Florence Stoney

Last revised by Rohit Sharma on 12 May 2021

Florence Stoney (1870-1932) was an early radiology pioneer and the first female radiologist in the UK.

Florence Constance Stoney was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1870 to a distinguished family. Her father, G Johnstone Stoney, was a supporter of education for women and succeeded in opening Ireland to medical licensing for women; London University soon followed suit 2. Moreover her father and brothers were all Fellows of the Royal Society 3.

Florence could not study medicine in Dublin as women were not admitted then and went instead to London where she qualified from the London School of Medicine for Women later known as the Royal Free Hospital Medical School, qualifying in 1895 top of her class with MB BS with Honors. In 1898 she graduated from the University of London with an MD. Her ambition was to be anatomist, and she worked as a demonstrator for a few years, but quit when she discovered that they would not permit a woman to become a member of the faculty.

Interestingly her sister Edith went on to become an early pioneer in medical physics and worked with Florence on portable x-ray units 2. Both were proponents of radiation safety 2

She set up the x-ray department of the Royal Free Hospital and also of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in 1902. In 1907, Dr Harrison Orton was appointed over her as head of the Department of Radiology and Electrotherapy, he worked at the Royal Free Hospital until 1913.

In 1914, Florence volunteered her services during the First World War, and went on to lead an all-women medical unit for soldiers in a hospital in Belgium. Following attacks she moved the unit to France at Chateau Tourlaville near Cherbourg. By 1915, she worked for the War Office and ran the Fulham military Hospital.

Florence's health deteriorated due to excessive radiation exposure and she developed dermatitis in the hands. After the war she moved to Bournemouth where she had a large private radiological practice, and also honorary posts with several local hospitals. She retired in 1928.  She was a keen early suffragist. 

She died in 1932.

  • awarded DMRE honoris causa by University of Cambridge
  • awarded Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1918 for her military service
  • first female radiologist in the United Kingdom
    • in an era when women faced much difficulty in their lives due to the overt chauvinistic attitudes characteristic at that time
  • founder and later President of the Wessex branch of the British Association for Radiology and Physiotherapy 3 (a forerunner to the British Institute of Radiology)

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