Nom compte triple : directeur du « National Physical Laboratory » pendant la seconde guerre mondiale, ce petit-fils de Charles Darwin et petit cousin de Charles Galton (père de l’eugénisme) eu pour belle-fille une certaine Huxley (Angela).
Sir Charles Galton Darwin, KBE, MC, FRS (18 December 1887 – 31 December 1962) was an English physicist, the grandson of Charles Darwin. He served as director of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) during the Second World War.
Darwin was born in Cambridge, England into a scientific dynasty, the son of the mathematician Sir George Howard Darwin and the grandson of Charles Darwin. His mother was Lady Darwin, Maud du Puy of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His elder sister was the artistGwen Raverat, and his younger sister Margaret married Geoffrey Keynes, the brother of the economist John Maynard Keynes. His younger brother William Robert Darwin was a London stockbroker. Darwin was educated at Marlborough College and, in 1910, he graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge in mathematics.
He secured a post-graduate position at the Victoria University of Manchester, working under Ernest Rutherford and Niels Bohr on Rutherford’s atomic theory. In 1912, his interests developed into using his mathematical skills assisting Henry Moseley on X-raydiffraction. His two 1914 papers on diffraction of X-rays from perfect crystals became often cited classics.
On the outbreak of World War I, he joined the Royal Engineers, where he worked on problems in ballistics. From 1919 to 1922 he was a lecturer and fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge where he worked with R.H. Fowler on statistical mechanics and, what came to be known as, the Darwin–Fowler method. He then worked for a year at the California Institute of Technology before becoming Tait Professor ofNatural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh in 1924, working on quantum optics and magneto-optic effects. He was the first in 1928, to calculate the fine structure of the hydrogen atom under P.A.M. Dirac‘s relativistic theory of the electron.
In 1936 Darwin became master of Christ’s College, beginning his career as an active and able administrator, becoming director of theNational Physical Laboratory on the approach of war in 1938. He served in the role into the post-war period, unafraid to seek improved laboratory performance through re-organisation, but spending much of the war years working on the Manhattan Project coordinating the American, British, and Canadian efforts.
He was appointed KBE in 1942; he was cremated at Cambridge Crematorium on January 4, 1963. He and his late wife are commemorated with a memorial at St. Botolph’s Church, Cambridge.
- Cecily Darwin (born 1926) became an X-ray crystallographer and in 1951 married John Littleton of Philadelphia.
George Pember Darwin (1928–2001) worked developing computers, and then (1964) married Angela Huxley, daughter of David Bruce Huxley. She was also a granddaughter of the writer Leonard Huxley and a great-granddaughter of Thomas Huxley, « Darwin’s Bulldog ».
- Henry Galton Darwin (1929–1992) was with the British Foreign Office, and married Jane Christie.
- Francis William Darwin (1932–2001) was a zoologist and taught at the University of London, and married in 1974.
- Edward Leonard Darwin (born 1934) became a civil engineer.
On his retirement, his attention turned to issues of population, genetics and eugenics. His conclusions were pessimistic and entailed a resigned belief in an inevitable Malthusian catastrophe, as described in his 1952 book The Next Million Years. He first argued in this book that voluntary birth control (family planning) establishes a selective system that ensures its own failure. The cause is that people with the strongest instinct for wanting children will have the largest families and they will hand on the instinct to their children, while those with weaker instincts will have smaller families and will hand on that instinct to their children. In the long run society will consist mainly of people with the strongest instinct to reproduce. This would ultimately have dysgeneic effects.
In later years he travelled widely, an enthusiastic collaborator across national borders and an able communicator of scientific ideas. He died in Cambridge and is buried in St Botolph Church’s Mill Road Cemetery, Cambridge.