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Smith Woodward Collection

Stalking Big Game with a Camera in Equatorial Africa, view full record Sir Arthur Smith Woodward (1864-1944) was Keeper of the Geological Department of the British Museum from 1901-1924, a world expert on fossil fishes who wrote the monumental Catalogue of the fossil fishes in the British Museum between 1889 and 1901, and winner of a Royal Medal from the Royal Society and the Linnean Medal of the Linnean Society, among many other prestigious awards. UCL purchased his library in 1945, the year after his death, with the assistance of Dr. Marie Stopes and it has since been added to by contributions from Lady Woodward among others. It now comprises over 2500 works, the most recent of which was published in 1968 and the earliest in 1739. Most however date from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, and they are mostly in English.

Palaeontology and geology are the main subjects represented but works on anthropology, evolution, the origin of man, classification of species, zoology, palaeobotany and natural history also feature. Geographically the collection spans the globe: it contains guides and handbooks, reports of scientific expeditions to Africa, Australia, China, Europe and North and South America, correspondence, memoirs, classification and descriptions of fossils and newly discovered species, and catalogues of collections as well as descriptions of those in the Britsh Museum and other institutions.

Many of these works contain letters and some are inscribed to Smith Woodward by famous palaeontologists of the day including Florentino Ameghino, C.E. Barrois, G.H.C.L. Baur, Bashford Dean, E.H. Haeckel, J.C. Merriam, Henry F. Osborn, H.G. Seeley, Othniel Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope. Marsh and Cope were American paleontologists whose heated rivalry from the 1870s onwards was known as ‘The Bone Wars’. This was a period in which Stegosaurus and Diplodocus were discovered, and which led to decades of fossil speculation in North America when many other dinosaur remains were found. Works by Richard Owen, who coined the term ‘dinosaur’, Thomas Henry Huxley, biologist, anatomist, champion of scientific education and known as ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ because of his vigorous support for The origin of species, are also included as well as those by Darwin himself. One of Darwin’s less famous but still important works in the collection, The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms with observations on their habits , was published just before his death in 1888.

Smith Woodward was a central figure in the study of paleontology in his time, serving as Secretary to the Palaeontological Society from 1900-1934, President of the Geological Association from 1904-1906 and President of the Geological Society from 1914-1916. To browse the collection go to http://www.ucl.ac.uk/library/ and type Smith Woodward in a classmark search.


Last modified 6 April 2009

 
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