Mary Andross (1893 – 1968), Irvine-born dietetics pioneer.

Mary Andross was born in Irvine on 15 March, 1893 and lived most of her life there at ‘Kilmeny’, Bank Street, the family home built by her father in 1901. She studied Anatomy, Organic Chemistry, Zoology, Natural Philosophy and Physiology at Glasgow University, graduating BSc in 1916 and undertook postgraduate work with Professor GG Henderson. She worked as a teacher at Irvine Royal Academy (1916-17), at the Ministry of Munitions Inspections Department on poison gases (1917-19) and as a Chemistry Assistant at Glasgow University (1919-1923).

She was appointed to a lectureship in the Science Department at the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science in September 1924 and was Head of Department from 1940 to 1965. At the College she introduced courses for the training of dieticians and undertook research into the chemical composition of different types of food. She became a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry in 1951, of the Institute of Food Science and Technology in 1964, and was a member of the Nutrition Society and the Society of Chemical Industry.

She was one of the pioneers of the profession of dietetics. She was an inspiring and able teacher and lecturer, and was not only popular with her students but was much sought after as a public speaker at Women’s Rural Institute and Women’s Guild meetings.

During World War II, she made three major contributions:

  • She carried out research on sources of vitamin C, in particular rosehips, and passed on academic knowledge of their rich vitamin C content to the general public in the form of recipes which could easily be prepared by housewives anywhere.
  • She was one of the leading organisers and active participants in the canteen for servicemen which was run by the Domestic Science College in St Enoch Station, and particularly the backup offered by a mobile canteen.
  • She played a leading role in the preservation of vegetables and fruit, a service that was offered by the College to the general public in July 1940 and was especially important during rationing. Not only did she participate in the College’s campaign of canning, bottling and pickling but she headed a team of staff members who used their holiday time to offer this important service to rural areas and districts.

She retired from the College in 1965 and died on 22 February 1968. Juliann M Calder, Principal of Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science said in her obituary: “The training pattern which she established (and which is still in Glasgow) is a post-graduate or post-diploma course from which generations of students have gone out to practice their skills in hospital, or to use their knowledge in research teams, in catering establishments, in education or in the Public Health Service”.

Further Reading

Mary Andross at the University of Glasgow