Catalogue description Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of; EDMUND BRISCO FORD FRS; (1901 - 1988)

This record is held by Oxford University: Bodleian Library, Special Collections

Details of NCUACS 14.7.89
Reference: NCUACS 14.7.89
Title: Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of; EDMUND BRISCO FORD FRS; (1901 - 1988)



SECTION B OXFORD NCUACS 14.7.89/B.1 - NCUACS 14.7.89/B. 11


SECTION C RESEARCH NCUACS 14.7.89/C.1 - NCUACS 14.7.89/C.120








The material is presented in the order given in the List of Contents. There are interesting records of Ford's research, lectures, publications and scientific correspondence.


Section A, Biographical, brings together obituaries and tributes, material relating to Ford's career, honours and awards, and photographs. Of particular interest are Ford's replies to a 'Questionnaire concerning the evolutionary synthesis' sent to him in 1974 (NCUACS 14.7.89/A.9) and Ford's own statement of his contributions to science (and archaeology) prompted by a 1982 Oxford Zoology finals question (NCUACS 14.7.89/A.10).


Section B, Oxford, is very slight. There are, however, reports on Ford's teaching and research 1946-58 (NCUACS 14.7.89/B.1) and material relating to Ford's opposition to the admission of women as Fellows of All Souls College (NCUACS 14.7.89/B.8).


Section C, Research, is the largest in the collection. There is material relating to Ford's early research in collaboration with J S Huxley on Gammarus chevreuxi (NCUACS 14.7.89/C.1, NCUACS 14.7.89/C.2) and work on Primula including correspondence and papers from W F Bodmer (NCUACS 14.7.89/C.65 - NCUACS 14.7.89/C.70). However, the most extensively documented research is that undertaken by Ford over many years on Maniola jurtina (NCUACS 14.7.89/C.4 - NCUACS 14.7.89/C.64) and Panaxia dominula (NCUACS 14.7.89/C.72 - NCUACS 14.7.89/C.111).


Section D, Lectures and publications, documents Ford's university lectures and a number of Ford's books on genetics and archaeology. There are records of Ford's Zoology, Genetics, Medical Genetics and Statistics courses from 1939 to the early 1970s (NCUACS 14.7.89/D.1-NCUACS 14.7.89/D.6, NCUACS 14.7.89/D.8) and of Ford's books Moths (NCUACS 14.7.89/D.10 - NCUACS 14.7.89/D.13) and Ecological Genetics (NCUACS 14.7.89/D.22 - NCUACS 14.7.89/D.26), his Royal Society memoir of Th. Dobzhansky (NCUACS 14.7.89/D.27 - NCUACS 14.7.89/D.29) and 'The fogou near Boleigh, West Cornwall' with E Clark (NCUACS 14.7.89/D.35 - NCUACS 14.7.89/D.43). There is also correspondence and papers relating to the Festschrift edited by R Creed Ecological Genetics and Evolution. Essays in honour of E B Ford (NCUACS 14.7.89/D.16).


Section E, Visits and conferences, is very slight but includes material about an American Academy of Arts and Sciences Workshop on the Evolutionary Synthesis 1974 (NCUACS 14.7.89/E.6, NCUACS 14.7.89/E.7) and a Royal Entomological Society of London Symposium on the Biology of Butterflies 1981 which was dedicated to Ford (NCUACS 14.7.89/E.8).


Section F, Correspondence, contains significant but patchy records of Ford's scientific correspondence. Ford did not keep correspondence systematically with the result that there were few extended exchanges with colleagues. However, the section has been greatly strengthened by generous contributions from Sir Cyril Clarke, Professor D A Jones and Mr P J Placito. Additionally a former secretary handed over carbons of outgoing letters 1963-74 to Ford's executors after his death and these provide an interesting record of his activities during this period. An exceptional feature of this section is an exchange of correspondence 1922 between W Bateson and Sir John (later Lord) Simon relating to the Russell v Russell case (NCUACS 14.7.89/F.4).


Compiled by Peter Harper and Timothy E. Powell


The work of the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists, and the production of this catalogue, are made possible by the support of the following societies and organisations:


The Biochemical Society


The British Library


The Geological Society


The Institute of Physics


National Power


Pergamon Books


The Royal Society


The Royal Society of Chemistry


The Society of Chemical Industry


The compilers of the catalogue are very grateful to the following:


Mr P J Placito, for assembling the Ford papers in Oxford before their transfer to Bath and for adding his Wadham College Gazette obituary of Ford and related correspondence (NCUACS 14.7.89/A.3), photographs of Ford taken in 1987 (NCUACS 14.7.89/A.19) and his correspondence with Ford 1980-88 (NCUACS 14.7.89/F.57-NCUACS 14.7.89/F.68);


Sir Cyril Clarke, for making available his correspondence with Ford 1955-87 (NCUACS 14.7.89/F.13-NCUACS 14.7.89/F.37)


Professor W H Dowdeswell, for advice on the scientific content of the manuscripts and for making available Ford's letter to him of 12 April 1987 (NCUACS 14.7.89/C.63)


Professor D A Jones, for advice on the scientific content of the manuscripts and for making available his account of Ford's work with Panaxia dominula (NCUACS 14.7.89/A.4A), his 1988 and 1989 Panaxia dominula records made as a continuation of Ford's work (NCUACS 14.7.89/C.81, NCUACS 14.7.89/C.82 and NCUACS 14.7.89/C.102), the correspondence between Ford and P G 'Espinasse 1935, 1942 (NCUACS 14.7.89/F.44A) and his own correspondence with Ford 1957, 1962, 1971 (NCUACS 14.7.89/F.48).

Date: 1909-1989
Related material:

The Hope Collections, University Museum, Oxford, holds the following printed material and specimens:


a) Ford's personal copies of his own books, annotated by him with revisions;


b) A large collection of reprints by authors other than Ford but bearing closely on his work, on various aspects of evolution and genetics, divided by subject catagories determined by Ford;


c) A large number of reprints on genetics comprising the papers by Ford himself and jointly with others, and some by his close collaborators;


d) A large number of specimens of Maniola jurtina which originated from collaborative work between Ford and Mr P J Placito. With the specimens are the relevant 'scoresheets' and [CHI] squared calculations.

Held by: Oxford University: Bodleian Library, Special Collections, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Ford, Edmund Brisco, 1901-1988, geneticist

Physical description: 38 boxes
Access conditions:








Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were received via Mr P J Placito in October 1988.

  • Zoology
Administrative / biographical background:

Edmund Brisco ('Henry') Ford was born in Papcastle, Cumbria in 1901. His career was based entirely at Oxford University. He was educated at Wadham College graduating Bachelor of Arts in the Final Honours School of Zoology in 1924. He then undertook joint research in the Departments of Zoology and Entomology and graduated Bachelor of Science in 1927. He was appointed University Demonstrator in Zoology in the same year and in 1933, in addition to the University position, Lecturer in University College. Increasingly specialising in genetics he was appointed University Reader in Genetics in 1939 and was Director of the Genetics Laboratory 1952-69 and Professor of Ecological Genetics 1963-69. Ford was one of the first scientists to be elected a Fellow of All Souls College since the seventeenth century and served two terms of office as Senior Dean. He was President of the Genetical Society, 1946-49.


Ford made many outstanding contributions to genetics which were summed up by Sir Cyril Clarke in his Independent obituary:


Henry's work on wild populations of butterflies and moths was the first to show that the predictions made by [R A] Fisher in his theoretical work on evolution were correct, and he was thus the founder of ecological genetics.


Particularly interesting was the work done at an early age with his father on the effect of fluctuation in numbers on evolution in the Marsh Fritillary butterfly, and later his investigations into spot number in the Meadow Brown butterfly.


He was the first to describe and define genetic polymorphism, that delicate balance between conformity and diversity, and he suggested that the human blood group polymorphisms might have importance in susceptibility to disease. He also showed that the success of the industrial melanic peppered moth was the result of physiological advances as well as of colour change. He refined the technique of mark-release recapture and this helped greatly to estimate the force of selections in wild populations. His investigation of the pigment of Lepidoptera was one of the most successful attempts at relating classification to chemistry.


Ford was the author of many articles in the scientific journals and a number of important and influential books: Mendelism and Evolution, The Study of Heredity, Genetics for Medical Students, Butterflies, Moths, Ecological Genetics, Genetic Polymorphism, Genetics and Adaptation, Understanding Genetics and Taking Genetics into the Countryside.


Closely related to Ford's scientific researches was a great interest in conservation. In 1945 he became a member of the Special Committee appointed by the Ministry of Town and Country Planning to study the conservation of wild life in Britain. The Committee's report resulted in the formation of the Nature Conservancy on whose governing body Ford served, 1949-59. Other interests included heraldry and archaeology and in 1974 he published with J S Haywood Church Treasures in the Oxford District.


Ford's scientific achievements have been recognised with numerous honours and awards. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1946 and awarded its Darwin Medal in 1954. He received the Weldon Memorial Prize of Oxford University in 1959, an Honorary D.Sc from the University of Liverpool in 1964, the Silver Medal of the University of Helsinki in 1967 and an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians in 1974.

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