C. H. Waddington Archive

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The Waddington Archive consists of scientific notebooks and bundles of notes; manuscripts and typescripts of essays, articles and larger works; photographic illustrations for publications; correspondence with publishers; correspondence with scientific journals; scientific correspondence; correspondence with societies; material relating to meetings and conferences; papers and books for review; University of Edinburgh files; and other miscellaneous files. The Archive also contains confidential personal files which are not available for consultation until 2025.

Administrative / Biographical History

Conrad Hal Waddington was born in Evesham, 8 November 1905. The son of a tea planter, he spent the first three years of his life in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu (South India). At the age of four he returned to England to live with an aunt and uncle on a farm in Sedgeberrow. After sharing a governess with his cousin, he went to Aymestry House Preparatory School in Malvern Link at the age of nine. A scholarship to Clifton followed, and a move to Weybridge, living with his grandmother. It was his grandmother who encouraged his early interests in natural history, geology and archaeology. After Clifton he went to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, on a scholarship, and took the Natural Sciences Tripos in 1926. Early postgraduate years included studies in palaeontology, philosophy, geology, and embryology. Between 1933 and 1945, Waddington was Embryologist and Lecturer in Zoology at Strangeways Research Laboratory, Cambridge. He was a Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge, 1934-45. During the Second World War, Waddington worked on photographic reconnaissance and with anti-shipping strikes. In 1945 came a first offer of a chair of genetics at Edinburgh University, but Waddington declined because he felt his future lay with the new National Animal Breeding and Genetics Research Organisation (NABGRO). When it was suggested however that NABGRO might be found a permanent headquarters in Edinburgh, with Waddington combining the position of chief geneticist at the Organisation with the chair of animal genetics at the University, he agreed, and a research institute grew in Edinburgh from 1947 (the Institute of Animal Genetics). Into the 1950s, this grew into the largest genetics department in the UK and one of the largest in the world. By the end of the 1950s though, the research institute had become more and more compartmentalised, and Waddington himself had become interested in the setting up of an Epigenetics Laboratory. Into the 1960s, he played a major role in the expansion of the biological faculty of Edinburgh University. In 1970, he accepted an invitation from the State University of New York to spend two years in Buffalo occupying the Albert Einstein Chair in Science. While in Buffalo, and shortly before his return to Edinburgh in 1973, Waddington suffered a heart attack. Following a further heart attack outside his home, he died on 26 September 1975. Waddington had been awarded the CBE in 1958, and had been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1948. He became a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1959 and of the Finnish Academy in 1957. In 1974 he had been elected a Fellow of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina, a scientific academy dating from 1677. Waddington held honorary degrees from Aberdeen, Dublin, Geneva, Montreal and Prague. He had a long record of publication, from 1939 to the 1970s.

Conditions Governing Access

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Other Finding Aids

Handlist, H41