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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:

Papers of Conrad Hal Waddington

Identifier: Coll-41
Scope and Contents Contains: laboratory notebooks and bundles of research notes, including many from Waddington's early years of research in Cambridge in the 1930s; manuscripts, typescripts and related correspondence, including draft manuscripts of New Patterns in Genetics and Development and Principes of Development and Differentiation, and...
Dates: 1923-1976

Papers relating to the administration of the Ford Foundation grant I, 1960-1972

Identifier: Coll-1364/2/1/1
Scope and Contents

Contains: correspondence chiefly between C.H Waddington and the Ford Foundation, Solly Zuckerman, Edward Appleton and Beatty, concerning the application process, associated equipment, salary matters and building works. Also present are typescripts of annual grant reports and details of expenditure to the Foundation.

No correspondence exists between 1960 and 1963.

Dates: 1960-1972

Papers relating to the official Agricultural Research Council enquiry into the Animal Breeding and Genetics Research Organisation, 1950-1952

Identifier: Coll-1391/2
Scope and Contents Contains chiefly correspondence between Sang and individuals within the Agricultural Research Council (ARC); namely the chairman, Lord Victor Rothschild, the secretary, Sir William K. Slater and a senior official, W.G Alexander. Also contains correspondence with colleagues at the genetics section of the Animal Breeding and Genetics Research Organisation, chiefly Cecil Gordon and C.H Waddington as well as the Principal of the University of Edinburgh, Edward Appleton. The papers chiefly...
Dates: 1950-1952

Partial typescript for 'Behind Appearance' by C.H. Waddington, titled here 'Modern Painting and the Sciences' , c.1965-1968

 File — Box CLX-A-1234: Series Coll-1461/2, Box: data_value_missing_6f6d1fec07c60189d9aae4b48980ddfe, Box: data_value_missing_04bac42e942568bf270c3c35f34f94ff
Identifier: Coll-1461/2/2
Scope and Contents

Contains: contents, preface, introduction, Chapter 1: The Geometrists; Chapter 2: The Magicians; Chapter 3: The Scientists; Chapter 5: Reactions and Continuations; Chapter 6 (untitled), Chapter titled 'New developments in the geometrising tradition' plus pages 7-43 of one untitled partial chapter.

Dates: c.1965-1968

Personal and departmental papers, 1934-1975

Identifier: Coll-41/9
Scope and Contents

The material within this series concerns Waddington's own research and professional arrangements, as well as departmental and staffing matters concerned with the Institute of Animal Genetics.

Most of the files of correspondence contain original letters from correspondents, as well as manuscript or carbon copies of Waddington's responses.

Dates: 1934-1975

Photocopy of a draft typescript titled 'The Man Made Future - An undergraduate text by C.H. Waddington. Book One: Tools of Thought', c.1970

 File — Box CLX-A-1234: Series Coll-1461/2, Box: data_value_missing_3016a155415f1cbae9a514454e936483, Box: data_value_missing_2a832fee5cdd1a38c168d0828843642d
Identifier: Coll-1461/2/3
Scope and Contents

Typescript contains some of Yolanda Sonnabend's draft illustrations. There are also some loose figures and pages. Typescript is incomplete.

Dates: c.1970

Photograph album presented to Waddington by Institute staff on his 50th birthday, November 1955

 Item — Box EUA IN1/ACU/A1/6/4
Identifier: EUA IN1/ACU/A1/6/4
Scope and Contents The volume contains various group and individual photographs of the Institute staff, as well as original paintings and drawings of Waddington in the mock-styles of various artists by Ruth Clayton and E.D Roberts. Some of the individuals feaured in the photographs are: Charlotte Auerbach, Boris Balinsky, Geoffrey Beale, Richard Alan Beatty, Alick Buchanan-Smith, George and Ruth Clayton, Hugh Donald, Douglas Falconer, Alan Greenwood, Henry Kacser, Mary Lyon, Eric Lucey, Margaret Perry, Alan...
Dates: November 1955

Photograph of C.H Waddington in army uniform, c.1942

Identifier: EUA IN1/ACU/A1/8/4
Scope and Contents

On the back of the picture is noted 'Wad in ORS Coastal Command', which Waddington joined in 1942. The photograph depicts him sitting on a boat with a pipe.

Dates: c.1942

Photographs of staff at the Institute of Animal Genetics, taken by Miron Latyszewski, 1947-1973

Identifier: Coll-1690/4
Scope and Contents Contains: Photograph of C.H. Waddington with pipe (1947); photograph of Toby Carter in lab coat with mouse (1947); photograph of C.H. Waddington and Salome Waelsch (1948); photograph of Susan [Thoulis?] (1948); photograph of the July 1948 Genetical Society meeting dinner, including C.H. Waddington and Guido Pontecorvo (1948); photograph of Guido Pontecorvo, E.B. Ford and an unknown individual talking at the July 1948 Genetical Society meeting (1948); photograph of four female research...
Dates: 1947-1973

Printed booklet titled 'Diary of a visit to Moscow and China as a member of a delegation from the Royal Society of London to the Academia Sinica' by C.H. Waddington, 1962

Identifier: Coll-1255/10/1
Scope and Contents From the Series:

Contains papers regarding Beale's study and research visits to the USSR (March 1968), the Gambia (September 1972), Japan (April-May 1973) and Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok (1976-1977). Also includes papers regarding student unrest at the University of California, Berkeley (1964) and a printed booklet titled 'Diary of a visit to Moscow and China as a member of a delegation from the Royal Society of London to the Academia Sinica' by C.H. Waddington.

Dates: 1962

Additional filters:

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