Hogben, Lancelot


Lancelot Hogben, although less famous than contemporaries such as RA Fisher, Julian Huxley and JBS Haldane, left a lasting impression on twentieth‐ and twenty‐first‐century biology. Hogben's extensive background in experimental biology led him to introduce the interdependence of nature and nurture as a concept and tool for critiquing eugenic attempts to partition nature and nurture. This attention to the interdependence of nature and nurture can be traced into modern scientific practice (in research on gene–environment interaction, phenotypic plasticity and developmental systems theory) as well as modern scientific debate (in disputes over the limits of the human genome project, the heritability wars and the geneticisation of complex human traits).

Keywords: eugenics; gene–environment interaction; geneticisation; interdependence of nature and nurture; JBS Haldane; Julian Huxley; nature/nurture debate; RA Fisher; Xenopus laevis

Figure 1.

Lancelot Thomas Hogben, Hogben Papers, Special Collections, University of Birmingham. Reproduced with permission from the Special Collections, University of Birmingham.



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Hogben L (1937) Mathematics for the Million. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc.

Hogben L (1938) Science for the Citizen: A Self‐Educator Based on the Social Background of Scientific Discovery. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Hogben L (1943) Interglossa: A Draft of an Auxiliary for a Democratic World Order, Being an Attempt to Apply Semantic Principles to Language Design. New York: Penguin Books.

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Hogben L (1959a) The Wonderful World of Communication. Garden City, NY: Garden City Books.

Hogben L (1959b) The Signs of Civilisation. London: Rathbone Books.

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Hogben L (1965) The Mother Tongue. New York: Norton.

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Huxley JS and Hogben L (1922) Experiments on amphibian metamorphosis and pigment responses in relation to internal secretions. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 93: 36–53.

Tabery J (2008) R.A. Fisher, Lancelot Hogben, and the origin(s) of genotype‐environment interaction. Journal of the History of Biology 41: 717–761.

Further Reading

Kevles DJ (1995) In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Mazumdar PMH (1992) Eugenics, Human Genetics, and Human Failings: The Eugenics Society, its Sources and its Critics in Britain. London: Routledge.

Sarkar S (1996) Lancelot Hogben, 1895–1975. Genetics 142: 655–660.

Tabery J (2006) Looking back on Lancelot's laughter. Mendel Newsletter 15: 10–17.

Tabery J (2007) Biometric and developmental gene‐environment interactions: looking back, moving forward. Development and Psychopathology 19: 961–976.

Wells GP (1978) Lancelot Thomas Hogben. Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society of London 24: 183–221.

Werskey G (1978) The Visible College: The Collective Biography of British Scientific Socialists of the 1930s. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

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Tabery, James(Mar 2011) Hogben, Lancelot. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0023110]