Margaret Todd


In chemistry the word isotope (Greek for “in the same place”) refers to radioactive elements that can have more than one atomic mass despite their identical chemical properties. Although the phenomenon was discovered by chemist Frederick Soddy, it was his friend the Scottish physician Margaret Todd who suggested its name, leaving a small but important mark on scientific history.

Todd’s medical schooling took double the expected four years due to her secondary career as an author; she published several books over her lifetime (including the semi-autobiographical Mona Maclean, Medical Student), gradually transitioning away from a male pseudonym, and completing the process just in time to publish a biography of the love of her life: Dr. Sophia Jex-Blake, the head of Todd’s university. Jex-Blake also had a hand in Todd’s literary career, working as an intermediary between the author and her publishing company so her secret identity wouldn’t be discovered.

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