Dallinger, Dr William Henry, FRS
1842-1909; e.m. 1861

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WM minister and micro-biologist, born in Devonport, on 5 July 1842, the son of an artist and engraver. He showed an early scientific bent. He trained for the ministry at Richmond College. During a twelve-year ministry in Liverpool (1868-1880) he began his research into micro-organisms in collaboration with John James Drysdale. He had four doctorates - DD, DSc (Trinity College, Dublin), DCL (Durham) and an LLD from Victoria University, Montreal, conferred when he attended the British Association meeting there in 1884. As Governor of Wesley College, Sheffield 1879-1888, he modernized the curriculum by introducing science into it. In recognition of his scientific work, on his resignation he was, exceptionally, allowed to retain ministerial status without pastoral office. His primary interest as a microscopist was in monads or flagellates (simple organisms developed in organic infusions) and abiogenesis (the spontaneous generation of living matter). Elected FRS in 1880, he was President of the Royal Microscopical Society 1884-87. After 1888 he devoted himself to public lecturing and writing. In 1879 he delivered the Rede Lecture at Cambridge on 'the origin of life'. After several years' delay, occasioned by opposition to his views, in 1887 he gave the Fernley Lecture on The Creator and what we may know of the Method of Creation. His other literary work included editing the Wesley Naturalist, and popular articles for the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine. He died on 7 November 1909.


'Working at a time when it seemed that the declared origin of life might be placed by the scientific world on a materialistic basis, he employed his unique gifts in microscopy, coupled with a phenomenal patience and manipulative skill, in the task of tracing the life-history of individual micro-organisms… Darwin followed his experiments with keen interest and accepted their conclusions; Tyndall declared them to be the most sincere, thorough and successful piece of scientific work he had ever met; Huxley, a close friend, nominated him as Fellow of the Royal Society. At a time when many Christians were anxious over the impact of science upon faith, his voice was potent, reassuring and enlightening.'

Frank H. Cumbers, Richmond College 1843-1943 (1943) pp.130-1

  • G.J. Stevenson, Methodist Worthies (1884-1886), 4 pp.530-38
  • Methodist Recorder, 11 Nov. 1909
  • Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society, 1909 pp.699-702
  • WM Magazine, 1910 pp.46-50
  • Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B, 1910 pp. iv-vi
  • John W. Haas, 'The Rev. Dr. William H. Dallinger, FRS: an early advocate of theistic evolution and foe of spontaneous generation', in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, vol. 52 (2000) pp.107-17
  • John W. Haas, 'The Reverend Dr. William Henry Dallinger, FRS' in Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, vol.54, no.1, January 2000, pp.53-65
  • Oxford DNB