LUCAS, FLORENCE DAVY (Thompson), biologist and librarian; b. 13 Sept. 1865 in Hitchin, England, eldest of the ten children of Samuel Lucas, a brewer, and Florence Davy; m. there 2 April 1892 William Henry Thompson, a customs clerk of Winnipeg, and they had one son; d. 4 Aug. 1915 in Winnipeg.
Florence Davy Lucas’s father, a Quaker who would leave the Society of Friends in the 1880s, had business interests in Yorkshire and America, owning breweries in Chicago and New York as well as in Hitchin. Her mother was the daughter of the American consul in Leeds. Florence was educated privately by a visiting tutor, William Dawson, renowned in Hitchin for his knowledge of science and languages. She inherited the artistic talent of her paternal grandfather, whose work had been shown at the Royal Academy of Arts, and on her arrival in Winnipeg in the summer of 1892 she exhibited prize-winning water-colours at the Winnipeg Industrial Exhibition. Her scientific training and drawing skills were put to use when she collaborated with Thomas Swale Vincent on four articles, published in 1906 and 1907, concerning the islets of Langerhans (pancreatic cells) in fish and other vertebrates, and with Jasper Halpenny on an article published in 1909 on the thyroid and parathyroid glands. Both men were professors at the University of Manitoba and the Manitoba Medical College. So competent was she in her work at the physiological laboratory in the faculty of science at the University of Manitoba that she published two articles on various aspects of physiology under her name alone.
In 1905 Vincent was delegated by the faculty to petition the university council to establish a library for the university and name an honorary librarian. By 1908 the faculty was urging the appointment of a librarian “at a salary of $1000” a year. That year, the position was created and Thompson was made librarian, but only with an “honorarium” of $100. In November 1908 her stipend was raised to $150, the first in a series of attempts to increase her remuneration, which by 1913–14 would reach $900. During the summer vacation of 1910 Thompson improved her professional skills by attending the school for librarians at McGill University [see Charles Henry Gould]. After her sudden death from appendicitis in 1915 the University of Manitoba advertised for a replacement, offering a position “equal in rank and salary to that of Assistant Professor,” at $1,500 annually, and when her successor, Frank E. Nuttall, was appointed in 1916 he was paid $2,000.
In her working life Thompson was unusual: few married women worked for pay before World War I. While pursuing research and performing librarian’s duties, she was an energetic participant in the activities of several women’s clubs. She delivered papers on furniture in 1893 and 1907, china in 1906, and lace-making in 1908 to the local branch of the Women’s Art Association of Canada, was the association’s representative to the Local Council of Women in 1905, and in 1907 convened a committee struck at the university’s request to investigate the possibility of university courses in art history. She served as secretary of the Local Council of Women in 1899, 1901, and 1906 and as its treasurer in 1909. A charter-member of the Women’s Canadian Club, established in 1907, she was a literary correspondent for it from 1907 to 1909. At the establishment of the University Women’s Club, lacking the qualification of a university degree, she was elected its first honorary member in 1909. From her riverside home near the legislature on Assiniboine Avenue, she entertained many friends and visitors at “her Sunday evenings,” a social circle enlarged by frequent travel to England.
After Thompson’s death the university council acknowledged that she had “had much to do with the organization and building up of the library to its present degree of efficiency,” and noted her “unusually wide reading and her knowledge of several languages.” She had supervised the expansion of the library to approximately 7,500 volumes and its incorporation of arts subjects as well as the sciences. While she lived, the university gave meagre financial recognition to her administrative service as founding librarian. Through her enduring scientific publications, Thompson demonstrated her commitment to scientific research, and in her community involvement she contributed to the developing cultural and intellectual climate of Winnipeg.
Florence Davy Lucas Thompson is the author of “The thyroid and parathyroid glands throughout vertebrates, with observations on some other closely related structures,” Royal Soc. of London, Philosophical Trans., ser.B, 201 (1911): 91–132, and “On some organs in the cervical region of the frog,” RSC, Trans., 3rd ser., 6 (1912), sect.iv: 61–71 and plates. With Jasper Halpenny, she prepared “On the relationship between the thyroid and parathyroids,” Anatomischer Anzeiger (Jena, Germany), 34 (1909): 276–379; and, with [T.] S. Vincent, she wrote the following reports: “The ‘islets of Langerhans’ in the vertebrate pancreas” and “The islets of Langerhans in the elasmobranch fishes,” in Journal of Physiology (London), 34 (1906), proc.: xxvii–xxviii, and 35 (1906–7), proc.: xlv–xlvi respectively; “On the relations between the islets of Langerhans and the zymogenous tubules of the pancreas,” Internationale Monatsschrift für Anatomie and Physiologie (Berlin), 24 (1907): 61–102; and “The islets of Langerhans and the zymogenous tubules in the vertebrate pancreas, with special reference to the pancreas of the lower vertebrates,” RSC, Trans., 3rd ser., 1 (1907), sect.iv: 275–86 and plates.
General Register Office (London), Hitchin, Eng., birth certificate, 21 Sept. 1865. Hitchin Museum and Art Gallery, Lawson Thompson scrapbook; Lucas family tree. Man., Dept. of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Vital statistics (Winnipeg), Birth certificate for Lucas Thompson, 25 Sept. 1893; Death certificate, 4 Aug. 1915. PAM, MG 10, C4; C11-1; C11-2; C45; C58. Univ. of Manitoba Libraries, Dept. of Arch. and Special Coll. (Winnipeg), UA9 (libraries); UA11 (university council); UA12 (general faculty council); UA40 (board of governors). Winnipeg Art Gallery, Arch., Women’s Art Association of Canada, Winnipeg branch, minutes. Manitoba Free Press, 28 July 1892, 18 July 1893, April 1906, 23 Nov. 1907, 11 April 1908. Winnipeg Tribune, 7 March 1907.