Dr Elsie Conway (1902-1992)

seaweed sample on a specimen sheet seaweed sample on a specimen sheet seaweed sample on a specimen sheet seaweed sample on a specimen sheet

Dr Elsie Conway was a remarkable woman and left a legacy to the world in her study of seaweed, but many may not realise her help in the war effort.

With the onset of war in 1942 she explored how to produce agar using British seaweed, with Lillie Newton, Sheina Marshall and Andrew Orr. Traditional supplies of agar had become scarce during the Second World War due to the Middle East being in enemy hands. The agar was desperately needed to produce antibiotic vaccines that were used to stop infections in this time of conflict. They developed the use of the red algae Mastocarpus stellatus and Chondrus crispus as sources of agar.

The herbarium at World Museum contains 400,000 specimens of plants, amongst these are some of the seaweed specimens collected by Elsie.

  • Images: specimens of Chondrus crispus collected by Elsie Conway
  • Accession numbers 1974.38.38494 and 1974.38. 38465