Marshall, Arthur Milnes (DNB01)

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MARSHALL, ARTHUR MILNES (1852–1893), naturalist, born at Birmingham on 8 June 1852, was the third son of William P. Marshall, for many years secretary of the Institution of Civil Engineers and himself an enthusiastic naturalist. In 1870, while still at school, he graduated B.A. in the London University, and in the following year entered St. John's College, Cambridge, to read for the natural science tripos. At that time the school of biology was just arising. Francis Balfour [q. v.] had given it a great impetus, and Marshall was one of the first to take advantage of this change. In 1874 he came out senior in his tripos, and after graduating B.A. was appointed in the early part of 1875 by the Cambridge University to their table at the new zoological station at Naples. In the summer of the same year Marshall returned to Cambridge, and during the October term he joined Balfour in giving a course of lectures and laboratory work in zoology.

Marshall's next step was to qualify himself for a medical career. In 1877 he won an open science scholarship at St. Bartholomew s hospital, and in the same year he passed the M.B. examination at Cambridge, obtained the London degree of D.Sc., and was elected to a fellowship at St. John's College. These successes were followed by his appointment, in 1879, at the early age of twenty-seven, to the newly established professorship of zoology at Owens College, Manchester, and Marshall soon became known for his wonderful skill in teaching and his talent for organisation. His insight into what had to be done—whether it were a research on some zoological problem or the reconstruction of a department of study—was only equalled by the rapid and skilful way in which he accomplished the end in view.

In zoological science. Marshall's name is intimately connected with important discovery in embryology. At the time of his appointment to the chair at Owens College he was already known as the author of important memoirs on the origin and development of the nervous system in the higher animals; and after his election Marshall continued, both by his own contributions and in conjunction with his pupils, to influence the work and views of fellow-naturalists. Between 1878 and 1882 Marshall published 'The Development of the Cranial Nerves in the Chick,' 1878; The Morphology of the Vertebrate Olfactory Organ,' 1879; 'Observations on the Cranial Nerves of Scyllium,' 1881 (in conjunction with W. Baldwin Spencer); 'On the Head-cavities and associated Nerves of Elasmobranchs,' 1881. These papers appeared in the 'Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science,' and in 1882 Marshall published a memoir on 'The Segmental Value of the Cranial Nerves' in the 'Journal of Anatomy and Physiology.' The importance and originality of these solid contributions to knowledge were widely recognised, and, together with his later researches upon the anatomy of Pennatulid corals, they form Marshall's most important contributions to zoology.

Marshall's lasting work, however, was his development of zoological teaching and his organisation of the courses of biological study at the Victoria University. As a teacher Marshall excelled. He was clear, accurate, enthusiastic, and keenly alive to the difficulties of those who approach zoological problems for the first time. By forcible and often picturesque language he would point out where the trouble lay and how to overcome it. The lucidity, thoroughness, and accuracy of Marshall's teaching may to some extent be estimated by a study of his three text-books, ‘The Frog’ (1882, 7th edit. 1900), ‘Practical Zoology’ (in conjunction with Dr. C. Herbert Hurst) (1887, 5th edit. 1899), and ‘Vertebrate Embryology’ (1893). Some idea of his clear and logical style of delivery as a lecturer may be gained from his ‘Biological Essays and Addresses’ (1894), and ‘The Darwinian Theory’ (1894). The way in which he embodied the point at issue in some happy phrase made an ineffaceable impression upon his audience. Thus the theory that animals recapitulate in their own development the ancestry of the race will never be forgotten by those who heard it compressed into the pregnant phrase, ‘They climb up their genealogical tree.’

Perhaps Marshall's greatest distinction was his capacity for organisation. As secretary, and subsequently as chairman, of the board of studies, Marshall rendered most valuable services in the founding and administration of the Victoria University. The correlation of the different sciences in the Faculty of Science is largely due to his labours. He was also secretary of the extension movement initiated by the university, and gained for it the success which invariably attended any organising work that he undertook.

Marshall was a man of great and tireless energy, and his attractive personality rendered him very popular with his friends, colleagues, and students. He was an excellent gymnast, and kept himself in training by constant practice. His chief recreation was mountain climbing. Though he was dissuaded by the untimely death of his friend Francis Balfour from beginning to climb till he was thirty, Marshall subsequently spent part of almost each long vacation in climbing in the Tyrol, Switzerland, or on the Mont Blanc chain; and he frequently passed the Easter and Christmas vacations on the mountains of Wales and of the English lake district. He was always a careful climber, and had acquired considerable experience of rock-work. On 31 Dec. 1893, while he was engaged with a party of friends in photographing the rocks of Deep Ghyll on Scafell, a rock gave way beneath him, and falling backwards he was killed instantaneously. His death could not be attributed to rashness; it was the result of one of those accidents which cannot be eliminated from the sport of mountaineering. A cross cut on the rocks below Lord's Rake marks the spot where his body fell.

Marshall graduated M.A. in 1878 and M.D. in 1882. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1885, and served on its council 1891–2. He was president of section D at the meeting of the British Association at Leeds in 1890, and gave one of the popular discourses before the British Association at the Edinburgh meeting in 1892. He was for many years president of the Manchester Microscopical Society. A list of his chief memoirs is given in ‘The Owens College, Manchester,’ 1900, pp. 210, 211.

[Obituary notices in Proceedings of the Royal Society, 1894–5, vol. lvii. pp. iii–v, and Nature, 11 Jan. 1894, p. 250; information kindly supplied by Prof. H. B. Dixon, F.R.S., and personal knowledge.]

F. W. G.