Words of Wisdom from Danielle and Sharon

Dame Daphne Monitor-Lizard, Hairdresser to the Intelligentsia
January 9, 2011, 7:37 pm
Filed under: Hairdressing, People, Physics

Dame Daphne Monitor-Lizard with her dog, Graham

Today is the 70th birthday of a most remarkable woman. Dame Daphne Monitor-Lizard is the youngest child of Brigadier Sir Hugh G Monitor-Lizard and his wife Leonie, She and her 4 siblings, Frances, Nicholas, Gerald and Bert were brought up in a household where intellectual achievement was highly prized. As a small child, she idolised her eldest brother, Nicholas, who went up to Oxford in 1946 to study Classics and, in later years, she would tell of her early intentions to follow in his footsteps.

However, when she started school, it became clear very quickly that her talents lay in quite different fields, Maths and Science. Her mother, who was a passionate advocate of women entering the field of science, encouraged her and for her 6th birthday she bought her a chemistry set. She later fondly recalled her daughter’s early experiments in an interview in 1963 and recounted how Daphne made a shampoo that cleared up her father’s chronic dandruff within a few washes. Unfortunately, it also made his hair fall out.

She continued to excel in school and in 1957 was offered a place at St Winona’s College, Oxford, to read Particle Physics and Advanced Hairdressing. After a brilliant undergraduate career, during which she became the college Cluedo champion, played Tuba in the university orchestra and edited the monthly undergraduate science journal, Unscientific Monthly, she was awarded only the second double-first in the college’s history.

After graduation, she went to work with Edward Strange on his research into sub-atomic particles at the University of Hull. Unfortunately, due to an error in the calibration of his equipment, his theory that protons and neutrons were made up of yet smaller particles, which he called Littlons, could not be proved and, a year later, the existence of Quarks was proposed by Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig. This set-back did not deter Strange from his research but Daphne was disheartened as she blamed the error in calibration on herself.

She therefore decided to take a break from elementary particle physics and turned her hand to her other great love, hairdressing. She set up a salon in East Grinstead and soon had a roaring business. However, she found the conversations she had with her clients dull and uninspiring; she was not interested to hear about their holidays in Majorca, how well their children were doing at school or what their husbands thought about the government. She longed to be able to talk about the latest discoveries in physics: quarks, leptons and hadrons. After a year or so, she employed a manager to look after the salon and went to Oxford to look for a suitable premises for another, more interesting hairdressing business. She intended to cater to the highly specialist hairstyles found in Academe the world over.

A satisfied customer of The Charm Quark, Cambridge

Daphne eschewed traditional names for hairdressing salons, like The Upper Cut, Hairlucinations, Debonhair, The Mane Attraction and so on. She gave her new salon in Oxford the rather unusual name, The Charm Quark. It was an immediate success: professors who had not had a haircut in years because they had been so depressed by the small talk at traditional salons came flocking to it. They could now have their hair carefully styled to look wild and unkempt whilst discussing the intricasies of calculus or the latest discoveries in elemental particle physics. Daphne thrived in this atmosphere and so did the business and she soon set up a small chain of hairdressers in University towns across the UK.

In 1992, she was awarded the CBE for services to hairdressing. Her brothers and sister were delighted and Nicholas, her early source of inspiration, arranged a family get together to celebrate her award. He read out a speech about his “little Daph” and her achievements entirely in Ancient Greek. It is a testament to the intellectual prowess of the Monitor-Lizard family that nobody present needed a translation.

Dame Daphne has never married and has given herself entirely to her chosen career, hairdressing. The Charm Quark chain of hairdressers now has a salon in every University town in the United Kingdom and it is said in academic circles that this country boasts the best coiffed scholars in the western world.