Conrad Hal Waddington was born in Evesham on 8 November 1905 to Hal and Mary Ellen (Warner) Waddington. He spent his first few years on a tea estate in South India, where his father was a tea planter. He married Justin, daughter of the writer Amber Reeves, and is the father of mathematician Dusa McDuff and anthropologist Caroline Humphrey.
C. H. Waddington was educated at Clifton College, a coeducational public school in Bristol, England, and at the University of Cambridge. At Cambridge he took the natural sciences tripos and graduated in geology in 1926. His postgraduate work included studies in geology, palaeontology, philosophy and embryology. From 1930 to 1945, he was embryologist and lecturer in zoology at Strangeways Research Laboratory, Cambridge. During World War II, he engaged in operations research for the military, working, among other things, on photographic reconnaissance.
Beginning in 1945, Waddington occupied the position of chief geneticist at the new National Animal Breeding and Genetics Research Organization. In 1947, he combined that position with the position of chair of animal genetics at the University of Edinburgh, thereby forming the Institute of Animal Genetics. This had the effect of making the genetics department the largest in the United Kingdom and one of the largest in the world. In 1970, he accepted the invitation of the State University of New York at Buffalo to spend two years as the Albert Einstein Chair in Science.
Among his many honours and awards were honorary degrees from the universities of Aberdeen, Dublin, Geneva, Montreal and Prague. From 1934 to 1945, he was Elected Fellow of Christ’s College, University of Cambridge. Other honours include: 1948, Elected Fellow, Royal Society; 1957, Elected Member, Finnish Academy; 1958, Awarded CBE; 1959, Elected Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences; 1974, Elected Fellow, Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina.
The 1971 Gifford Lectures given at the University of Edinburgh by C. H. Waddington, A. J. P. Kenny, H. C. Longuet-Higgins and J. R. Lucas resulted in two books: The Nature of Mind(1972) and The Development of Mind (1973). Other books by Mr. Waddington include:Introduction to Modern Genetics (1939); Organisers and Genes (1940); The Scientific Attitude (1941); The Epigenetics of Birds (1952); Principles of Embryology (1956); The Ethical Animal (1960); The Nature of Life (1961); New Patterns in Genetics and Development(1962); Towards a Theoretical Biology, vols. 1 and 2 (1969), vol. 3 (1970); Behind Appearances (1970); Operational Research in World War Two (1973); and The Evolution of an Evolutionist (1975). In addition, he edited Science and Ethics (1942) and Principles of Development and Differentiation (1966).
Conrad Hal Waddington died 26 September 1975.