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Conwy Lloyd Morgan

Professor Emeritus of Zoology and Geology, University of Bristol
1852 to 1936

Conwy Lloyd Morgan, comparative psychologist and philosopher, was born in London on 6 February 1852, to James Arthur Morgan, solicitor, and his wife, Mary Anderson. He began his education at the Brenchley, Kent, and at the Royal Grammar School, Guildford, his parents having moved to Weybridge a few years after his birth. Lloyd Moran was attracted to scientific studies and at the age of seventeen entered the School of Mines in London, where he was a Duke of Cornwall Scholar, with the intention of becoming a mining engineer. Although he excelled in his studies, he became increasingly interested in the pursuit of pure science. On earning his diploma as associate in mining and metallurgy, he accepted a position as a private tutor to a wealthy Chicago family. Such a position gave him the opportunity to travel extensively in North and South America. When he returned, he resumed his scientific studies at the Royal College of Science, where he worked, among other teachers, under T. H. Huxley.

While a student at the Royal College of Science, Lloyd Morgan acted as an assayer for a mining company in Cornwall. He was also a lecturer at Weybridge School and, later, visiting master at Chatham School, Ramsgate. His first regular professional post was in South Africa at the Diocesan College at Rondebosch, where he was appointed in 1878 not only to teach the physical sciences but also English literature and even constitutional history.

On 12 June 1878, he married Emily Charlotte Maddock (b. 1850/51), daughter of the Reverend Henry William Maddock, vicar of All Saints, St John’s Wood, London. They had two sons.

In 1884, Lloyd Morgan returned to England to succeed W. J. Sollas in the chair of geology and zoology at University College, Bristol, where he spent the rest of his professional career. In 1887, he was elected principal of the college. In 1910, the university charter was granted and Lloyd Morgan accepted the vice-chancellorship of the new university to give it a start. After about three months, he resigned and resumed the work of his chair, by then named the chair of psychology and ethics, from which he retired in 1919. He lived on in Clifton until 1926, and even returned to the university upon occasion to give temporary assistance in the department of philosophy, as it had then become.

In the English-speaking world, Lloyd Morgan was one of the chief founders of the scientific study of animal psychology. He was among the first to apply systematically the methods of experiment to the subject, and the results of his investigations appeared in a long series of publications. The most important are: Animal Life and Intelligence (1890/91); Habit and Instinct (1896); Animal Behaviour (1900); and Instinct and Experience (1912). In the early 1890s, along With J. M. Baldwin, H. F. Osborn and E. B. Poulton, Lloyd Morgan arrived at the theory of organic selection, or the Baldwin effect.

In 1925, Lloyd Morgan retired to Hastings. He died at his home, 23 Elphinstone Road, on 6 March 1936. He was buried at the borough cemetery, Hastings.

His work includes: Water and Its Teachings (1882), Facts Around Us (1884); Animal Biology: An Elementary Text-Book (1889); Springs of Conduct (1892); An Introduction to Comparative Psychology (1894); Interpretation of Nation (1906); Psychology for Teachers (1909);Emergent Evolution (1923); Life, Mind and Spirit (1926); Animal Mind (1930); and Mind at the Crossways (1930).

*From G. C. Field, revised by J. F. M. Clark, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography(Oxford University Press, 2004),

  • Kelly Van Andel, University of Glasgow