It is with great sadness that Lady Margaret Hall announces the death of Dr Margery Ord, a much admired teacher to many generations of students at Lady Margaret Hall and the University of Oxford, and a greatly valued colleague, friend and research scientist. Dr Ord died suddenly in hospital on 13th January aged 92. Dr Ord was an important part of the LMH community from her appointment in 1952 right up until a few years ago when she could no longer make the short journey from home to her seat at the head of the high table for lunch at LMH.
A funeral service was held in the chapel at LMH on Friday 31st January. Texts of the three eulogies can be found here:
Dr Ord started her education in the early 1930s at a preparatory school in Hampshire. She won a scholarship to St Swithun’s School in Winchester and went on to study at University College London where she was awarded a first class degree in Chemistry. In the late 1940s she became a research student at Guy’s Hospital Medical School under the supervision of Professor R H S Thomson D.M.. She worked on the distribution of acetyl and butyrul cholinesterases in human and rodent tissues, an area of research stimulated by the development of nerve gases in Germany. In November of 1951 she was awarded a Ph.D in Biochemistry from the University of London.
In the reference provided by Dr Thomson in connection with her appointment as a tutor at Lady Margaret Hall in May of 1952, when Dr Ord was only 25 years old, Dr Thomson described her as a “very excellent research worker in biochemical problems with a thoroughly accurate and yet imaginative approach to her work”. He went on to write that he “was always most favourably impressed with her and that she was a “most suitable candidate for the post”. Dr Ord went on to tutor many generations of students over almost four decades.
Dr Ord was not only a much admired and revered tutor, she also held the offices of Dean, Dean of Graduates and Treasurer. On the University side, she was a member of the General Board, chaired the University Personnel Committee and was a member of the Franks Commission on Oxford’s structures. She was a very active researcher in the Department of Biochemistry. She came to Oxford to work with Lloyd Stocken on the biological effects of ionising radiation which, at that time, were of general concern following the development of the atomic bomb. The partnership between Professor Stocken and Dr Ord would last until his death in 2008. More than half of all Professor Stocken’s publications were co-authoured with Dr Ord including an important series of books and articles on the history of biochemistry.
As the Biochemical Society noted in 2009, one of the directions in which their studies took them in the 1950s was into the phosphorylation of proteins, and how it was affected by radiation, which in turn led them to look at the nucleus. Here they made a remarkable discovery: histones are phosphorylated, and this phosphorylation changes dramatically during the cell cycle. Although the long interval between discovery and publication led to them being ‘scooped’, the truth is that this seminal finding belonged to Lloyd and Dr Ord, and to them alone. Their joint research contribution was marked by the award of the D.Sc by the University of Oxford in 1973. Nuclear biochemistry and radiation continued to be their principal focus until they stopped laboratory work when Professor Stocken was nearly 80. They subsequently concentrated on their work in the history of biochemistry. Dr. Ord was a Departmental Demonstrator from 1954 to 1959 and was a University Lecturer in Biochemistry from 1959 until 1988. She was a Tutorial Fellow at LMH until her retirement when she was succeeded by Dr Garry Brown.
Her generosity and enduring commitment to the importance of research and teaching will be remembered with great gratitude by all who knew her.