Peter Chalmers Mitchell

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Peter Chalmers Mitchell
Peter Chalmers Mitchell 1920.jpg
Born (1864-11-23)23 November 1864
Dunfermline, Scotland
Died 2 July 1945(1945-07-02) (aged 80)
Fields Zoology
Known for Founding Whipsnade Zoo

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

Early life[edit]

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]

In 1896 he was the anonymous author of an article in the Saturday Review entitled "A Biological View of English Foreign Policy" which proposed the inevitability of a final battle between Britain and Germany, in which one would have to be destroyed. Having acknowledged his authorship during World War I, he still declared himself "unrepentant" about it in a letter to The Times in May 1939, describing the article as "prophetic".

Zoo[edit]

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.

Lectures[edit]

In 1911 Mitchell delivered the Royal Institution Christmas Lecture on The Childhood of Animals.

Málaga[edit]

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

Politics[edit]

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

Publications[edit]

In addition, like Henry Scherren FZS, Chalmers Mitchell made a number of contributions to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica under the initials "P.C.M.".[4] Chalmers Mitchell was critical of Scherren's history of the ZSL, but was in turn criticised by John Bastin for his work on the same subject.[5]

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hindle, E. (1947). "Peter Chalmers Mitchell. 1864-1945". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 5 (15): 367–326. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1947.0005.  edit
  2. ^ Chalmers Mitchell, P. 1931. A centenary history of the London zoo.
  3. ^ Chalmers Mitchell, P. 1937. My fill of days. Faber & Faber, London.
  4. ^ PCM's contributions to 1911 E.B., 11th Edition.
  5. ^ John Bastin. The first prospectus of the Zoological Society of London: new light on the Society's origins. Archives of Natural History. Volume 5, Issue 5. Pages 369-388. Edinburgh University Press, October 1, 1970. Deepdyve
Preceded by
Philip Lutley Sclater
Secretary of the Zoological Society of London
1903–1935
Succeeded by
Julian Huxley