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Sir Edwin Ray Lankester (1847–1929)

Nature volume 159, page 734 (31 May 1947) | Download Citation



THE greatest morphologist of his generation, Sir Edwin Ray Lankester was born a century ago, on May 15, 1847. He was the son of a medical man, he taught medical students, and throughout his career delighted in making zoology serve medicine. When he graduated at Oxford hi 1870, biology was still regarded as an apanage of medicine. Those desirous of devoting their lives to the pursuit of comparative anatomy, zoology or physiology had to seek a post at a medical school. It was Huxley who urged budding biologists to seek out independent paths for themselves. In 1874, Ray Lankester, then aged twenty-seven, was appointed to the Jodrell chair of zoology at University College, London. In 1891 he became Linacre professor of comparative anatomy at Oxford, returning to London two years later to succeed Sir William Flower as director of the British Museum (Natural History). On his retirement at the age of sixty he was created K.C.B. A tireless worker and a prolific writer, Ray Lankester's individual contributions to zoology were numerous and distinguished ; yet he was at home in almost all fields of biological knowledge. A massive yet nimble mind dwelt in a massive frame. Impatient, utterly fearless, sociable, charming, with a deep booming voice, Ray Lankester was one of the most brilliant and imaginative lecturers in British science. He died on August 15, 1929.

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