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Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell CBE FRS DSc LLD (23 November 1864–1945), zoologist, was Secretary of the Zoological Society of London from 1903 to 1935. During this time he directed the policy of the London Zoo, and created the world's first open zoological park known as Whipsnade Wild Animal Park.[1][2]

Contents

Early life

Peter Chalmers Mitchell was the son of the Rev. Alexander Mitchell, a Presbyterian minister in Dunfermline, Scotland. Mitchell gained an MA at the University of Aberdeen, and moved to Christ Church, Oxford, where he read for natural science, specialising in zoology. After success in the honours examination of 1888, he was appointed University Demonstrator in Zoology.[3]

Zoo

Despite a tenure of 32 years, Mitchell was not the longest-serving Secretary of the Zoological Society. His predecessor, Philip Lutley Sclater, had been in office over forty years, from 1860 to 1902. Mitchell was succeeded by Julian Huxley.

Mitchell's brainchild, Whipsnade Park, was opened in 1931 on the Dunstable Downs, in the heart of Bedfordshire. Whipsnade is an open air zoo in the countryside, where animals occupy large enclosures rather than cages. The park is involved in a variety of conservation activities.

Malaga

On retiring from the zoo Mithchell moved to Malaga, staying there during the Spanish Civil War. An account of his last days in Malaga as the city fell to rebel forces is included in Arthur Koestler's book Spanish Testament.

Politics

Mitchell stood as an independent candidate at the Combined Scottish Universities by-election, 1938, but took last position, with only 13.5% of the votes cast.

Publications

  • 1900. Thomas Henry Huxley: a sketch of his life and work. Putnam's, London & N.Y; 2nd ed Methuen, London 1913.
  • 1904. The nature of Man.
  • 1912. The childhood of animals. Heinemann; Penguin.
  • 1930. Materialism and vitalism in biology. Oxford.
  • 1931. A centenary history of the London zoo.
  • 1937. My fill of days. Faber & Faber, London.
  • 1937. Counter-attack in Spain. (with Ramon Sender) Houghton-Mifflin, Boston.

Crook D.P. 1989. Peter Chalmers Mitchell and antiwar evolutionism in Britain during the Great War. Journal of the History of Biology. 22, 325-356.

References

  1. ^ Now known formally as ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
  2. ^ Chalmers Mitchell, P. 1931. A centenary history of the London zoo.
  3. ^ Chalmers Mitchell, P. 1937. My fill of days. Faber & Faber, London.
Preceded by
Philip Lutley Sclater
Secretary of the Zoological Society of London
1903–1935
Succeeded by
Julian Huxley
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