John Scott Haldane

Fellow of New College, Oxford

The Sciences and Philosophy

In his series of twenty lectures, Haldane presents a survey and comparison of the sciences, examining biology and the physical sciences. He concludes that biology must be regarded as an independent science as it is not guided by a mechanical understanding, although this framework is sufficient for the physical sciences. Providing an account of how philosophy deals with the defects of the sciences, Haldane endeavours to reach a solution.


John Scott Haldane was born on 3 May 1860 in Edinburgh. A British physiologist, he is known for his daring self-experimentation which led to ground-breaking discoveries about the nature of gases and their effects on the human body. Appointed Demonstrator in Physiology at University College, Dundee in 1884, he moved to Oxford as Demonstrator in Physiology in 1887. In 1901, Haldane was elected Fellow of New College, and 1907 and in 1912, he became Director of the Mining Research Laboratory near Doncaster. He retired as President of the Institution of Mining Engineers in 1928. 

Elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1893, he was a Royal Medallist in 1916, Copley Medallist in 1934, and was appointed Companion of Honour in 1928 for his scientific work in connection with industrial disease. During the First World War, her identified the type of poison gas used by the Germans and designed a portable oxygen administration apparatus. Notable works include Respiration, co-authored with J.G. Priestly (1922), The Philosophical Basis of Biology: Donnellan Lectures, University of Dublin (1931), and The Philosophy of a Biologist (1935). 

Published/Archival Resources