She was educated at home and later at Notting Hill High School at the age of thirteen.
She became the second president of the European Thyroid Association in 1971. She succeeded Jean Roche and was followed by Jack Gross in this position, all three names inextricably linked with the discovery of the thyroid hormone triiodothyronine T3. Sylvia Laura Stanley (1882–1980).
Her father was the third son of Anthony Henley, 3rd Baron Henley and her mother the daughter of Lord Stanley of Alderley.
Her interest in chemistry began at the age of twelve when an uncle gave her a chemistry set. She later studied at Bedford College where she was awarded a Bachelor of Science in 1930 with first class honours, and an Master of Science in 1931.
Only after she separated from Pitt-Rivers in 1937, did she return to study and gain a Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry from University College medical school in 1939. She joined the scientific staff of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in Mill Hill London in 1942, the largest institute of the United Kingdom Medical Research Council (Medical Research Council).
She later became head of the Division of Chemistry, and retired in 1972.
After helping Jack Gross with the discovery of the T3 hormone and publishing their findings in The Lancet in 1952 she gained international recognition. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (Federal Reserve System) in 1954. In 1973 she was made a fellow of Bedford College, London, in 1983 an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, and in 1986 an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.,
Her publications with Jamshed Tata include The Thyroid Hormones (1959).
The Chemistry of Thyroid Diseases (1960).
And (with West R Trotter) The Thyroid Gland (1964).