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Record number: WCP2494

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Sent by:
[ Edwin Sloper Beaven ]
Sent to:
Alfred Russel Wallace
4 February 1911

Sent by [Edwin Sloper Beaven], Eastway, Warminster to Alfred Russel Wallace [none given] on 4 February 1911.

Record created:
30 November 2011 by Mayer, Anna


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Record contains:

  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP2494.2384)

A typical letter typewritten  in English and signed by author.

Held by:
British Library, The
Finding number:
BL Add. 46438 ff. 188-192
Copyright owner:
Copyright of the Edwin Sloper Beaven Literary Estate.

Physical description

Transcription information




The Maltings Eastway


Februatlry 4th 19112

Dr. A. K. R. Wallace, F.R.S.

Dear Sir,

I am much gratified by your letter of the 29th January, and thank you very much for your observations on my Paper on Pedigree Seed2.

I will first reply to the question in your postscript :- There are no statistics shewing [sic] the extent to which any particular races or even varieties of each of the cereals are grown, but the proportion which is of definite and known ancestry is quite small. It was one of the objects of my paper to induce some discussion on the possibility of establishing a "register" of pure races of the cereals and of growers of them, and more or less as a result there is a scheme on foot in this direction but the general interest in it at present is very slight.

The fact, as I am sure you are aware, is that most of the best British agriculturalists are more interested in animals than in plants. They give their attention freely to improvement in the breeds of horses, cattle and sheep, and they have succeeded admirably in this, working however for the most part on almost entirely empirical lines. They have also, by means of herd and stud books for different [[2]]3 families kept records which I think you will agree are likely to be useful in the future, as I believe they were to the late Sir Francis Galton4 and are not only to those who are following his methods but also to those of the "mMendelian"5 School in the formulation of the principles of heredity.

It is to be hoped that the new School at Cambridge with which I am privileged to be in touch will be able to induce leading agriculturalists to take greater interest in the improvement of the cer cereals of the country. At the moment our pressing need is for systematic methods of making comparisons of the value of races both in respect of prolificacy and quality. The normal error of each separate experiment due to environmental effects is so great as frequently to obliterate the evidence of such heritable advances as we are able to secure by cross-breeding and selection, and I am asking Professor Wood6 of Cambridge to send you a copy of a paper on this subject which he has just published and which I think might interest you. It would complicate things terribly if we had further to deal with inheritance of these environmental characters and I am thankful to know that your authority is against the probability of this.

Please let me also thank you for talking to my daughter, who [[3]]7 is most helpful to me in the conduct of my barley nursery. She will always remember having had the opportunity of meeting the surviving representative of those to whom the world is indebted for originating that line of thought and investigation which is gradually bringing order out of what was chaos in the interpretation of the method of organic changes.

She has repeated some of your questions to her and I would like to refer to one of the points, mentioned also in your letter, viz: with reference to Intensive Cultivation, deep digging and space for individual plants.

I do not know anything of the late Sir A. Cotton's8 work but shall now find out about it. I gather however, that it is on the lines of a Russian, whose name I have forgotton [sic] who produced enormous plants of wheat by planting very widely and encouraging an extensive system of adventitious roots. In this connection you might be interested to hear that I have made a series of weighings of (1) root and (2) above-ground structure in a very large number of plants of two pure races of plants of two pure races of barley at different stages of early growth, one of which is racially much more prolific than the other, and find that the prolific race is the one which makes the deeper and most extensive root [[4]]9 system in the early stages in proportion to stem and leaf. The difference is marked and constant and it also occurs in water cultures of seedlings of the two races. I think there is a good deal of evidence that crop failure with cereals is more generally due to root failure than to lack of conditions favourable to carbohydrate synthesis, and so far I think my results points to the desirability of entire extra encouragement to the root system by the methods you suggest. The difficulty however in practice with relatively few and large individual plants of any of the cereals on unit area is to get sufficiently rigid stems of the height to which the plant grows under these conditions to stand up against wind and rain in those stages when the leaf structure is at maximum weight.

I fear this letter is too long already referring as it does only to the smaller delails [sic] of the matters which interest you.

I can assure you that I shall ponder over your view that the only method by which this country could grow all the grain it requires, as I do not for a moment doubt it could, is the adoption of an organised socialistic system. This is a new idea to me as an argument for Socialism, but if you will forgive a personal reference, which I think you may nevertheless appreciate the force of, I studied many years ago most of Mr. Spencer's10 writings, and had indeed the privilege [[5]]11 of a slight personal acquaintance with him and resting satisfied that, to use nearly I think his own words, it is not possible to have the benefits of the "survival of the fittest" without its penalties, I have never thought much more about these matters since. I am looking forward however to reading your last book which I gather from the reviews has some reference to these matters.

If there should be any further question of interest to you in connection with British corn growing on which I could give information I beg you will command me, and with renewed and sincere thanks for your very kind and encouraging letter,

Believe me, dear Sir, | Yours faithfully, | E. S. Beaven12 [signature]


1. The letter is typed. Page numbered 188 in pencil in top RH corner. The author has typed 1. in the centre at the foot of the page. "E. S. BEAVEN" with telegram and telephone information is printed in the top LH corner. The date is typed in the space provided in the letter heading. Corrections to letters shown struck through in this transcript have been made by hand in ink in the MS.

2. Beaven, E. S. (1909). Pedigree Seed Corn. Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, 70.

3. Page numbered 189 in pencil in top RH corner. The author has typed "page 2" in the centre at the top of the page, which has the same headings as page 1, but "The Maltings" has not been corrected to "Eastway". The numeral 2. is hand-written in ink in the centre at the foot of the page.

4. Galton, Francis (1822-1911) English polymath, geographer, explorer, anthropologist, eugenicist and statistician.

5. Mendel, Gregor Johann (1822-1884) Moravian (Czech) scientist and Augustinian friar, recognised posthumously as the founder of the modern science of Genetics. Pea-plant experiments between1856-1863 established the laws of Mendelian inheritance.

6. Wood, Thomas Barlow (1869-1929) Drapers' Professor of Agriculture in the University of Cambridge,1907-1929.

7. Page numbered 190 in pencil in top RH corner. The author has typed "page 3" in the centre at the top of the page, which has the same headings as page 2. The numeral 3. is hand-written in ink in the centre at the foot of the page.

8. Cotton, Arthur Thomas (1803-1899) British general and irrigation engineer in British India.

9. Page numbered 191 in pencil in top RH corner. The author has typed "page 4" in the centre at the top of the page, which has the same headings as page 2. The numeral 4. is hand-written in ink in the centre at the foot of the page.

10. Spencer, Herbert (1820-1903) English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, sociologist and political theorist. He conceived evolution as the progressive development of the physical world, biological organisms and the human mind, culture and societies. He coined the expression "survival of the fittest", in Principles of Biology (1864).

11. Page numbered 192 in pencil in top RH corner. The author has typed "page 5" in the centre at the top of the page, which has the same headings as page 2. The numeral 5. is hand-written in ink in the centre at the foot of the page.

12. Beaven, Edwin Sloper (1857-1941) a self-taught plant breeder, bred the first genetically true variety of barley in the world. Selected for its outstanding malting and brewing qualities, it provided most of the UK's malt requirements for the next 40 years.

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