Cain, Arthur J. (Arthur James)

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Arthur J. Cain is an evolutionary biologist whose general interests include genetics, natural selection, and systematics. Much of his research focuses on land mollusks such as snails and slugs.

From the description of Papers, 1945-1988. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122464844

Arthur James Cain (1921-1999), Derby Professor of Zoology at the University of Liverpool, England, is renowned for his work in evolutionary biology and ecology. Cain's interests in natural selection, systematics, biogeography, and the history of biology are well documented in his many publications, but he is perhaps best known for his book, Animal species and their evolution (London, 1954), a survey of the nature of species, their origin, and their evolutionary importance.

Much of Cain's research focused on terrestrial gastropods, including snails and slugs, and particularly on the genus Cepaea, a group of land snails that exhibits tremendous variation in shell color and ornamentation, and which is thought to have been subject to strong natural selective pressure. The pattern of longitudinal banding in the shells of C. hortensis and C. nemoralis has been intensively studied by Cain and other geneticists, and Cain and his fellow Oxford biologist, Philip Sheppard, made important contributions to udnerstanding the genetic basis of ecophenotypic variation in the highly polymorphic C. nemoralis . Subsequent collaborative work with John Currey, combined with work on fossil gastropods, resulted in the discovery of the "area effects" phenomenon in Cepaea . Cain also made contributions to the systematics of oligochaete "worms" and birds such as fruit pigeons and parrots, and to avian biogeography.

Born on July 25, 1921, Arthur James Cain attended the Lawrence Sheriff School, Rugby, for his early education, and in 1939 was awarded an open scholarship (Demyship) to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he graduated with honors (first class) in zoology in 1941. Entering military service in December of 1941, Cain was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (R.A.O.C.- engineering) and was subsequently transferred to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (R.E.M.E.) upon its formation. He was promoted to Captain in 1942.

After leaving the military in November, 1945, Cain immediately returned to Oxford to pursue a D.Phil. as an advanced student in the Department of Zoology. He easily matched his undergraduate successes in academics, becoming a Departmental Demonstrator in October, 1946, and receiving his M.A. in November, 1947. From January, 1949, until 1964, Cain was employed as University Demonstrator (now referred to as University Lecturer) in Animal Taxonomy, conducted research with John Baker, focusing on the histochemistry of lipids.

Cain's main interests, however, lay in evolutionary biology. From January to June, 1950, Cain studied with the great evolutionary biologist, Ernst Mayr at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, and took part in a scientific expedition to the Allegheny Mountains and Florida, the first in a long line of field expeditions in which he participated.

Leading an Oxford Department of Zoology expedition to the British Solomon Islands in 1953, Cain investigated the correlation between geographical, ecological, and morphological variation in birds, and his efforts helped earn his an appointment as Curator of the Zoological Collections at the Oxford University Museum in 1954, a position he held for ten years in addition to his duties as University Lecturer and as Lecturer in Zoology at St. Peter's Hall (1958-1961). In 1964, he left Oxford to become Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester, and he later (1968) was appointed Derby Professor of Zoology at the University of Liverpool. He received emeritus status at Liverpool upon his retirement in 1989.

Cain's professional career was marked by a continued engagement in field research. As leader of the Oxford University expedition to British Guiana in 1959, he studied the comparative ecology of closely related species of birds in the tropical forest. In 1962, he was selected as the Oxford University representative on the Inter-Universities Committee for Research at Lake Kariba; and acted as the scientific secretary to this committee in the U.K. In this capacity, Cain made several trips to Africa from 1962-1965, conducting further research in Kariba and Johannesburg, and in 1965, he spent time at Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, studying avian ecology.

In his other professional activities, Cain served as editor of the Biological Series for Hutchinson's University Library from 1967-1975, as advisor in biology for the Science Research Council from 1972-1975, as well as remaining involved with many scientific organizations: as a founder and member of the Society for the Study of Human Biology, President of the Oxford Genetical Society, Zoological Secretary of the Systematics Association in Great Britain, member of the Council of the Linnean Society of London, fellow of the Institute of Biology in Great Britain, fellow of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, member of the Malacological Society of London, and fellow of the Royal Society in Great Britain.

Cain died at home in Liverpool, England, in 1999.

From the guide to the Arthur J. Cain Papers, 1945-1988, (American Philosophical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Stephen Jay Gould papers, 1899-2004, 1941-2002 Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Arthur J. Cain Papers, 1945-1988 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Philip M. Sheppard Papers, Bulk, 1940-1976, 1911-1983 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Gould, Stephen Jay. Stephen Jay Gould papers, 1899-2004 (inclusive), 1941-2002 (bulk). Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Cain, Arthur J. (Arthur James). Papers, 1945-1988. American Philosophical Society Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Allard, R. W. and A. L. Kahler person
associatedWith Arnold, James T. person
associatedWith Clarke, B. C. (Bryan C.) person
associatedWith Cranach, Mario von, b. 1931 person
associatedWith Crow, James F. (James Franklin), 1916- person
associatedWith Davis, George Morgan person
associatedWith Elliott, C. C. H. person
associatedWith Foster, Geoffrey G. person
associatedWith Frederick, Jean person
associatedWith Frederick, Philippa Adelstein person
associatedWith Gauldie, R. W. person
associatedWith Gould, Stephen Jay. person
associatedWith Konowalow, Christine person
associatedWith Lawler, Sylvia D. person
associatedWith Mayr, Ernst, 1904-2005. person
associatedWith Montgomery, W. I. person
associatedWith O'Donald, Peter person
associatedWith Sheppard, P. M. (Philip Macdonald), 1921-1976 person
associatedWith Whitten, Maxwell J. person
associatedWith Woodruff, David S. person
associatedWith Woodruff, David S. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Evolution (Biology)
Natural selection


Birth 1921-07-25

Death 1999-08-20





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SNAC ID: 30622164