Forgotten Prophet of Genetics

Robert Olby reviews The Man Who Invented the Chromosome: A Life of Cyril Darlington by Oren S. Harman, in American Scientist:

Cyril Darlington was an impressive figure: Well over six feet tall with a frame to match his height, handsome and debonair, a fresh rose in his jacket lapel, Oxford’s Sherardian Professor of Botany looked the part. Although he was, in his day, one of the foremost cytologists in the world, he was also an enthusiastic student of history and a devoted gardener. He learned to garden as a child and subsequently expressed this enthusiasm in the genetic garden he created at the University of Oxford and in the historic Botanic Garden there; he also planned two arboreta (both achieved). His passion to account for history in genetic terms led him to write a mammoth book, The Evolution of Man and Society (1969).

The son of a Lancashire schoolmaster, Darlington graduated from Wye College with a London University degree and found unpaid work at the John Innes Horticultural Institute, which was directed at that time by William Bateson, an “apostle” of Mendelism. Sixteen years later Darlington became director. By the time he left in 1953 (after 30 years) to assume the chair of botany at Oxford, he had built for himself and the institute an international reputation.

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