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Edinburgh University Library Special Collections Division

Papers of Conrad Hal Waddington

Collection Summary

Reference Code

GB 0237 Conrad Hal Waddington



Extent and medium of the unit of description

8.3 metres

(57 boxes, 4 volumes, 1 folder )

Existence and Location of Originals

This material is original.

Name of creator

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

Biographical History

Biographical History

Conrad Hal Waddington (1905-1975), Buchanan Professor of Genetics, founded the School of the Man-Made Future at the University of Edinburgh in 1972 and in this way he pioneered an interdisciplinary approach to the environment, which was continued by the Centre for Human Ecology, and underlies the current work of the Centre for the study of Environmental Change and Sustainability (CECS). He introduced important concepts into evolutionary theory, envisaging a mechanism by which Lamarckianism could be incorporated into orthodox Darwinian genetics. He wrote a standard textbook, Principles of Embryology, (1956) , and also helped to popularize science in such general books as The Ethical Animal , (1960).

Waddington, was the son of a tea planter. His grandmother encouraged his early interests in natural history, geology and archaeology. Having gained a scholarship he went on to study at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and took the Natural Sciences Tripos in 1926. Early postgraduate years included studies in palaeontology, philosophy, geology, and embryology. Between 1933-1945, Waddington was Embryologist and Lecturer in Zoology at Strangeways Research Laboratory, Cambridge. He was a Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge, from 1934-1945. During the Second World War, Waddington worked on photographic reconnaissance and with anti-shipping strikes.

In 1945 he was offered a chair of genetics at The University of Edinburgh, but Waddington declined because he felt his future lay with the new National Animal Breeding and Genetics Research Organisation (NABGRO), later renamed Animal Breeding and Genetics Research Organisation (ABGRO). Two years later however, upon the foundation of a research unit In Edinburgh (Institute of Animal Genetics) Waddington agreed to combine the position of chief geneticist at the Organisation with the chair of animal genetics at the University. In the 1950s, this grew into the largest genetics department in the UK and one of the largest in the world. By the end of the 1950s though, the research institute had become more and more compartmentalised, and Waddington himself had become interested in the setting up of an Epigenetics Laboratory. In the 1960s, he played a major role in the expansion of the biological faculty of the University of Edinburgh. In 1970, he accepted an invitation from the State University of New York to spend two years in Buffalo occupying the Albert Einstein Chair in Science.

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 had been elected a Fellow of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina in Halle, a scientific academy dating from 1677. Waddington held honorary degrees from Aberdeen, Dublin, Geneva, Montreal and Prague. He had a long record of publication, from 1939-1970s.

Scope and Content

Scope and Content

The papers of Conrad Hal Waddington consist of:

  • scientific notebooks and bundles of notes
  • manuscripts and typescripts of essays
  • articles and larger works
  • photographic illustrations for publications
  • correspondence with publishers, scientific journals, scientific correspondence, correspondence with societies
  • material relating to meetings and conferences
  • papers and books for review
  • University of Edinburgh files
  • other miscellaneous files




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