Papers of Harold Garnet "Mick" Callan

Scope and Content

The papers document Callan's scientific and professional life, mainly from his move to St Andrews in 1950 until his death in 1993. There are few references to his personal and family life, little concerning the administration of the Zoology Department and only a small quantity of material related to teaching. The bulk of the collection concerns Callan's research interests and his publications.

There are research notes from various periods of Callan's life. Some notes were later filed as "early research' by Callan himself, mainly dating from the 1940s. After 1950 there are numerous files containing research notes, data and photographs usually concerning the chromosomes and DNA of amphibians. Much of this work post-dates Callan's retirement. There are also several files relating to Callan's unpublished work on newt hybrids in the 1960s. The section of research notes is supported by the series of Callan's correspondence with other scientists. The collection includes Callan's correspondence with his colleagues which often includes updates on his (and their) research and discussion of his (and their) results.

The collection contains a complete set of Callan's scientific publications alongside files containing the illustrations for some of those publications. In addition there are reprints and preprints of publications by other scientists collected by Callan and filed in a series of box files.

The collection also contains correspondence concerning Callan's visits to Russia and China, some of Callan's notes for public lectures, and a few teaching notes.

There are large quantities of photography scattered throughout the collection. Most of the photography concerns Callan's research and is often of magnified chromosomes and parts of chromosomes.

Administrative / Biographical History

Harold Garnet Callan, known to family, friends and colleagues as "Mick", was born in 1917 in Maidenhead, Berkshire. He was educated at King's College School, Wimbledon and graduated from St John's College, Oxford in June 1938. In September 1938 he was awarded a scholarship for postgraduate research in Naples where he became impressed by lampbrush chromosomes and excited by the potential they offered for studying the organisation of hereditary material and gene action. The outbreak of war interrupted his research and he left in June 1939. He then went to work at the John Innes Horticultural Institute at Merton, Surrey until May 1940.

From 1940 until September 1945 Callan was employed by the Ministry of Aircraft Production. He trained in radar electronics and then went to an anti-aircraft gun site at Wingham, Kent. In 1941 he was transferred to the installation and operational development of Mark VII Aircraft Interception gear in Beaufighters. In late 1941 he returned to Telecommunications Research Establishment at Worth Matravers, Dorset and trained on a blind bombing and navigational device. He was then sent to 35 Squadron of Bomber Command to work on the fitting and operational use of this instrument in Halifax bombers of the Pathfinder Force. In early 1943 he was seconded to the Royal Navy to join a flotilla of rocket-firing tank-landing craft and given an Honorary Commission in the R.A.F. as a Flight Lieutenant. Callan stayed in Gibraltar until shortly after the invasion of Sicily, in which the flotilla was engaged. He was recalled to the Telecommunications Research Establishment to work first on a night fighter tail warning system fitted in bombers and later on a blind bombing and navigational device for the bombing of Berlin. In January 1944 he was promoted to Squadron Leader and posted to 614 Bomber Squadron to help with the formation of a pathfinder force flying out of Foggia, Italy. In May 1944 he was appointed Scientific Adviser to the signals section of Mediterranean Allied Air Forces and spent most of his time at Caserta, Italy at which time he took the opportunity to go to Naples and marry Amaryllis Dohrn.

In October 1945 Callan returned to the John Innes Horticultural Institute for temporary employment which he left in April 1946 to work as a Research Assistant to Professor Sir AV Hill at the Biophysics Department, University College London. Callan was not happy there and accepted a position offered by Professor Conrad Hall Waddington at the Agricultural Research Council, first at Hendon and later at the Institute of Animal Genetics at Edinburgh University.

In September 1950 Callan was appointed to the Kennedy Chair of Natural History at the University of St Andrews, successor to D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson. This was his first teaching post, and he was to remain in it until his retirement in 1982. He found the first year of teaching difficult but he had a flare for teaching and was enthusiastic in his belief in the dual role of teaching and research. He built up the Department of Zoology from a few staff into a thriving modern department. He was responsible for the additional building work to the Bute Medical School and instigated the remodelling of the Bell Pettigrew Museum (which was carried out by David Burt in the 1960s). Callan ruled the Department as a "benevolent dictator" and was sorely missed when he retired. His early retirement at 65 was voluntary, to protect the jobs of younger scientists, a decision which was characteristic of his generosity. However he did not retire from science and was given laboratory and office space at the Gatty Marine Laboratory, St Andrews. He used the next four years to work on his monograph, Lampbrush Chromosomes (1986). Once the monograph was published he was able to re-immerse himself in research which he did on frequent visits to Baltimore to work in Joseph Gall's laboratory. He continued in this vein until 1992 when he was diagnosed with diabetes and he decided to retire from science. He was honoured by the University of St Andrews in 1984 with an honorary degree of Doctor of Science and again in 1988 when he was given the honorary title of Research Professor.

Callan's research interests centred upon the lampbrush chromosomes of amphibians. He specialised in cell physiology undertaking ground-breaking research into genetics and DNA. He was the first to demonstrate the linearity of DNA along the chromosome. His work attracted world renowned scientists to come to St Andrews to work with him including: Joseph Gall; Dennis Gould; Ronald Hill; James Kezer; Georgio Mancino; Oscar Miller; Ulrich Scheer; Herbert Taylor and Charles Thomas. He travelled around the world to collaborate with other scientists and to lecture and teach, in Italy, United States, Russia, China, Ecuador and Australia. In addition, Callan made frequent short visits to various places to attend conferences and give lectures and courses. He was a strong supporter of international exchange and collaboration.

In contrast to the trend of modern academic science where there is great pressure to keep up a furious publication rate, Callan published only 88 papers during his career from 1938 to 1992, and just one book. Callan was also keen to see quality papers published by other scientists and served as editor of the Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science from 1960 to 1964, an experience which proved invaluable when he became one of the two founding editors of the Journal of Cell Science in 1966.

Callan was honoured nationally and internationally. In 1963 he was elected to the Royal Society of London in recognition of his research. He served as a member of the UK Advisory Council on Scientific Policy from 1963 till 1964 and as a trustee of the British Museum from 1963 to 1965. He was a member of the Science Research Council, 1972-1976. In 1974 he was elected as a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 1982 as a foreign member of the Accademia Nazionale Dei Lincei.

Callan was an outstanding scientist, but science did not dominate his life. He worked a nine to six, five day week. He never worked evenings or weekends. He spent his leisure time fishing, hunting, shooting or with his wide circle of friends. He and Amaryllis were famous for their generous hospitality and for their happy home which consisted two daughters, one son, and later many grandchildren. Callan has been described as: "a man of immense and solid integrity' (Herbert Macgregor) and "a straightforward, down-to-earth man, who had the time of day for all with whom he came in contact' (St Andrews Citizen, 12 November 1993, p.11). He was widely respected and loved by colleagues, friends and family.


In many respects the collection retains the same system of arrangement used by Callan. It is apparent that many of the files were lifted from Callan's filing cabinets before being transferred to the University Library, especially the correspondence. Much of the material was also transferred to the Library in its original box files with Callan's handwriting labelling the outside of the boxes. Following his death the collection seems to have been sorted through by Mrs Lydia Lloyd, his laboratory assistant (her handwriting appeared on many of the folders). She seems to have re-imposed order to some of the files.


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to all bona fide researchers from higher education institutions in the United Kingdom, and to all others having reasonable need to use it. For specific regulations and opening hours contact the Library. Please note some parts of the collection may be closed, at the discretion of the Keeper of Manuscripts, for preservation reasons.

Acquisition Information

The bulk of the collection was gifted to the University by Professor Callan's Estate shortly after Callan's death, probably in 1994, but was not accessioned until 1998. Some of the teaching material (mainly photography) which remained in the Department was transferred to the University Library by Dr Martin Milner in 1999. Dr Milner transferred the papers relating to Professor Cheke in 2001. The newt hybrid research papers (ms38571) were transferred to the University, with Professor Macgregor's agreement, in 2002 by Joanna Cordon, Archivist, The Royal Society of London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG.


Papers relating to the administration of the Zoology Department by Callan were destroyed by members of the department following Callan's retirement from the Chair.

Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project Archivist, based on a description by Anne M R Thompson.

Other Finding Aids

The collection was catalogued between July 2002 and April 2003 under the auspices of a grant from the Wellcome Trust - British Library programme for "Research Resources in Medical History". The cataloguing archivist was Anne M R Thompson. The listing is available on the Library's manuscripts database. A number of supplementary entries offering additional biographical information for many of the correspondents are also available.

Conditions Governing Use

Small quantities of photocopying and photographic coping may be done for research purposes with permission of the Keeper of Manuscripts and in compliance with copyright law. The collection comprises material with various copyright owners.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 227 procedures.

Custodial History

Callan's papers were created by and resided with him until his death in 1993. Some of Callan's teaching material remained in the Zoology Department and continued in use. The papers concerning Callan's newt hybrid research (ms38571) were initially entrusted to Professor Herbert Macgregor following Callan's death. In 2001 Professor Macgregor deposited the papers with the Royal Society. The notes taken by Robert A. Cheke of lectures delivered by Callan to undergraduates were acquired by Dr Martin Milner, senior lecturer in biology.



Related Material

Some of Callan's teaching material remains within the Zoology Department. The University of St Andrews Museums Collections holds many artefacts relating to Callan, including his inverted microscopes.


The only known publications using the collection are those scientific papers written by Callan.

Additional Information

The location of original correspondence for which there are copies within the collection is unknown. The existence and location of copies from the collection is also unknown.