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Lancelot Hogben (1895-1975)

British zoologist and statistician Lancelot Hogben was born into a Methodist family in Southsea. He showed scientific talent in school and won a scholarship for Cambridge, where he developed an interest in socialism. Later he became a conscientious objector during the First World War, and for this act spent a few months in prison. After lecturing and academic posts he became Professor of Zoology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa in 1927. There he researched the physiology of the local frog species Xenopus, which led to the development of a frog-based pregnancy test.

Despite the fruitful research, Hogben’s objections to the politics of race in South Africa saw him return to Britain a few years later. During his later career he continued to pursue his goal of social improvement with the publication of science books for the general public. These included Mathematics for the Million (1936) and Science for the Citizen (1938). Hogben was in charge of medical statistics for the army during the Second World War, and later studied human genetics. He continued to be a pacifist and remained opposed to the science of race and eugenics throughout his life.

 

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Bibliography

R Bud, "Hogben, Lancelot Thomas (1895–1975)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2007 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31244, accessed 30 Sept 2009]

A Hogben and A Hogben (eds), Lancelot Hogben: Scientific Humanist (Suffolk: Merlin Press, 1998)

Glossary:

Eugenics

The study of human improvement by selective breeding, founded in the 1800s by English scientist Sir Francis Galton. Widely discredited after its use by the Nazi regime.