Papers and correspondence of David Lambert Lack, 1910-1973

Scope and Content

The papers include early work as a schoolboy, journals and diaries of field trips and expeditions, and notes, observations, drafts, manuscripts and correspondence on almost all areas of Lack's activities, such as Galapagos finches, speciation, clutch size, titmice, swifts, robins, migration, population studies, adaptation, island birds, and evolution and religion. There are also notebooks on radar monitoring of bird migration. There is extensive correspondence, since many collaborators including amateur ornithologists and members of the public contributed data and comments for Lack's research and published work.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lack was born in London and educated at Gresham's School, Holt, Norfolk, 1924-1928 and Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he read for the Natural Sciences Tripos, 1929-1933, specialising in zoology for Part II. He was zoology master at Dartington Hall School, 1933-1940, taking a year off, 1938-1939, to study bird behaviour on the Galapagos Islands. During the Second World War he was recruited for operational research and was involved in early work on radar. In 1945 Lack moved to Oxford University as Director of the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology where he remained for the rest of his life. He became a Professorial Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford in 1963.

Lack was one of the leading figures in British ornithology. His scientific research was on various aspects of speciation, population control, group selection, and ecological isolation. He also wrote two widely read books of more general interest, The life of the robin and Swifts in a tower. Lack was converted to Christianity in 1948 and wrote Evolutionary theory and Christian belief (1958) as well as articles and papers on science and religion. He was elected FRS in 1951.


By section as follows: Biographical, Diaries, albums and journals, Work on Galapagos finches, Work on speciation, Work on clutch size, Work on titmice, Work on swifts, Work on robins, Work on migration, Work for the National Regulation of Animal Numbers, population studies of birds and Enjoying Ornithology, Work for ecological adaptions for breeding in birds, Work on island birds, Work for ecological isolation in birds, Work on Jamaican birds, Work for Evolution Illustrated by Wildfowl, Work on various ornithological subjects, Work on evolution of religion, Conferences and committees, Correspondence, Radar work, Publications and broadcasts. Index of correspondents.

Access Information

Access to all bona fide researchers. Contact the Librarian.

Other Finding Aids

Printed catalogue of the papers and correspondence of David Lambert Lack (1910-1973) by J. Alton and H. Weiskittel, CSAC catalogue no. 20/14/74, 41 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath

Custodial History

Received in 1973-1974 by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre from the Edward Grey Institute, Oxford and Mrs Elizabeth Lack, widow. Deposited in the Library of the Edward Grey Institute, Oxford in 1974.