Lacking a formal education, Miriam Rothschild (1908-2005) was inspired by the work of her father and uncle. Miriam studied zoology at Chelsea Polytechnic, now part of King’s College, London. Her early work was as a marine biologist, specifically looking at larval trematodes.Following bomb damage to her research material while living in Plymouth during the Second World War and a later move inland, Miriam turned her attention to fleas. She investigated the jumping mechanism of the plague carrying flea Xenospylla cheopis, a species first described by her father, Charles Rothschild, in 1903. Later, in connection with her research on the rabbit flea as a vector of myxomatosis she discovered that its breeding cycle was controlled by that of its host. Miriam co-authored a collection of volumes detailing the taxonomy and morphology of her father’s collection of fleas. Miriam was also interested in the ways in which insects consume and store toxins from food plants, specifically in the context of butterflies and this research led to allied examinations of warning coloration and mimicry. In addition to her academic work, Miriam championed nature conservation and was actively involved in a broad range of civic, social and political causes.
Dame Miriam published over three hundred scientific papers during her lifetime and was awarded several honorary degrees.