University of Birmingham Staff Papers: Papers of Lancelot Thomas Hogben

Scope and Content

First deposit: 1926-1978, represents several of Hogben's interests, including mathematics, statistics, popular education, and language; the amount of scientific material is small. Of interest are the autobiographical notes and manuscripts of various unpublished projects.

Second deposit: 1942-1980 correspondence of Professor G.P.Wells with Hogben's family, friends and colleagues, his notes and drafts for the Royal Society memoir Biographical Memoirs of Fellow of the Royal Society , 1978 and printed and duplicated background material for the memoir.

Third deposit: further drafts of the unpublished autobiography, and the "Hogben files" of his literary agent Helga Green.

Fourth deposit: Copies of papers presented at the Hogben Symposium, 1997, and of reviews of a biography of Hogben.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lancelot Thomas Hogben, 1895-1975, biologist, was born into a fundamentalist Methodist family in Southsea, Portsmouth; his father was a preacher. It was assumed Hogben would go into the missionary field, but he began to doubt the literal truth of the Bible as he became more interested in science, although he always remained a Christian and at Cambridge he professed scientific humanism. Hogben was educated at Middlesex County Secondary School, Trinity College Cambridge and London University. During the First World War he became a conscientious objector, for which he was imprisoned for three months. In 1917 he was appointed lecturer in zoology at Birkbeck College, London and in the same year he married Enid, daughter of James Charles, a Welsh Congregational minister. She was a graduate of Liverpool University and shared his socialist views. In 1919 Hogben moved to the Royal College of Science where he had facilities for experimental work, and did some original research on chromosome cytology. In 1922 he moved to Edinburgh as deputy to F.A.E.Crew, director of the Institute of Animal Genetics, continuing research on color changes and metamorphosis in amphibians. In 1925 he took up a new post as assistant professor of medical zoology in McGill University, Montreal where he published important papers on the blood of invertebrates. In 1927 Hogben became professor of zoology at the University of Capetown. There he investigated the endocrine physiology of Xenopus, a local toad: this led to the Hogben pregnancy test. In 1930 he was appointed to the new research professorship of social biology at the London School of Economics. In 1936 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.

In 1933 Hogben wrote the very successful Mathematics for the Million followed by Science for the Citizen in 1938. In 1937 Hogben moved back to Scotland as Regius Professor of Natural History in Aberdeen, where he developed an interest in linguistics. In 1941 he moved to Birmingham University, first as Mason Professor of Zoology and in 1947 as professor of medical statistics, a chair which was created for him. There he did research on temperature control in invertebrates and the sense organs of Drosophile. In 1942 he underwent an operation to correct an overactive thyroid and again in 1951. At this time he became estranged from his wife Enid and they finally divorced in 1957, Hogben going on to marry a local headmistress, Sarah Jane Roberts, widow. In 1961 he retired and they settled to Glyn Ceiriog, Wales, apart from a brief spell as vice-chancellor of the newly founded University of Guyana, 1963-1965. In 1963 he was awarded two honorary degrees - D.Sc. (Wales) and LLD (Birmingham).

Reference: Lord Blake and C.S.Nicholls, editors, The Dictionary of National Biography 1971-1980 ( Oxford, 1986 ).

For further reading about the University of Birmingham see: Eric Ives, Diane Drummond, Leonard Schwarz The First Civic University: Birmingham 1880-1980 An Introductory History ( The University of University of Birmingham Press. 2000 ).


The papers in each deposit are all arranged in the following series: Biographical and personal papers; notes and working papers including work on mathematics; work on language; drafts and publications; correspondence.

Access Information

Closure periods apply to some of the more recent papers, please contact the Archivist for further details. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

The first deposit was received in 1981. The second deposit was received in 1991. The third deposit was received in 1994; and the fourth in 1998.

Other Finding Aids

Please see full catalogue for more details.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

University of Birmingham Information Services, Special Collections Department also holds the archives of the University of Birmingham and archives of other former staff, officials and students.