Arabella Burton Buckley


Popular scientific author, specialising in natural history. Secretary to Charles Lyell, 1864–75. Wrote in particular for young readers, and encouraged an active pursuit of natural history. A supporter of Darwinism; she emphasised the importance of mutualism and dependence as forces of evolution.

Sources: ODNB. (See the bibliography for full references to sources)

Further information:

Arabella Burton Buckley (1840-1929) was the daughter of the Reverend J. W. Buckley of St Mary’s, Paddington. She was secretary to the English geologist Charles Lyell until his death in 1875. While secretary to Lyell, Buckley gathered scientific information, some of which was used by Charles Darwin. Before using Buckley’s observations in his published materials, Darwin wrote to Lyell to verify the manner in which Buckley should be cited. In addition to providing Darwin with her scientific observations, Buckley also provided Darwin with editorial comments. Upon Lyell’s death, Darwin wrote to Buckley to express his condolences.

Buckley was a scientific populariser: she lectured on scientific matters and  published educational materials for children, including The fairyland of science (1879), Through magic glasses and other lectures, a sequel to ’The fairy-land of science’ (1880), Life and her children (1881), Winners in life’s race, or, The great backboned family (1882), and A short history of natural science and of the progress of discovery from the time of the Greeks (1882). Some of Buckley’s materials were self-illustrated. Notably, a few of her publications promoted evolutionism. In a May 1871 Macmillan’s article Buckley argued that evolution theory and a belief in God were not inherently antagonistic.

Additional Gender Resources:

Primary Sources:

Darwin Correspondence Database,

Darwin Correspondence Database,

Macmillan’s magazine, 1859-1907 24. 139 (May 1871): 45-51. [Wellesley attribution: Buckley, Arabella B].


Secondary Sources:

The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: Pioneering Lives from Ancient Times to the Mid-20th Century, edited by Marilyn Ogilvie and Joy Harvey. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective, edited by R. T. J. Moody, E. Buffetaut, D. Naish, and D. M. Martill. London” Geological Society, Special Publication 343, 2010.

Victorian Science in Context, edited by Bernard Lightman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.