William Dickson Lang, British geologist and palaeontologist, received his schooling at Christ's Hospital (Blue Coat School), London, and at Harrow, north-west of London. From 1898 he studied zoology at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he passed in the first class of the tripos examinations in the natural sciences and was awarded the degrees Bachelor of Arts (BA, 1901) and Master of Arts (MA, 1903). Years later he qualified as Doctor of Science (ScD, 1919). In 1902 he began his career in the Department of Geology of the British Museum (Natural History) in charge of Protozoa, Coelenterates, Sponges and Polyzoa. Later he became curator of mosquitoes. After returning to the Department of Geology he rose to assistant keeper in 1921, deputy-keeper in 1927, and keeper of geology from 1928 until he retired in 1938.
In 1908 Lang published a description of "Polyzoa and Anthozoa from the Upper Cretaceous limestone of Needs Camp, Buffalo River" in the Annals of the South African Museum (Vol. 7(1), pp. 1-11). Other invertebrates from the same deposits were described by H. Woods* in the same volume. The fossils came from two small quarries in isolated patches of limestone some 27 km west of East London, at elevations of 350 and 365 meters above sea level. The fauna of the lower quarry was later confirmed to be of Late Cretaceous age, while that of the upper quarry is Tertiary, probably Eocene.
Lang's main recreation was field natural history, particularly in south-western Dorset. His publications (which numbered about 130) included a Catalogue of the fossil Bryozoa (Polyzoa) in the British Museum (1899-1922), A handbook of British mosquitoes (1920), a book on palaeozoic corals (1940) and a monograph on Mary Anning (1799-1847), a British collector and vendor of fossils (1935). His papers dealt with fossil Polyzoa, living insects, philosophical biology, and the geology of Dorset. He was distinguished for his knowledge of palaeontology, applied evolutionary principles to the classification of fossil Polyzoa and corals, and elucidated in detail the faunal and stratigraphical succession of the Lias along the Dorset coast.
Lang served on the council of the Geological Society of London from 1923 to 1926 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1929. In 1908 he married Georgiana Dixon, with whom he had a son and a daughter.