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Lampreys, Lungfish and Elasmobranchs: Cambridge Zoology and the Politics of Animal Selection

Helen Blackman
The British Journal for the History of Science
Vol. 40, No. 3 (Sep., 2007), pp. 413-437
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4500750
Page Count: 25
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Lampreys, Lungfish and Elasmobranchs: Cambridge Zoology and the Politics of Animal Selection
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Abstract

The Cambridge school of animal morphology dominated British zoology in the late nineteenth century. Historians have argued that they were very successful until the death of their leader F. M. Balfour in 1882, when the school all but died with him. This paper argues that their initial success came about because their work fitted well with the university in the 1870s and 1880s. They attempted to trace evolutionary trees by studying individual development. To do this they needed access to species they considered primitive. Balfour made use of his social networks to aid the school and to collect the specimens they needed for their work. The school has been portrayed as failing in the 1890s when students rejected dry laboratory-bound studies. However, a new generation of researchers who followed Balfour had to travel extensively if they were to obtain the organisms they needed. International travel was popular amongst zoologists and the Cambridge school developed their own extensive networks. A new breed of adventurer-zoologists arose, but because of the school's tenuous position within the university they were unable to equal Balfour's success.

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