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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:

Figures and plates for publications, 1940-c.1968

Identifier: Coll-41/4
Scope and Contents The material consists of photographic material, diagrams and illustrations used as figures or plates for Waddington's publications, including: various articles, published in scientific journals, including Evolution, the Journal of Embryology and Experimental Morphology, the Journal of Experimental Biology and ...
Dates: 1940-c.1968

File of letters to Yolanda Sonnabend, chiefly from C.H. Waddington, c.1967-c.1977

 File — Box CLX-A-1234: Series Coll-1461/2
Identifier: Coll-1461/3
Scope and Contents

Waddington's letters to Yolanda chiefly concern arrangements for meeting and potential work opportunities for Yolanda. Many letters are undated. There are also two other letters: one from an unnamed correspondent in Rhodesia and one from Justin Waddington, concerning Waddington's book The Man-Made Future.

Dates: c.1967-c.1977

File of papers relating to C.H. Waddington's preparation for the book 'Tools for Thought', c.1970

 File — Box CLX-A-1234: Series Coll-1461/2
Identifier: Coll-1461/2/5
Scope and Contents

Contains: a summary outline of chapters for 'Tools of Thought', a document titled 'Threats and Promises of Science: draft for discussion' (July 1970), typescript course outlines titled 'Bases for Futures' and 'Assessment and Prognoses' and an application for a short term grant to employ Yolanda Sonnabend as Waddington's research assistant to develop a 'School of the Man-Made Future.'

Dates: c.1970

Files of correspondence relating to the administration of Shothead Farm, 1936-1954

Identifier: EUA IN1/ACU/A1/9/1/2
Scope and Contents

Contains reports, accounts and minutes of the Shothead Farm committee, and correspondence about the administration of the farm between Alick Buchanan Smith, C.H. Waddington and the University Secretary. Also contains a typescript paper titled 'Inheritance of milking capacity in dairy cattle' by A.D. Buchanan Smith ('to be read to the Farmers' Club on Saturday, 6th December 1948.'

Dates: 1936-1954

Group photograph of participants from the 1957 UNESCO symposium, 1957

Identifier: EUA IN1/ACU/A1/8/7
Scope and Contents

Photograph mounted on card and all participants attributed, including C.H Waddington, Geoffrey Beale, Guido Pontecorvo, Ewa Perkowska, Martin Pollock and H.G Callan.

Dates: 1957

Institute of Animal Genetics, c.1902-2000

Identifier: EUA IN1/ACU/A1
Scope and Contents Contains: EUA IN1/ACU/A1/1 - Minutes of the Animal Breeding Committee and the Farm Sub-Committee; EUA IN1/ACU/A1/2 - Reports, including annual, quinquennial and financial reports; EUA IN1/ACU/A1/3 - Correspondence; EUA IN1/ACU/A1/4 - Publications and offprints; EUA IN1/ACU/A1/5 - Records relating to the history of the Institute; ...
Dates: c.1902-2000

Laboratory notebooks and bundles of research notes, c.1930-1974

Identifier: Coll-41/1
Scope and Contents

The series chiefly includes laboratory notebooks containing data and notes from various experiments.

Dates: c.1930-1974

Letters to Yolanda Sonnabend concerning the publication and design of 'Tools for Thought', 1976-1977

 File — Box CLX-A-1234: Series Coll-1461/2, Box: data_value_missing_8c9c012cc1ea2417f8a04014adc747a8, Box: data_value_missing_93c514a9635a461b69ce91279aed7580
Identifier: Coll-1461/2/6
Scope and Contents From the Fonds: Contains: Coll-1461/1: original artworks created by Yolanda Sonnabend for C.H. Waddington's book 'Tools for Thought' Coll-1461/2: collections of articles and research materials relating to Waddington's work, including manuscripts for his books 'Beyond Appearance', 'The Man-Made Future' and 'Tools for Thought' Coll-1461/3: letters to Yolanda Sonnabend, chiefly from C.H....
Dates: 1976-1977

Loose bundle of laboratory notes relating to experiments on axolotl and chick embryos and embryo extraction from rabbits, c.1932-1935

Identifier: Coll-41/1/3
Scope and Contents The material is accompanied by two notes in a hand other than Waddington's: one reading 'Deduced to be notebook (Amphibian) A 1932 (1) expts 482'; the other reading 'Removed from cards. After publication 1934 - expts eg 33-1 - Needham's writing - Covers had B & C and KW Inst. Berlin - slides summarised in Needham's hand - Slides available in Box'. Also includes papers stapled together entitled 'Summary of slides' and other papers marked 'After Publication 1934' and...
Dates: c.1932-1935

Manuscript titled 'Sources for the Man Made Future' by C.H. Waddington, c.1970

 Item — Box CLX-A-1233: Series Coll-1461/2, Box: data_value_missing_6b3076a4918e0de68512688a43634cae, Box: data_value_missing_9ee99a5d9e8e050165fce7b6c4a64ef5
Identifier: Coll-1461/2/4

Additional filters:

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