Lancelot Law Whyte

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lancelot Law Whyte (4 November 1896 – 14 September 1972) was a Scottish philosopher, theoretical physicist, historian of science and financier.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Lancelot Law Whyte, the son of Dr. Alexander Whyte, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland into the privileged childhood of a great house; Alexander Whyte was at the time a renowned Presbyterian minister. Lancelot received his education at Bedales School in England. He was a soldier during the First World War, returning to enter Trinity College, Cambridge and studying physics under Ernest Rutherford. Subsequently, he studied at Göttingen University in Germany.[2] Whyte’s interest developed as much along lines of human evolution and philosophy as that of theoretical physics.

To earn a living, White entered industry and banking in Britain, but he returned to Germany for a year, where he met Albert Einstein. Back in Britain, in 1935 Whyte met Frank Whittle, one of the pioneers of the turbojet engine, and became a backer of the development of this invention, the eventual result being the British Air Ministry's initial commitment to the development of turbojet-powered planes, nearly five years later.[3]

Unified field theory[edit]

He claimed to have worked with Albert Einstein on the unified field theory.[4] He further claimed that this work was based on the theory of the 18th century natural philosopher Roger Boscovich.[5]

Whyte proposed something he called "the unitary principle" to unify physics theories.[6] Experimental work on this theory was carried out by Leo Baranski.[7]


Whyte was the author of the book Internal Factors in Evolution (1965). He proposed that Darwin's theory of natural selection is limited to external factors, and internal factors are a second directive agency in evolution.[8] Whyte proposed the term "internal selection." John Tyler Bonner in the American Scientist positively reviewed the book. According to Bonner:

[Internal selection] is simply that there are two kinds of selection; an external Darwinian one and an internal one which is independent of the adaptability of the organism to a particular environment. The internal selection takes place by the machinery of the organism passing upon whether or not a particular mutation can survive considering the nature of internal milieu.[9]

In 2014 the philosopher Hans-Joachim Niemann wrote about Whyte:

Whyte's ideas were beyond the long-established tracks but do not sound too far-fetched today. He postulated the existence of »directive factors« in the machinery of the cell. These factors control mutations as well as an »internal selection«, a particular kind of evolution separately optimizing processes in the cell. Whyte’s »internal selection« explained »the directions of evolutionary change by internal organizational factors«. His model demonstrates why some well-corroborated genes are protected, and why, on the other hand, sensible variations of certain traits are supported by well-directed mutations of the related genes. The cell is the conductor, and the genome is its score to be interpreted wisely.[10]

Other scientists have been more critical. Biologist Robert E. Hillman gave the book a negative review, commenting "in a weak and ill-supported effort to deemphasize the role of natural selection in evolution Whyte has detracted from what could have been a fine analysis and philosophical discussion of the latest advances in the chemical basis of heredity and evolution."[11]


Scientific papers[edit]

  • Z. Phys., 56, 809, 1929. 'On the characteristics of a unified physical theory. I. The presence of a universal constant with the dimensions of a length.' (In German.)
  • Z. Phys., 61, 274, 1930. 'Ditto. II. Rulers, clocks, and a possible alternative to 4-co-ordinate representation.' (In German.)
  • Libr. of Xth Int. Congr. of Phil., Amsterdam, 1948. I. 298. 'One-way Processes in Biology.'
  • Nature, 163, 762, 1949. 'Tendency towards Symmetry in Fundamental Physical Structures.'
  • Nature, 166, 824, 1950. 'Planck's Constant and the Fine-Structure Constant.'
  • Br. J. Philos. Sci., 1, 303, 1951. 'Fundamental Physical Theory. An Interpretation of the Present Position of the Theory of Particles.'
  • Br. J. Philos. Sci., 3, 256, 1952. 'Angles in Fundamental Physics.'
  • Am. Math. Mon., 59, 606, 1952. 'Unique Arrangements of Points on a Sphere.'
  • Br. J. Philos. Sci., 3, 243, 1952. 'The Electric Current. A Study of the Role of Time in Electron Physics.'
  • Br. J. Philos. Sci., 3, 349, 1953. 'Has a Single Electron a Transit Time?’
  • Phil. Mag., 44, 1303, 1953. 'The Velocities of Fundamental Particles.'
  • Br. J. Philos. Sci., 4, 160, 1953. 'Light Signal Kinematics.'
  • Am. J. Phys., 21, 323, 1953. 'Dimensional Theory: Dimensionless Secondary Quantities.’
  • Br. J. Philos. Sci., 5, 1, 1954. ‘A Dimensionless Physics ?’
  • Nature, 174, 398, 1954. ‘Velocity of Electron Pulses.’ (With D. Gabor and D. L. Richards.)
  • Br. J. Philos. Sci., 4, 337, 1954. ‘Geodesics and the Space and Time of Physical Observations.’
  • Ann. Sci., 10, 20, 1954. ‘On the History of Natural Lengths.’
  • Brain, 77 (I), 158, 1954. ‘Hypothesis regarding the Brain Modifications underlying Memory.’
  • Br. J. Philos. Sci., 5, 332, 1955. ‘Note on the Structural Philosophy of Organism.’
  • Br. J. Philos. Sci., 6, 107, 1955. ‘One-Way Processes in Physics and Bio-Physics.’
  • Nature, 179, 284, 1957. ‘Boscovich and Particle Theory.’
  • Nature, 180, 513, 1957. ‘Chirality.’
  • Br. J. Philos. Sci., 7, 347, 1957. ‘On the Relation of Physical Laws to the Processes of Organisms.’
  • Notes and Records, Roy. Soc. London, 13, 38, 1958. ‘R. J. Boscovich, 1711–1787, and the Mathematics of Atomism.’
  • Nature, 182, 198, 1958. ‘Chirality.’
  • Nature, 182,230, 1958. Report of Bicentenary Meeting, ‘Boscovich’s Theoria Philosophise Naturalis, 1758.
  • Br. J. Philos. Sci., 9, 133, 1958. ‘The Scope of Quantum Mechanics.’


  • Archimedes, or the Future of Physics, Lancelot Law Whyte. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., LTD., London. 1927.
  • Critique of Physics, Lancelot Law Whyte. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., LTD., London. 1931.
  • The Next Development in Man, Lancelot Law Whyte. The Cresset Press, London. 1944.
  • Everyman Looks Forward, Lancelot Law Whyte. The Cresset Press, London. 1946.
  • The Unitary Principle in Physics and Biology, Lancelot Law Whyte. The Cresset Press, London. 1949.
  • Accent on Form: An Anticipation of the Science of Tomorrow (World Perspectives, Volume Two), Lancelot Law Whyte. Harper & Brothers Publishers. 1954.
  • The Unconscious before Freud: A History of the Evolution of Human Awareness, Lancelot Law Whyte. Basic Books, New York. 1960.
  • Essay on Atomism: From Democritus to 1960, Lancelot Law Whyte. Nelson. 1961.
  • The Atomic Problem: A Challenge to Physicists and Mathematicians, Lancelot Law Whyte. Allen & Unwin. 1961.
  • Focus and Diversions, Lancelot Law Whyte. The Cresset Press, London. 1963.
  • The Universe of Experience: A World View Beyond Science and Religion, Lancelot Law Whyte. Harper & Row Publishers. 1963.
  • Internal Factors in Evolution, Lancelot Law Whyte. Braziller, New York. 1965.
  • Aspects of Form: Symposium on Form in Nature and Art, Lancelot Law Whyte (editor). Lund Humphries Publishers, London. 1968.
  • Hierarchical Structures, Lancelot Law Whyte (Editor). Elsevier. 1969.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ PEP Web – A Biographical Note on L. L. Whyte
  2. ^ "Whyte, Eva "A Biographical Note on L. L. Whyte" (n.d.)". doi:10.1080/00107530.1974.10745345. Retrieved 25 July 2020. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ "Whyte, Eva "A Biographical Note on L. L. Whyte" (n.d.)". doi:10.1080/00107530.1974.10745345. Retrieved 25 July 2020. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Focus and Diversions, L L Whyte, Cresset Press, London 1963
  5. ^ Roger Joseph Boscovich SJ FRS, 1711 -1787 Studies of his life and work on the 250th anniversary of his birth, edited L L Whyte, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1961
  6. ^ The Unitary Principle in Physics and biology, LL Whyte, London, 1949
  7. ^ Scientific Basis for World Civilization: Unitary Field theory, Leo J Baranski, The Christopher Publishing House, USA, 1960
  8. ^ Clovis, Jesse F. (1968). Internal Factors in Evolution by L. L. Whyte. Castanea. Vol. 33, No. 2. p. 156.
  9. ^ Bonner, John Tyler. (1965). Internal Factors in Evolution by L. L. Whyte. American Scientist. Vol. 53, No. 2. p. 198A, 200A.
  10. ^ Niemann, Hans-Joachim, Karl Popper and the Two New Secrets of Life, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2014, chap. I, sect. 6, subsection 'Lancelot L. Whyte', p. 36-37.
  11. ^ Hillman, Robert E. (1965). Internal Factors in Evolution by Lancelot Law Whyte. Chesapeake Science. Vol. 6, No. 2. pp. 123–124.