Papers and correspondence of Cyril Dean Darlington, 1903-1981

Scope and Content

The papers provide full documentation for all aspects of Darlington's career. There is much autobiographical and personal material in the form of narratives, diaries and jotters, and family correspondence including letters and cards exchanged with his parents, 1920-1949. There are records of Darlington's own career at the John Innes Horticultural Institution and of general administration and organisation, 1923-1953, and later correspondence and papers, 1954-1980, including the Institution's move to Norwich, 1965-1967. There are records of his Oxford career including his interest in the Botanic and Genetic Gardens and the Nuneham Courtenay Arboretum and his involvement in 'Oxford reform' controversies, 1958-1970. The research material in the papers corresponds to Darlington's own designations and includes his own early notebooks and observations and a large component relating to the history of science, notably William Bateson and N.I. Vavilov, Russian genetics and the Lysenko controversy.

The most substantial body of material relates to Darlington's publications. The material includes scientific papers of all periods and technical range, as also the drafts and publishing history of the major books on evolution published in his later years, The evolution of man and society, 1969, and The little universe of man, 1978. There are also records of lectures and broadcasts, and societies and organisations including a full account of the journal Heredity founded by Darlington and R.A. Fisher and subsequently transferred to the Genetical Society. Visits and conferences documented include the formative early visits to Persia, USA and Japan, the Klampenborg meeting in 1938, and various International Genetics Conferences in which Russian colleagues were involved, or forbidden to be involved. There are also records of the International Chromosome Conferences which Darlington considered to be one of his most important tasks at Oxford. Darlington's scientific correspondence contains some extended exchanges with colleagues such as J.B.S. Haldane, J.S. Huxley, E.K. Janaki-Ammal, P.C. Koller and H.J. Muller.

Administrative / Biographical History

Darlington was born in Chorley, Lancashire and educated at Mercer's School, Holborn, 1912-1917, St Paul's School, 1917-1920, and Wye College, Ashford, 1920-1923. In 1923 he began an association of more than thirty years with the John Innes Horticultural Institution which he entered as a 'volunteer unpaid worker', later becoming head of the Cytology Department in 1937 and Director in 1939. Here much of his most important work on cytology and chromosome theory was done augmented by expeditions and work abroad and by contacts with many distinguished British, American and Russian workers in the field. In 1953 Darlington resigned from the Institution, which had removed in 1949 from its original home at Merton to a new site at Bayfordbury near Hertford, and accepted the Sherardian Professorship of Botany at Oxford. Here, in addition to his research, teaching and publication, he took a keen interest in the Botanic Garden, created the Genetic Garden, played an active part in the acquisition of the Nuneham Courtenay Arboretum, and took up the cause of extending the teaching of genetics in particular and science in general in the university. A lasting result was the new School of Human Sciences, which he encouraged. On retirement in 1971 Darlington remained in Oxford where he continued to study and publish extensively until his death. He was elected FRS in 1941(Royal Medal 1946).


By section as follows: Biographical and personal, John Innes Horticultural Institution, Oxford, Research, Publications, Lectures and broadcasts, Societies and organisations, Visits and conferences, Correspondence. Index of correspondents.

Access Information

Entry permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card or an Oxford University Card displaying the Bodleian logo. All applicants for new or replacement cards must apply in person, with a recommendation and payment if required, and with proof of their identity.

Some items not available for periods of 30, 40 and 50 years from date of writing.

Other Finding Aids

Printed catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Cyril Dean Darlington (1903-1981) by J. Alton and P. Harper, CSAC catalogue no. 106/3/85, 261 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Separated Material

Some records of Darlington's career, and taped interviews conducted by B.J. Harrison, are held at the John Innes Institute, Norwich.

Correspondence, notes and a partial draft of the book Darlington was working on at the time of his death, 'A diagram of evolution', were retained by his literary executor, P.D.A. Harvey.

The war memoirs of Alfred Darlington, brother, are held in the Imperial War Museum, London.

The papers of John Harvey, cousin, which include further correspondence of the Darlington family, particularly in the period 1895-1912, are held at the Royal Institute of British Architects, London.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1981-1985 by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre from Mrs Gwendolen Darlington, widow, and Professor P.D.A. Harvey, stepson and literary executor. Placed in Bodleian Library (gift) in 1985.