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Sir William Boyd Dawkins Papers

Date range: 1850–1929.

Sir William Boyd Dawkins (1837–1929), was a prominent figure in the development of geology and palaeontology as scientific subjects in the nineteenth century. 

In 1869 he was appointed curator of the Manchester Museum and in 1874 he was created the first Professor of Geology at Owens College (later the University of Manchester), a position which he held until 1908. 

As a palaeontologist, Boyd Dawkins was interested in evidence of early man in the British Isles. He undertook important excavations at Wookey Hole caves in Somerset, and later at Cresswell Crags near Worksop.

Boyd Dawkins combined academic study with an active interest in economic geology, acting as a consultant for public authorities and private businesses on a number of geological projects. In the 1880s he advised on a Channel Tunnel project, and discovered coal under East Kent; he played a continuing role in the development of the Kent coalfield. He was also heavily involved with various water supply projects for municipal authorities.

The collection relates largely to Boyd Dawkins’ career as a consultant engineering geologist involved in the coal industry, water supply projects and the construction of reservoirs, and the abortive Channel Tunnel project of the 1880s.

It contains personal letters, consultancy reports, geological sections and notes, printed evidence to official committees, company prospectuses, maps and press cuttings.

The collection is important for the history of geology, economic and business history, hydrogeology, civil engineering, the mining industry and industrial pollution.

Finding aids

  • Catalogue available online via ELGAR.
  • Published handlist, G. Tweedale & T. Procter, 'Catalogue of the Papers of Professor Sir William Boyd Dawkins in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 74, no. 2 (1992), pp. 3-36.


The John Rylands Library

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