Her father retired young as a soldier from the Grenadier Guards; poor health, thereafter, kept him at home. From him she inherited an interest in science, music and craftmanship. Gertrude spent many hours in his well equipped workshop, preparing models and carrying out experiments. As she herself later said ‘I think a shred of my father’s mantle must have fallen on his daughter, for I have always taken pleasure in working and seeing things grow under my hand’.
In 1861, aged 18, Gertrude enrolled in the South Kensington School of Art in London. Already a talented painter, she also studied botany, anatomy, optics and the science of colour at the school. Inheriting her father’s scientific approach, Gertrude embraced these disciplines with enthusiasm and understanding.
This, then, was Gertrude’s Victorian youth. Although she grew up in the 19th century, her unusual personality had been allowed to flourish outside the conventional strait jacket of the time, so that she could develop her own career.