Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Lancelot Thomas Hogben FRS

This record is held by University of Birmingham: Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections

Details of CSAC 78.2.81
Reference: CSAC 78.2.81
Title: Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Lancelot Thomas Hogben FRS









Compiled by Jeannine Alton and Julia Latham-Jackson

Date: 1926-1985
Held by: University of Birmingham: Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Hogben, Lancelot Thomas, 1895-1975, scientist and biologist

Physical description: 82 items
Immediate source of acquisition:

The material was received from Mrs. K.A. Lloyd and from Professor G.P. Wells, author of the Memoir of Hogben prepared for the Royal Society (Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 24, 1978) and editor of Look Back with Laughter, the autobiography left uncompleted at Hogben's death (see A.3 - A.20).

Administrative / biographical background:

Partly through temperament, and partly through external factors and the vicissitudes of war, Hogben led a peripatetic life and left few records other than his prolific and diverse publications. His scientific research was in various aspects of biology, vertebrate and invertebrate zoology, genetics, and related disciplines of social biology, medical and applied statistics; he also contributed to the founding of two scientific journals, the Journal of Experimental Biology and the British Journal of Social Medicine. To the general public he was internationally known as a brilliant expositor of science in his two most famous books, Mathematics for the Million and Science for the Citizen; these and other works reflect his 'scientific humanism' and the wish to improve, through education and clear thinking, the general condition of mankind. This urge to 'provide a sufficient equipment for the constructive tasks of the Society in which we live' underlay the second main strand in his popular writings: the historical and comparative study of languages. In his later years, his linguistic interest focussed on the culture and speech of Wales where he had had several holiday retreats since 1947 and where he retired.


The diversity of Hogben's interests is reflected in the changing locations in which he pursued his career. Starting in 1917 at two of the Colleges of London University (Birkbeck and then the Imperial College of Science and Technology), he moved to the Universities of Edinburgh (1922), Montreal (1925) and Cape Town (1927) before returning to Britain and the London School of Economics (1930). In 1937 he moved to Aberdeen, and finally to Birmingham (1942) where he remained, with second-ment to the War Office 1944 - 46, until he retired to Wales in 1961. These movements testify and also contributed to a restlessness, not to say an impatience of temperament, and certainly do much to explain the unfortunate paucity of the remaining records. Hogben kept no diary; for several periods in his life he had no home and lived with friends or relations, or in hostels; and his research or writing took precedence over administrative paperwork.


Thus, although several of his interests (mathematics, statistics, popular education, language) are represented in the collection, there is little substantial scientific material, and virtually no correspondence despite Hogben's known long acquaintance with many leading figures in scientific and political life. Of interest are the 'Interglossa Dictionary' (C.7), the autobiographical writings in Section A, and several items which show his gifts as a teacher for simple, striking, easily memorable methods and examples. There are also the manuscripts of various unpublished projects (C.8, C.9).


A collection of Hogben's scientific papers, in five bound volumes arranged by subject, is included at A.30 - A.34.

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