Dr Janet West

Emeritus Fellow

  • Emeritus Associate, Scott Polar Research Institute

Janet West read Natural Sciences at Newnham College and continued work for a PhD on Plant Physiology. After a break with her small son, she began research on photosynthesis in the Dept of Biochemistry. Six years later she joined the Institute of Animal Physiology, Babraham, to investigate chloroplasts as the major dietary-protein source in cattle.

A complete change followed work for the Open University. With a small grant from the Smuts Memorial Fund and by lecturing she surveyed the major collections of 19th century scrimshaw (art from the whaling industry) around Australia. Several publications came from this subject, rare outside the USA. For twelve years she was Advisory Curator of Scrimshaw at the Kendall Whaling Museum (now the Kendall Whaling Institute, New Bedford), Mass. This part time post was invaluable in providing access to the largest scrimshaw collections in the USA and many others. She developed the use of binocular microscopy and oblique light to investigate the engraving techniques used by particular artists, and the wear revealed on the surfaces has helped to establish age and authenticity.

In 1990 she became an Associate of the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge. Having completed the research, she is writing a catalogue of their Scrimshaw collection.