Dame Katharine Furse handwritten letters to Sir Gavin Rylands de Beer with photographs
Rewritten from dealer description: This collection contains three handwritten letters written by Dame Kathleen Furse to Sir Gavin Rylands de Beer, dated from 1941 to 1945. The letters are primarily written on stationary labelled “Ebbesbourne Wake, Salisbury.,” a village in the United Kingdom. Also included are a published image of Furse and a printed image of the cover of her autobiography, Hearts and Pomegranates, published in 1940. Of particular interest in the letters are mentions of Furse’s father, English poet and literary critic John Addington Symonds, regarding his work and travels. Furse also expresses gratitude for having received copies of De Beer’s writing, and thanks him for his "delightful review" of her own book.
- approximately 1941-1945
- Furse, Katharine, 1875-1952 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.
Biographical / Historical
Dame Katharine Furse, the daughter of Britsh poet and literary critic John Addington Symonds and Janet Catherine North, was born in London in 1875. She spent most of her early life in Switzerland and Italy, educated by her mother and governesses, and married Charles Wellington Furse in 1900. He died four years later leaving her with two young children.
In 1909, Furse joined the British Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs), groups of volunteer citizens who carried out a range of duties including nursing, transport duties, and the organisation of rest stations, and auxiliary hospitals. On the outbreak of World War I, Furse was chosen to head the first VAD unit to be sent to France. Furse was eventually placed in charge of the VAD Department in London. By 1916 she was appointed Commander in Chief and the following year became one of the five women appointed Dame Grand Cross, a newly created Order of the British Empire.
Although considered a great success as head of the Voluntary Aid Detachment, Furse was unhappy about her lack of power to introduce reforms, which ultimately lead to the eventual resignation of her and several colleagues in 1917. Furse was then offered the post as Director of the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS).
In 1920 formed the Association of Wrens and this led to Furse becoming head of the Sea Rangers and for ten years was director of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Her autobiography, Hearts and Pomegranates was published in 1940. Furse died in London on 25th November, 1952.
Sources: Simkin, J. (n.d.). Retrieved October 4, 2018, from https://spartacus-educational.com/Wfurse.htm.
Volunteers during the First World War. (n.d.). Retrieved October 4, 2018, from https://vad.redcross.org.uk/Volunteers-during-WW1.
Biographical / Historical
Sir Gavin Rylands de Beer was a British zoologist and morphologist known for his contributions to experimental embryology, anatomy, and evolution. He was born on November 1, 1899 and died on June 21, 1972, the son of Herbert and Mabel Chaplin de Beer. De Beer spent the first thirteen years of his life in France, and his father worked for the Exchange Telegraph Company. He entered Magdalen College, Oxford University, in 1917, before his education was interrupted by World War I. De Beer spent time in the Officers Training Corps and was ranked as a Second Lieutenant, though the armistice was signed before he saw any fighting.
After serving in the military, de Beer returned to Oxford where he studied under Edwin Goodrich. He graduated in 1922, and stayed on as a fellow of Merton College and to teach in the Zoology Department. While at Oxford, de Beer authored his first major work, An Introduction to Experimental Embryology, published in 1926. In 1930 he released another book, Embryos and Ancestors. This book “contained de Beer’s ideas about his developmental theory of evolution, which combined Mendelian genetics with Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection” (Kearl, 2010). Together with fellow scientist Julian S. Huxley, de Beer published The Elements of Experimental Embryology in 1934, “which combined the work of the two authors with Hans Spemann’s organizer concept and Charles Manning Child’s concept of axial gradients to better explain the process of development” (Kearl, 2010).
In 1938 de Beer moved to University College, London, and became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1940. During World War II de Beer again served in the military, “working in intelligence and propaganda” (Kearl, 2010). After the war, De Beer returned to London where he was Professor of Zoology at University College. He also served as president of the Linnaean Society from 1946 until 1949.
De Beer headed many important societies and organizations, including a ten year term as Director of the British Museum of Natural History and serving as president of the Fifteenth International Congress of Zoology in 1958. He was knighted in 1954. De Beer “retired from his position at the Museum of Natural History as well as his other academic posts in 1960 to dedicate his full attention to writing about the life and work of Charles Darwin, evolution—and Switzerland and the Alps” (Kearl, 2010). He died in 1972.
Sources: Barrington, E. (1973). Gavin Rylands de Beer. 1899-1972. Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 19, 65-93. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/769556.
Kearl, M. (2010, June 02). The Embryo Project Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 4, 2018, from https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/gavin-rylands-de-beer-1899-1972.
.167 Cubic Feet (1 legal sized folder)
Language of Materials
This collection contains three handwritten letters written by Dame Kathleen Furse to Sir Gavin Rylands de Beer, dated from 1941 to 1945. Also included are a published image of Furse and a printed image of the cover of her autobiography, Hearts and Pomegranates, published in 1940. Furse was a pioneer in the British Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs), and eventual Director of the Women's Royal Naval Service and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. She was born in 1875 and died in 1952. Sir Gavin Rylands de Beer was a British zoologist and morphologist known for his contributions to experimental embryology, anatomy, and evolution. He was born on November 1, 1899 and died on June 21, 1972.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Purchased from Elysium Books in December 2017.
Processed by Kristen Diehl in October 2018.
- Furse, Katharine, 1875-1952 (Person)
- Guide to the Dame Katharine Furse handwritten letters to Sir Gavin Rylands de Beer with photographs
- Kristen Diehl
- 2018 October
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- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
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