John Lubbock, first Baron Avebury (1834-1913), was the son of Sir John William Lubbock, third baronet (1803-1865). The family firm, the distinguished London bankers Lubbock, Foster & Co., eventually merged with Coutt's in 1914.
John Lubbock was the successful product of both the conventions and eccentricities of his background. His father, Sir John, was a keen amateur astronomer and mathematician and friend of Charles Darwin. Darwin acted as informal tutor to the young John, and in 1841 took up residence at the Lubbock seat, High Elms, near Downe in Kent.
John married Ellen Frances Hordern in 1856; they had six children, but following Ellen's death in 1879 he married Alice, daughter of the archaeologist Augustus Pitt-Rivers, thereby strengthening his connections with the scientific culture of his time.
After his father's death in 1865, John took over his position as head of Robarts, Lubbock & Co. (as the family business was now called). He also worked as secretary for the London Bankers' Clearing House and as first president of the London Institute of Bankers, which was established in 1879.
However Lubbock's outstanding contribution to history was in the field of natural science. Schooled on Darwin, he remained a passionate adherent to the doctrine of natural selection and applied its philosophy to such disparate fields and archaeology and entomology. His publications included Pre-Historic Times as Illustrated by Ancient Remains (1865) and the seminal Ants, Bees and Wasps (he was an enthusiastic lover of insects). Lubbock's overriding thesis was to break down ideas of difference: he emphasised the connections between so-called 'savage' and 'civilised' societies, and the sophistication, for example, of insect colonies that in many ways parallel the human prototype.
Lubbock represented the borough of London University, a safe Liberal seat in Parliament, for twenty years. Though he fell out with Gladstone in 1886, his politics continued to be liberal and humanist in outlook. He drafted the Bank Holiday Bill in 1871, and the first secular holiday was christened 'St Lubbock's day' in his honour. He was a supporter of constitutional and educational reform and an advocate of free trade.
Lubbock also held the positions of President of the London Chamber of Commerce (1888-1893) and chairman for the London County Council (1890-92). He was an active member of the Royal Society (FRS), Royal Institution and the Geological Society.
John Lubbock was elected to the board of Phoenix Assurance in 1866 and created Baron Avebury in 1900, and soon afterwards retired to Kingsgate Castle on the Kent Coast.