Mabel Purefoy Fitzgerald


Mabel Fitzgerald studied chemistry and biochemistry in Oxford from 1896. In 1911 she was the only woman to go on the now-famous Pike’s Peak expedition to study the effects of altitude on the respiratory system.


Mabel Fitzgerald

Mabel FitzGerald grew up with an interest in medicine and science. She studied at Oxford from 1896, but could not claim the degrees she had worked for.

She worked on the physiology of the respiratory system and joined physiologist John Scott Haldane in the Anglo-American high-altitude expedition to Pike’s Peak, Colorado in 1911. This is now seen as one of the most important early research expeditions to high altitude. As the only woman she was not allowed to travel to the peak with the men. Instead she travelled alone with her mule around the high and remote mining towns of Colorado to measure the long-term effects of altitude on the people living there. Fitzgerald published her observations as ‘The Changes in Breathing and the Blood in Various High Altitudes’ in 1913, which she become most recognized for.

On her 100th birthday, Mabel Fitzgerald finally received the academic recognition for her scientific work as her degree was finally awarded to her.


As picked by...

Harriet Warburton, Research Facilitator