Hogben, Lancelot Thomas (1895–1975)

Lancelot Hogben

Lancelot Hogben was an English zoologist and geneticist famed for his best-selling Mathematics for the Million (1933)1 of which Albert Einstein said "It makes alive the contents of the elements of mathematics" and H. G. Wells said "A great book, a book of first class importance."


Hogben was born in Southsea, Hampshire, and studied at Cambridge and London. Imprisoned in 1916 as a conscientious objector during World War I, he was released only when his health went into serious decline. He held various academic posts in Britain, Canada, and South Africa, becoming professor of social biology at London University 1930. During World War II he was put in charge of the medical statistics records for the British Army. After the war he became professor of medical statistics at the University of Birmingham, where he remained until his retirement in 1961. Hogben first began to apply mathematical principles to the study of genetics in the 1930s, focusing on the study of generations of the fruit fly Drosophila and how it related to research on heredity in humans. In addition to Mathematics for the Million, he authored half a dozen other books, including the popular Science for the Citizen.


Though trained as a scientist, Hogben was passionately interested in linguistics. In The Loom of Language, which he edited, he set out the principles of his own invented language, "Interglossa," based on Greek and Latin roots but with a syntax resembling that of Chinese. He also adapted this as a means of interstellar communication and called the result Astroglossa.



1. Hogben, Lancelot. Mathematics for the Million. New York: W. W. Norton, 1933.