Margaret Thatcher is remembered for her leadership of the Conservative Party and her 11 year term as PM, but what about her life before politics and the differences she made to the world of science and in fact to our childhood memories of the ice cream van?

Thatcher, known as Margaret Roberts at the time, attended Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School, where her interests in science really took off. This led to her applying for a scholarship to study at Somerville College in Oxford. Initially her scholarship application was rejected but she was later offered a place as a student dropped out. She attended the college from 1943 to 1947 gaining a second class honours in Chemistry, specialising in X-Ray Crystallography. It was clear that Thatcher had an interest in politics however, and became the president of the Oxford University Conservative Association in 1946.

Her life after Oxford started at BX Plastics where she worked as a research chemist, later applying to a job at ICI. Thatcher was rejected from the firm after the personnel described her as being “headstrong, obstinate and dangerously self-opinionated”. Thatcher continued her work as a chemist and later joined the local Conservative Association. A friend from Dartford in Kent inspired Thatcher to run as a candidate and this is where her Chemical and Political careers link. It is in Kent that she also met Denis Thatcher. Thatcher then moved to Dartford to start her political career and supported herself by working for J Lyons and Co. This is where Thatcher made her breakthrough as a chemist, developing emulsifiers for ice cream.

thatcher-chemistThatcher revolutionised the ice cream industry, developing what we now know as Mr. Whippy! Without Margaret Thatcher and her love for Chemistry we would not have so many childhood memories of 99 ice creams. Memories of going to the park in the summer and eating an ice cream that melted so quickly you barely had chance to eat the flake. Memories of ice creams vans venturing to our streets and providing us with opportunity to indulge.

Thatcher may not have pleased everyone, but she gave us all a childhood memory, a happy childhood memory so if we say thanks to Thatcher for anything, we say thanks for Mr Whippy!

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  • Sam Whitehall
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    Apparently her contribution to Mr. Whippy’s been a bit overstated, and has become a sort of folk myth – not by the right, but by the left, as a bit of a joke representing her (in their view) “penny-pinching, air-filled and unsatisfying policies”.

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/04/the-margaret-thatcher-ice-cream-myth.html

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  • Elizabeth Coates
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    No matter how small her part might have been, it might have explained those chocolate buttons…the candy woman?! Cool article, Issy :D

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