This paper looks at the attempts to found marine stations in Britain during the late 19th century and seeks to show how a fuller understanding of these events, and their success or failure, can be gained by looking both at the scientific background to the movement and at the broadly similar problems that faced their founders. The survival of early marine stations depended largely on how successfully they balanced scientific objectives with the applied work which was the price of government support. Those stations that continued into the twentieth century did so mostly by abandoning pure research in marine zoology and by concentrating on fisheries problems; only these attracted the grants essential for their survival. This was a turn of events unforeseen when the foundation of marine stations was discussed in the 1870's but ideas changed rapidly in the early 1880's when it became apparent that progress could be made only by accepting a different orientation. This paper looks at how official policy towards science in Britain affected oceanography and other aspects of marine science during the late 19th century, and how scientists hoped that the foundation of marine stations would fulfil both a scientific and a practical need for institutional bases for marine research. However, competition for scarce resources created tension and rivalry between institutions from which few escaped unscathed. The underlying reasons for such problems cannot generally be dealt with extensively in the histories of individual stations but they contribute much to our understanding of how such institutions developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The paper concludes with a brief review of individual stations, particularly those in Scotland.

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