Sir Gavin Rylands de Beer
He was born on 1 November 1899 in Malden, Surrey. His father worked for a telegraph company in France and de Beer spent a large part of his childhood there. He was educated at the Ecole Pascal in Paris and made trips to Switzerland. On returning to England, he was educated first at Harrow School and then Magdalen College, Oxford. The First World War broke out about the time he went up to Oxford and he left his studies to enlist in the Grenadier Guards and the Army Education Corps. He graduated from Oxford after the war in 1922.
Right after graduation, de Beer was made a Fellow of Merton College and invited to teach in its zoology department. He did research work in experimental embryology and was influenced by his teachers Julian Huxley and E.S. Goodrich as well as by J.B.S. Haldane.
In 1926, he wrote Introduction to Experimental Embryology, in 1930, he wrote The Embryos and Evolution and in 1934, together with Huxley, he wrote The Elements of Experimental Embryology. He remained at Oxford until 1938 when he went to University College, London, to teach embryology. His career was then interrupted by the Second World War and he went back to serve with the Grenadier Guards.
De Beer returned to teaching zoology after the war. He had been elected a Royal Society Fellow in 1940 and now more honors followed. He became the Linnean Society President (1946-1949), held the Directorship of the British Museum (1950-1960), received a Knighthood (1954) and the Royal Society's Darwin Medal (1958).
After his retirement in 1960, he went live in Switzerland and worked there on a series of scientific books for many years. He returned to England in 1971 and died on 21 June 1972 in Alfriston, Sussex.