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Naomi Mitchison


1897 - 1999

Novelist and poet. Born Naomi Haldane in Edinburgh, the daughter of physiologist John Scott Haldane (1860 - 1936). Her brother was the biologist J.B.S. Haldane (1892 - 1964). Mitchison was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford and began a science degree at the University in that city, but gave this up to become a nurse. She married the barrister and Labour politician G. Richard (Dick) Mitchison in 1916 and lived from 1937 at Carradale House in Kintyre.

Mitchison was a prolific writer, completing more than 90 books in her lifetime, across a multitude of styles and genres. These include historical novels, such as her first novel The Conquered (1923), Cloud Cuckoo Land (1925) and The Corn King and the Spring Queen (1931), The Bull Calves (1945) and The Young Alexander the Great (1960); fantasy, such as Graeme and the Dragon (1954); science fiction, such as Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962) and Solution Three (1975); non-fiction such as African Heroes (1968), together with children's novels, poetry, travel and a three volume autobiography. Undoubtedly her most controversial work We Have Been Wanted was published in 1935 and explored sexual behaviour, including rape and abortion. The book was rejected by various publishers and subject to censorship. Mitchison was a Life Fellow of the Eugenics Society.

Mitchison was also a vocal campaigner for women's rights, advocating birth control, and was also active in local government in Scotland (1947 - 1976). She acted as a spokeswoman for the island communities of Scotland and became an advisor to the Bakgatla tribe of Botswana.

In 1964, Mitchison was created a life peer for her literary contributions. Adding to this remarkable family, two of Mitchison's sons were Professors of Zoology, the other a Professor of Bacteriology.

Continuing to write into her 80s, she died at Carradale at the great age of 101.


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