Early Life and Education
Born in 1903 in Chorney in Lancashire, Cyril Darlington was the second, younger son of an unsuccessful school teacher. His father, William Darlington, later became private secretary to the German chemist K.E. Merkell, but the family life appears to have been marked with a constant struggle against poverty and a general lack of warmth.
After completing his schooling at Mercer's School in Holborn (1912-1917) and at St. Paul's School (1917-1920), Cyril Darlington attended the South Eastern Agricultural College at Wye in Ashford from 1920 to 1923. His school sojourn was not a distinguished one—he was interested in neither studies nor sports—and his career ambitions did not extend beyond wanting to become a farmer in Australia.
He was a voracious reader, however, and, while at Wye, he became interested in Mendelian genetics and was profoundly impressed by Thomas Hunt Morgan's 'The Physical Basis of Heredity'. When his farming application was rejected in 1923, he decided to apply for admission to the John Innes Horticultural Institution in Merton. The Innes was then the UK's foremost research institute in genetics in that period. William Bateson, the man who coined the word "genetics," was one of the directors at the Innes and Darlington duly wrote to him.
Darlington's application was rejected, but he was persistent and asked for and got an unpaid position as a research technician. This was the start of his thirty year association with the Innes.