Past President Memoirs

Genetics in the UK and beyond, experienced through the Memoirs of the Presidents of the Genetics Society, 1919 -1990

UK geneticists played seminal roles in the development of genetics throughout the 20th Century.  Together with leading geneticists in the United States, the majority of the principles and investigations of genetics, and supporting subjects such as statistics, came from UK scientists.  Most of the UK leading geneticists were members of the Genetics Society and a few became Presidents.  All Presidents, with the exception of Edith Rebecca Saunders, were Fellows of the Royal Society of London.  Edith Saunders was a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society.

It is a tradition of the Royal Society that each of its Fellows is honoured by the publication of a Memoir documenting their life and contributions to science following their death.  Consequently, there are Memoirs available for scrutiny of almost all the Genetics Society Presidents from 1919 to 1990, in the on-line archives of the Royal Society.

This set of Memoirs is a wonderful record of the developments in genetics over this seminal period.  Each provides an extraordinary accounts, including family, upbringing, career development and, especially important, the intellectual and practical challenges in genetics at the time together with the breakthroughs in thinking, and their experiments, whether it be on crop plants, fungi, humans, bacteria, phage or viruses.

(Of course, many other outstanding geneticists did not happen to become President of the Genetics Society or a Fellow of the Royal Society!)

I encourage you to pick favourite names, eras, topics or whatever interests you from the list and read a few Memoirs. You might end up reading them all!

Richard B Flavell, CBE FRS

1919-1930 The Right Hon. The Earl of Balfour FRS
1930-1932 Professor RC Punnett FRS
1932-1936 Professor JBS Haldane FRS
1936-1938 Miss Edith Rebecca Saunders FRHS
1938-1940 Professor FAE Crew FRS
1940-1943 Professor Sir Ronald Fisher FRS
1943-1946 Professor CD Darlington FRS
1946-1949 Professor EB Ford FRS
1949-1952 Professor Sir Kenneth Mather FRS
1952-1955 Professor SC Harland FRS
1955-1958 Professor LS Penrose FRS
1958-1961 Professor CH Waddington FRS
1961-1964 Professor DG Catcheside FRS
1964-1966 Professor G Pontecorvo FRS
1966-1968 Professor Charlotte Auerbach FRS
1968-1971 Professor D Lewis FRS
1971-1973 Professor W Hayes FRS
1973-1975 Professor R Riley FRS
1975-1978 Professor JM Thoday FRS
1978-1981 Professor JRS Fincham FRS
1981-1984 Professor J Jinks FRS
1984-1987 Professor Sir DA Hopwood FRS
1987-1990 Professor NE Murray FRS