1884-1901: Conwy Lloyd Morgan

Professor of Geology and Zoology, then Professor of Psychology and Education, and the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Bristol in 1909.

Professor Conwy Lloyd Morgan FRS (1852-1936) came to Bristol in 1884, from a post at the Diocesan College in Cape Town, to succeed Sollas in the Chair of Geology and Zoology. Although he subsequently established his reputation in the field of psychology, as one of the first experimental psychologists, he joined the staff to teach geology.

Lloyd Morgan had apparently been interested in philosophy from an early age, but was persuaded by his father (a lawyer with interests in mining companies) to study for a diploma in mining and metallurgy at the Royal School of Mines in London. After a brief period of foreign travel, he accepted an invitation to spend a year studying zoology under T.H. Huxley.

Hoping to pursue an academic career rather than one in mining, Lloyd Morgan gained some teaching experience in a private school before securing a lecturing appointment in Cape Town, where he was responsible for teaching Physical Science, English Literature and Constitutional History to undergraduate students. He remained there for 5 years before taking up the appointment at Bristol

Once in Bristol, Lloyd Morgan soon became involved in college administration and in the campaign for a charter to establish the University of Bristol: he was appointed Dean in 1887 and became Principal in 1891. Although he wrote a textbook on animal biology and published a number of papers on local geology (as well as one on the volcanic rocks of the St. Davids’ area), he decided that he could make a more significant contribution to knowledge in the study of psychology. He began to direct his research effort to the field of what he called “mental evolution”, the borderline between intelligence and instinct, where he developed his reputation in experimental psychology and animal behaviour. He established a tradition of careful observation of behaviour in natural settings and gave contemporary animal science much of its technical vocabulary, e.g., ‘trial-and-error learning’, ‘reinforcement’, and ‘inhibition.’

In 1901, Lloyd Morgan was appointed to the newly-established chair in Psychology and Education at Bristol, leaving Geology and Zoology in the capable hands of S.H. Reynolds. Having made a major contribution to the charter campaign, Lloyd Morgan served as the University of Bristol’s first Vice Chancellor. He retired in 1919, with the title of Emeritus Professor of Psychology, and died in Hastings in 1936 at the age of 84. Lloyd Morgan’s autobiography was published by Murchison (1930).

Read more

Field G.C. 2004. Conway Lloyd Morgan. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004). Read the biography here.

Lloyd Morgan, C. 1887. Animal Biology. Rivington, London.

Murchison, C. (Ed.) 1930. History of Psychology in Autobiography2, pp. 237-264. Read the chapter here.

Parsons, J.H. 1936. Conwy Lloyd Morgan. 1852-1936. Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 2, 25–27. Read the obituary here.

The Conway Lloyd Morgan papers are preserved in the University of Bristol Special Collections; details are given here.

A remarkable portrait of Conway Lloyd Morgan in his Vice Chancellor’s robes, by Robert Anning Bell (1863-1933), is reproduced here.