidote to the chemical warfare agent, Lewisite, and she also worked with Sir Howard and Lady Florey on the effects of penicillin on bacteria in humans. Her efforts were recognised by the university in 1945 when she was given a personal professorship, the first woman to receive one.

In 1944 she married Professor William Gye, a pathologist and director of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. After the war, partly due to his poor health, they emigrated to Australia where she continued her clinical practice and also conducted research into the impact of genes and the environment on eye disease, with particular reference to the Aboriginal people. She travelled extensively throughout Australia and Oceania studying the incidence of eye disease in different races and cultures. In particular she highlighted the high incidence of trachoma amongst Aboriginal peoples, at a time when it was thought to have been eradicated in Australia. She was incredibly hard-working and insatiably curious, and continued working and exploring into old age. She was appointed CBE in 1950 and DBE in 1980. She died at her home in Perth in 1983.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired as a donation from the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology, 1 May 2008.

Related Materials

Oxford University Archives holds papers relating to the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology, OP 1-52, some of which relate to Ida Mann.

Separated Materials

Aboriginal artefacts donated to the Bodleian Library with this collection have been transferred to the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, accession number 2011.68. Diaries, 1953-1983; letters, manuscripts and articles by and about Ida Mann, 1930-?, and poetry and photographs, are held at the J.S. Battye Library of West Australian History, State Library of Western Australia, Perth, where they were deposited by Mary Durack. The manuscript of her book, Culture, Race, Climate and Eye Disease, 1967, is held at the National Library of Australia, Canberra.

Catalogue of the archive of Ida Mann, 1921-2007
Finding aid prepared by C. Parker
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom