Page:Dictionary of National Biography, Second Supplement, volume 2.djvu/65

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Foster
Foster
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of physiology at the Royal Institution. In 1870 he left London for Cambridge, on his appointment, chiefly on Huxley's recommendation, to the newly established post of prælector of physiology in Trinity College. In the following year an honorary M.A. degree was conferred on him by the university, the complete degree being conferred in 1884. In 1872 also he was elected F.R.S., and became one of the general secretaries of the British Association, a post which he resigned after four years, though he continued throughout his life to take an active part in the working of the association. In 1881 he succeeded Huxley as biological secretary of the Royal Society, an office which he held for twenty-two years. In 1899 he was president of the British Association, and in the same year was created K.C.B. In 1900 he was elected M.P. for the University of London, and this led him to apply for a deputy to perform the duties of his Cambridge professorship, and three years later to his resignation. In politics Foster was a liberal, but on the introduction of Gladstone's home rule bill he joined the liberal unionists and gave a general support to the conservative government. On entering the House of Commons he sat at first on the government side of the house. He found himself unable to support the government in several of its measures, notably the education bill of 1902, and finally crossed the floor of the house, thenceforth voting with the liberal opposition. At the general election of 1906 he stood for the university as a liberal, and was defeated by 24 votes. On 28 Jan. 1907 he died suddenly from pneumo-thorax in London, and was buried in the cemetery at Huntingdon, For more than thirty years he had Uved at Great Shelf ord near Cambridge, where he engaged wdth ardour in gardening.

Foster was twice married: (1) in 1863 to Georgina (d. 1869), daughter of Cyrus Edmonds, by whom he had two children, a son, Michael George Foster, M.D. (Camb.), practising at San Remo and at Harrogate, and a daughter, Mercy, wife of J. Tetley Rowe, Archdeacon of Rochester ; (2) in 1872 to Margaret, daughter of George Rust of Cromwell House, Huntingdon.

Foster left his mark on his generation chiefly as a teacher, a writer of scientific works, and an organiser. As a teacher he had a large share in the development of the present method of making practical work in the laboratory an essential part of the courses in biological science. In his student days, zoology, botany, physiology and histology — the latter two being generally regarded as insignificant parts of human anatomy — were taught by means of lectures and the exhibition of specimens, macroscopic or microscopic. Sharpcy no doubt had somewhat extended this simple plan before he invited Foster to join him in London ; but the first course of practical physiology given in England appears to have been that given by Foster. In 1870 Huxley instituted a course of practical biology, with Foster as one of his demonstrators. Foster's first care on coming to Cambridge was to introduce practical classes in physiology, physiological chemistry, histology, and biology, and these were soon followed by a class in embryology. In order to facilitate the conduct of these classes he co-operated with Burdon-Sanderson, Lauder Brunton, and Klein in writing a 'Text-Book for the Physiological Laboratory' (1873), with his pupil F. M. Balfour in writing 'The Elements of Embryology' (1874), and obtained the assistance of another of his pupils, John Newport Langley, in writing ' A Course of Elementary Practical Physiology ' (1876), in which histology was included. His classes were the forerunners of those conducted in the laboratories of zoology and botany, subsequently established in Cambridge. The plan of teaching developed by Foster and by Huxley rapidly spread throughout Great Britain and America. Foster's belief in the value of direct observation of natural phenomena was accompanied by a belief in the virtue of research ; and this he had a faculty of communicating to his pupils. It was through his influence that most of his early pupils devoted themselves to original inquiry. The earliest of these, H. N. Martin, became professor in Johns Hopkins University, U.S.A., and potently helped to develop biological research in America. Foster's many occupations prevented him taking a leading position as an original investigator (cf. Journal of Physiology xxxv. 233 for an account of his work). The experimental trend of his mind was shown in his main, and almost sole, relaxation — gardening. He hybridised several plants, but chiefly irises, and in these chiefly the oncocyclus section. Now and again he published a short article in one of the horticultural journals (cf. The Garden, 15 Nov. 1890, 18 Feb. 1893), but a good many of Ms hybrids he left undescribed.

Foster's 'Text - Book of Physiology,' published in 1876, gave a critical account of the state of physiology at the time ;