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Cyril Dean Darlington

(1903—1981) cytogeneticist and evolutionist


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British geneticist, whose work on the structure and behaviour of chromosomes in the cell nucleus helped establish the fundamental importance of cytology in genetics. Born in Chorley, Lancashire, Darlington received his BSc degree from Wye College, London University. In 1923 he joined the John Innes Horticultural Institute as a volunteer, rising to become head of the cytology department (1936) and ultimately director (1939). Darlington's main interest was the mechanism by which homologous chromosomes associate and exchange genetic material during cell division (meiosis). He demonstrated that the points of contact (chiasmata) between the chromosomes resulted from the prior crossing over of their duplicate strands and that in certain species these chiasmata migrated to the ends of the chromosomes, resulting in a loop. This process, which he called ‘terminalization’, accounted for many hitherto unresolved cytological phenomena. He published the influential Recent Advances in Cytology in 1932 and in The Evolution of Genetic Systems (1939) he examined the significance of nuclear cytology to population genetics and evolution.

In later life, Darlington increasingly sought to explain the currents of human history in terms of genetic and cultural interactions. The Evolution of Man and Society (1969) was greeted with fierce controversy, with what some critics saw as racist implications. Darlington was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1941 and received its royal medal in 1946. He was a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford (1953–71), and made emeritus professor on his retirement.

From Who's Who in the Twentieth Century in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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