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Authority record
Mitchell, Peter Chalmers
Person · 1864-1945

Mitchell was the son of Rev. Alexander Mitchell, a Presbyterian minister in Dunfermline, Scotland, and Marion Chalmers. He gained his MA at the University of Aberdeen, and then went to Christ Church, Oxford, where he read natural sciences, specialising in zoology. After his honours examination in 1888, he was appointed University Demonstrator in Zoology.

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

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 be destroyed. In February 1915 He gave three lectures on the subject of evolution and foreign policy at the Royal Institution that expanded on his 1896 article. These were combined and published in the form of a book entitled 'Evolution and the War' in May 1915. In April 1916, now an Army Captain, he was made responsible for setting up a specialist department MI7(B)4 to oversee the production of military propaganda to be dropped from the air over enemy lines.

He was Secretary of the Zoological Society of London from 1903-1935, second in length of office to his predecessor Philip Lutley Sclater. Mitchell's brainchild, Whipsnade Zoo, was opened in 1931 on the Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire. In 1933 he was one of eleven people involved in the appeal which led to the foundation of the British Trust for Ornithology.

On retiring, he moved to Malaga, staying there during the first six months or so of the Spanish Civil War, until the city was taken on behalf of the rebels by Italian troops. An account of his last days in Malaga, including his arrest along with Arthur Koestler, is included in Koestler's book 'Spanish Testament' and in his own memoir 'My House in Malaga', published in 1938.

Mitchell died on 2nd July 1945 after being injured in an accident on 29th June outside London Zoo. After stepping off a bus, he was struck by a taxicab. A species of South American worm lizard, Amphisbaena mitchelli, is named in his honour. He also proved in the treatise 'On the Intestinal Tract of Mammals' that the caecum of mammals is directly homologous with the paired caeca of birds.

Vevers, Geoffrey Marr
Person · 1890-1970

Born on 20th September 1890 at Hereford, he was the younger son of Henry Vevers, surgeon of Hereford, and he received his early education there before entering St Thomas' Medical School in 1909. On the outbreak of war in 1914, he went to Frances as a dresser with the British Red Cross Society but, after being sent back to qualify in 1915, he again served as Captain RAMC throughout the war in France until 1919, qualifying for the 1914-15 Star. He served as a casualty officer at St Thomas' and in 1919 became assistant helminthologist at the London School of Tropical medicine until 1923, having been awarded a Beit Memorial Fellowship during the years 1920-22.

He was honorary parasitologist to the Zoological Society of London from 1919 to 1921, and in 1921 was a member of the Filariasis Commission to British Guiana. In 1923 he was appointed Superintendent to the Zoological Society of London which he held until his retirement in 1948, receiving the Society's Silver Medal in 1942. In 1947 the Zoological Society of Glasgow and the West of Scotland awarded him its gold medal and he was also an honorary member of the Zoological Societies of Philadelphia and of Ireland. When the Society decided to start the collection at Whipsnade, he was chief assistant to the then Secretary, Sir Philip Chalmers Mitchell and he built a house for himself there as he had to do most of the fieldwork.

He paid several visits to Moscow where he succeeded in obtaining a number of rare animals and where he became a great admirer of the USSR, editing the Anglo-Soviet journal from 1939-1946.

As a student at St Thomas' he came a close friend of P H Mitchiner, who later became an honorary Fellow of the Zoological Society of London, and in 1946 Vevers was elected a Fellow of the College as a member of twenty or more years standing.

Vevers wrote numerous scientific papers and also books on natural history for children, on which subject he regularly broadcast in the BBC 'Children's Hour'.

He died on 9th January 1970 at his home Springfield, Whipsnade, and was survived by his wife and family