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Waddington, Conrad Hal, 1905-1975 (embryologist and professor of animal genetics, University of Edinburgh)



Conrad Hal Waddington was born in Evesham on the 08 November 1905 and attended Aymestrey House Preparatory School in Malvern Link from the age of nine. From Clifton College, Bristol, Waddington gained a further scholarship to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he took the Natural Sciences Tripos, gaining First Class in both parts in 1926. Early postgraduate years included studies in palaeontology, philosophy, geology, and embryology. He held the Arnold Gerstenberg Studentship in Philosophy in 1929 and gained the degree of DSc in 1938.

Between 1934 and 1945 Waddington was Embryologist and Lecturer in Zoology at Strangeways Research Laboratory, Cambridge (he was made Honorary Embryologist in 1936) and was a Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge (1933 to 1945). During the Second World War, Waddington worked in Operations Research on photographic reconnaissance and with anti-shipping strikes.

In 1945 there came an offer of a chair of genetics at Edinburgh University, but Waddington declined, feeling his future lay with the new National Animal Breeding and Genetics Research Organisation (NABGRO), established by the Agricultural Research Council to boost post-war food production and originally mooted for an Oxford location. When it was suggested however, that NABGRO (renamed ABGRO, then later ABRO) might be found permanent headquarters in Edinburgh, with Waddington combining the position of chief geneticist at the Organisation (under the directorship of R.G White) with the Chair of Animal Genetics at the University, he agreed. NABGRO took up residence in the Institute of Animal Genetics building on the King's Buildings site to the west of Edinburgh. However a division was to form between the academically-oriented geneticists and the animal breeders which became consolidated in 1951, when the 'genetics section' became the officially separate ARC Unit of Animal Genetics under Waddington's directorship, located in the Institute.

Into the 1950s, the Institute grew into the largest genetics department in the UK and one of the largest in the world, establishing Edinburgh's reputation as a world-class centre for genetics research. Waddington's laissez-faire directorship facilitated a great amount of research in many areas, particularly in quantitative inheritance. By the end of the 1950s though, the research institute had become more and more compartmentalised, with Waddington himself becoming occupied with the setting up of an Epigenetics Laboratory. He also played a major role in the expansion of the biological faculty of Edinburgh University.

In addition to his research and publications, Waddington was involved in many societies and organisations. Waddington believed in the power of science to educate and inform a better future, and his 'systems thinking' approach led him to use biological and evolutionary reference models as a way of analysing issues concerning human population and settlement, as well as the environment. It was partly this thinking which led him to establish the School of the Man Made Future in 1972 at the University of Edinburgh (now Glasgow's Centre for Human Ecology). He also had a lifelong interest in art and architecture, and in 1969 he published a lavishly illustrated work on art and its relationship with the natural sciences, Behind Appearance.

In 1970, Waddington accepted an invitation from the State University of New York to spend two years in Buffalo occupying the Albert Einstein Chair in Science. Douglas Falconer took over the running of the Genetics Department as acting head from 1969 onwards. While in Buffalo, and shortly before his return to Edinburgh in 1973, Waddington suffered a heart attack. A second heart attack outside his home two years later proved fatal, and he died on 26 September 1975.

Waddington had been awarded the CBE in 1958, and had been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1948. He became a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1959 and of the Finnish Academy in 1957. In 1974 he was elected a Fellow of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina. Waddington held honorary degrees from Aberdeen, Dublin, Geneva, Montreal and Prague. He had a long record of publication, from 1929 to 1975, including authorship or editorship of 27 books. Waddington had two daughters, Dusa and Caroline, by his second wife, architect Justin Blanco White, and a son, Jake, by his first wife, Elizabeth Lascelles.

Found in 46 Collections and/or Records:

Biographical Information on Institute Staff, c.1930-1933

 File — Box EUA-A-65, Box: data_value_missing_61ada11aba2f2046ddd5e67ed247d4aa, Box: data_value_missing_e70d76e9a08956b45b77104a63785c8a
Identifier: EUA IN1/ACU/A1/5/4
Scope and Contents Contains: bound typescript with handwritten annotations, titled 'Animal Breeding Research Department: List of Publications 1920-' (c.1930); typescript titled 'C.H Waddington - Publications 1929-1975'; photocopied typescript titled 'Publications of C.H Waddington 1963-1975'; typescript titled 'Publications of A. Robertson' (1949-1988); ...
Dates: c.1930-1933

Commentary by Beatty on a paper by Khilia F. Kushner, December 1954

Identifier: Coll-1364/5/6
Scope and Contents

Contains a typescript titled 'Comment on Kushner, K.F (1954.) 'The Effect of Heterospermic Insemination in Animals and its Biological Significance'' and a covering letter from Beatty to C.H Waddington.

Dates: December 1954

Copies of a group photograph of Gregor Mendel and fellow friars, with related correspondence, c.1860s-1985

Identifier: EUA IN1/ACU/A1/8/1
Scope and Contents

The photograph is accompanied by ten enlarged copies of the image, and some related items of correspondence, including letter to Waddington (in French and German) from Raimund Koci in 1965 gifting him the photograph as a souvenir of Waddington's stay in Brno, a letter from Waddington's widow, Justin Blanco White, sending the photograph to the Department, as well as an acknowledgement from D.E.S Truman (then acting head of Department) thanking her for sending the photograph.

Dates: c.1860s-1985

Copies of research materials relating to Waddington's work, c.1960-1970

 File — Box CLX-A-1233: Series Coll-1461/2, Box: data_value_missing_faebc1db5eaf3b6898ad3d1ad0c38455, Box: data_value_missing_42aa73bc2d0ae97c06ae73f3c96e124b
Identifier: Coll-1461/2/1
Scope and Contents

Contains photocopied newspaper articles, scientific papers and typescript essays and letters to Waddington from various, chiefly relating to Waddington's research. Also contains some photocopied draft illustrations.

Dates: c.1960-1970

Correspondence regarding F.A.E Crew's bequest to the Institute Library, 1968-1992

 File — Box EUA-A-66, Box: data_value_missing_b6eab8541aea4c0d92f5e8f535ccb704, Box: data_value_missing_bcda03cd979be0a4e63347dd555f4744
Identifier: EUA IN1/ACU/A1/7
Scope and Contents

The material also contains a list of the books bequeathed to the Institute by Crew, and related correspondence, including two letters from Crew to Waddington about the bequest, and letters between the Institute and Crew's family about the eventual despatch of the books. There is also present a copy of Waddington's additional note on Crew's obituary which he sent to The Times.

Dates: 1968-1992

Departmental file from the Institute of Animal Genetics concerning Charlotte Auerbach, 1947-1975

 File — Box CLX-A-1536
Identifier: Coll-1266/4/5
Scope and Contents Contains papers concerning Auerbach's work at the Institute of Animal Genetics, including: a report of the Mutagenesis Unit; a typescript of a talk given by Auerbach at the Genetics Congress at the Hague in 1963 titled 'Past achievements and future tasks of research in chemical mutagenesis'; a typescript report on Auerbach's Agricultural Research Council-funded mutation work during 1950-1951; and a typescript 'Interim report on the work done by Dr H. Moser since April 1949.'Also...
Dates: 1947-1975

Departmental files of Conrad Hal Waddington, 1946-1978

Identifier: EUA IN1/ACU/A1/6
Scope and Contents Contains: EUA IN1/ACU/A1/5/1 - papers relating to the organisation of the Institute (1948-1950); EUA IN1/ACU/A1/5/2 - papers relating to the Carnegie Grant (1941-1951); EUA IN1/ACU/A1/5/3 - correspondence and biographical papers (1959-1978); EUA IN1/ACU/A1/5/4 - personal information and staff particulars (1946-1950); EUA IN1/ACU/A1/5/5 -...
Dates: 1946-1978

Faculty of Science Minute Book, 1954-1959

Identifier: GB 0237 EUA IN1/ACA/SCI/1/19
Scope and Contents

Includes letters and reports, covering subjects such as courses, students, research grants and appointments. Those present at meetings included Ronald Nathan Arnold, Michael Meredith Swann, Conrad Hal Waddington, Hermann Brück and Kenneth George Denbigh.

Dates: 1954-1959

Faculty of Science Minute Book, 1967-1969

Identifier: GB 0237 EUA IN1/ACA/SCI/1/24
Scope and Contents

Includes letters and reports, covering subjects such as courses, students, research grants and appointments. Those present at meetings included Sir Edmund Langley Hirst, Frederick Henry Stewart, Martin Rivers Pollock, Charles Kemball, William Hayes, Hermann Brück, W Ewart J Farvis and Conrad Hal Waddington.

Dates: 1967-1969

Additional filters:

Archival Object 44
Collection 2
Waddington, Conrad Hal, 1905-1975 -- Correspondence 11
Animal Genetics 10
Animal embryology 10
Genetics 10
Biology 9