Members at our 2007 BBQ

Cardiff
Naturalists' Society


Cymdeithas Naturiaethwr
Gaerdydd

 

 

Professor John Berry Haycraft D.Sc., F.R.S.E. (1859-1922) 34th President


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Born in Sussex, he received his medical education in Edinburgh where in 1881 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. That same year he moved to Birmingham to take up the chair of physiology at Mason College. Because of the nature of his studies which involved direct animal experimentation it is recorded that then travelled to Strasbourg as he had "dificulties in obtaining a licence" for his work in the UK. This work published in both English and German as a key piece of research in 1884 described that the Medicinal leech secreted a powerful anticoagulant, which he named hirudin. There is a nice podcast and description about that here

In the same year he began a series of lectures which would ultimately be published as the book "Darwinism and Race Progress" which covers many topics that would today be classed as Eugenics, and is still often referenced in books discussing that subject. it is available in text, epub and kindle form here and as a PDF download here

Haycraft returned to London in 1892 and was appointed a research scholar of the British Medical Association, and then in 1893 he was appointed chair of physiology at University College, Cardiff, where he worked until retirement in 1920.

During his time in Cardiff he was involved in many things, mostly related to his activities with the University. He clearly had a great interest professionally in the topic of public health, he lectured on the topic and he was involved with the campaign to establish a public laboratory in Cardiff. The location mentioned in the advertisment is the current Queens Building of the university which still houses a number of departments

Advertisment, South Wales Echo 18th March 1897

Advertisment, South Wales Echo 18th March 1897

Public Laboratories. Proposed New Department At Cardiff, Evening Express 23rd March 1897

Public Laboratories. Proposed New Department At Cardiff, Evening Express 23rd March 1897

In addition to this there are newspaper articles in 1898 regading evidence he gave in relation to court cases in relation to adulteration of milk and butter with boric acid (obstensively used to preserve, but controversial as it was also used to be able to pass off stale milk as fresh)

He was duly elected to join Cardiff Naturalists' Society and in 1898 as reported below, he was elected to be president of the Society. (An interesting note that "The members left Cardiff by a special through train at 8.25 a.m., arriving, at Salisbury at 11.40" this was not the only time that such a train was laid on for the members of the society and we have some wonderful records of such in our archives)

South Wales Echo 23rd June 1898

South Wales Echo 23rd June 1898

This would have made him the 26th president, however it was noted soon after that

CARDIFF NATURALISTS' SOCIETY. The annual meeting of the Cardiff Naturalists' Society was held at the South Wales Institute of Engineers, when Dr. C. T. Vachell was elected president for the ensuing session. It was a matter of deep regret to the members that Professor J. B. Haycraft, of the University College, was unable to take the office for the ensuing year, owing to continued ill-health.

He was able to continue a level of study at this time as show by a number of newspaper articles

The Beating Human Heart.

The Beating Human Heart." Theory Of Professor Haycraft, Of Cardiff, South Wales Daily News 8th January 1896

Dr. Haycraft And Vivisection, Evening Express 14th June 1899

Dr. Haycraft And Vivisection,Evening Express 14th June 1899

in 1906 however he was clearly well enough to take up the presidency, and was duly elected again. During this time there are a number of newspaper articles referring to his chairing of society meetings and also representing the society in other ways as in this newpaper excerpt.

Seismograph for Cardiff, Evening Express 15th June 1907

Seismograph for Cardiff, Evening Express 15th June 1907

The same year as that newspaper report he was involved in a controversial debate which drew a lot of attention in the local press regarding the value or otherwise of the welsh language in commerce. There are many reports, letters and comments regarding this event, here is a small selection

Professor Haycraft And His Students. A Demonstration And An Explanation, Weekly Mail 30th November 1907       Professor Haycraft And His Students. A Demonstration And An Explanation, Weekly Mail 30th November 1907

Professor Haycraft And His Students. A Demonstration And An Explanation, Weekly Mail 30th November 1907

His passing was recorded in volume LVI of the transations. There was no obituary of him in the transactions, but an obituary of him published in Nature in 1923, Nature Obituary of J B Haycraft interstingly this same edition followed with an obituary of John Gavey (later Sir John Gavey) 18th President

Family Note

it is an oft quoted phrase that "behind every great man there is a great woman", admittedly that is quite an old fashioned phrase and not as relevant in todays more liberal social and family groupings. However it is noteworthy that in the case of the Haycrafts I have come across nearly as many references to his wife (Lillie Stacpoole Haycraft 18521916), who was recognised as an accomplished artist and often was involved in fund raising for such things as the university and the infirmary. A key example of her standing and her work is recorded here with the work in question being available on the ART UK website

Portrait to be Presented to Aberdara Hall,Evening Express 10th December 1894

Portrait to be Presented to Aberdara Hall, Evening Express 10th December 1894



Back to the 150th Anniversary index

Before this... Principal E. H. Griffiths, Sc.D., F.R.S (1851-1932) 33rd President

Next up... Principal Albert Howard Trow, D.Sc., F.L.S. (1863-1939) 35th President

See our Full list of Presidents