Lord Avebury (1834–1913)

Abstract

THE centenary of the birth of Sir John Lubbock, afterwards Lord Avebury, occurs on April 30, and the occasion should not be allowed to pass without grateful tribute to his memory. It is perhaps difficult for the younger generation to realise the distinguished position which that great Victorian held in the scientific world of his day. In the present era of specialisation many may underrate the claims to greatness of one who was an amateur naturalist and a popular writer. But a more careful consideration of his work and aims will show that he helped to lay those foundations of science and scientific education which has given the present generation of professional scientific workers the opportunities they now enjoy. We must remember that in the days when science was not included in the ordinary school curriculum, and was a negligible part of a university education, the advance of science was largely due to the work of amateurs, such as Charles Darwin, Sir John Lubbock the banker, Sir Joseph Prestwich the wine-merchant, and Sir John Evans, a paper manufacturer. Not that there was anything amateurish in the work of these pioneers. They were capable of intensive and fundamental researches, and Lord Avebury's “Monograph on the Collembola and Thysanura”, published by the Ray Society, is sufficient proof of his capacity for thorough and detailed investigation, and will remain an authoritative and standard account of these groups of insects. It was the wideness of his interests, and not any lack of thoroughness, which both prevented Lord Avebury from continuing his researches in one branch of science and at the same time caused him to become an all-round naturalist of remarkable attainments.

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