Born as Ethel Eva Widdowson in London she earned a Ph.D in 1941 in nuclear physics. She became a lecturer in Physics at Sheffield University. She married James Crane, a stockbroker serving in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, in 1942. Her husband died in 1978.
Her interest in bees began when she and her husband received a beehive as a wedding present; the giver had hoped that it would help supplement their wartime sugar ration.
Crane wrote over 180 papers, articles, and books, many when she was in her 70s and 80s. Honey: A Comprehensive Survey (1975), in which she contributed several important chapters, and edited, came about because she told the publisher (Heinemann Press) that a book on the subject was sorely needed. Although now out of print, it remains the most significant review on the subject ever written. A Book of Honey (1980) and The Archaeology of Beekeeping (1983) reflected her strong interests in nutrition and the ancient past of beekeeping.
Her writing culminated in two mighty, encyclopaedic tomes, Bees and Beekeeping: science, practice and world resources (1990; at 614 pages) and The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting (1999; 682 pages). These distilled a lifetime's knowledge and experience and are regarded as seminal textbooks throughout the beekeeping world.