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Sir William Boyd Dawkins Papers

Date range: 1850-1929

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Sir William Boyd Dawkins (1837–1929) was a prominent figure in the development of geology and palaeontology in the 19th 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, William Boyd Dawkins was interested in evidences of early man in the British Isles. He undertook important excavations at Wookey Hole caves in Somerset, and later at Cresswell Crags near Worksop.

Dawkins combined academic study with an active and lucrative 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 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 letters, consultancy reports, geological sections and notes, printed evidence to official committees, company prospectuses, maps and press cuttings.

There is personal correspondence relating to palaeontological, geological and archaeological subjects, including the acquisition of specimens by Dawkins. There is also a small collection of papers relating to his interests in the history and topography of the Isle of Man, including information on monoglot Manx speakers in the late 19th century.

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

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Further Information:

  • Catalogue available online via ELGAR.
  • G. Tweedale and ; 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.

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