On 28 February 1912 William Bateson delivered at the University of Oxford a prescient address entitled “Biological Fact and the Structure of Society.” He began with the observation that “… the civilized world is at length awakening to the fact that the knowledge needed for the right direction of social progress must be gained by biological observation and experiment.” 1 By profession a horticulturist, he counterposed what he believed to be the findings of evolutionary biology and genetics against prevailing social and political tendencies. Bateson was not a social Darwinist in the extreme or pejorative sense, and disagreed with Herbert Spencer’s laissez-faire political economy. But he believed that the quality of human life in the long run required that social policies respect biological facts. He was an advocate of biocracy before the invention of the term. Although his biases were evident, he was more inclined to raise problems than to prescribe answers. He concluded that:

Whatever is doubtful, this much I think certain, that we are fast nearing one of those great secular changes through which history occasionally passes. The present social order is too unstable to last much longer, and he must be callous who greatly desires that it should. What will emerge from the approaching histolysis no one can predict. Let us hope, something better: and to this end may those upon whom devolves the duty of rearing that new organism, which is to grow from the dissolved tissues of society, be guided in their treatment, like physicians of the modern age, not by nostrum merely, but by the facts of natural physiology. 2