Papers of: McCormick, Robert (1800-1890)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

MSS.3356-3382 comprise journals and memorandum books documenting the various phases of McCormick's career, as follows: MS.3356, sketchbook relating to West Indies and South America voyages, 1824-1825; MS.3357, journal of voyage north of Spitsbergen in the Hecla , 1827; MS.3358, notes of lectures on natural philosophy by Robert Jameson (1774-1854) at Edinburgh University, 1830-1831; MS.3359, diary of voyages to West Indies and South America, 1830-1832; MS.3360, half-pay diaries (7 volumes), 1830-1838; MS.3361, diaries covering 1823-1830, fair copy; MS.3362, sketch book covering voyages in North Sea and West Indies, 1832-1833; MS.3363, diary covering blockade of Dutch coast and voyage to West Indies, 1832-1834; MS.3364, diary of a walking tour in Devon (apparently part of a longer journey of which the other journal volumes are not extant), 1834-1835; MS.3365, diary while fitting out the Antarctic expedition of the Erebus , 1839; MSS.3366-3368, diaries written during the Erebus Antarctic expedition (15 volumes), 1839-1843; MSS.3369-3370, meteorological and ornithological logs respectively of the Erebus Antarctic expedition, 1839-1843; MS.3371, half-pay diaries (4 volumes), 1843-1845; MS.3372, memorandum book on Arctic discovery, chiefly compiled during the voyage of the North Star as part of the search for Sir John Franklin, 1848-1852; MS.3373, diary while fitting out the North Star as part of the search for Sir John Franklin, 1852; MSS.3374-3380, diaries written during the voyage of the North Star as part of the search for Sir John Franklin, 1852-1853; MSS.3381-3382, meteorological tables and sketches respectively, made during the voyage of the North Star as part of the search for Sir John Franklin, 1852-1853. MS.8682 comprises loose miscellaneous material, chiefly printed, relating to various phases of McCormick's career: evolving versions of his Narrative of a Boat-Expedition up the Wellington Channel in the Year 1852 (London: Eyre and Spotteswoode, 1854), plus testimonials, printed items by other authors including the Arctic traveller Dr. Richard King, publisher's advertisements and newspapers.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert McCormick was born in 1800 near Great Yarmouth; his father, also Robert McCormick, was a naval surgeon of Irish ancestry. McCormick junior studied surgery at Guy's and St. Thomas's Hospitals, London, under Sir Astley Cooper (1768-1841) and gained his diploma in 1822, becoming a naval surgeon in 1823 and being posted to the West Indies. In 1827 he sailed with the expedition of the Hecla , under the command of William Edward Parry (1790-1855), to the north of Spitsbergen. In the ensuing years he was assigned to the West Indies, Brazil, the blockade off Holland and the West Indies once again before leaving active service and going onto half-pay in 1829. During the period 1829-1839 he devoted himself to the study of geology and natural history. In 1839 he joined the Antarctic expedition of the Erebus , under the command of James Clark Ross (1800-1862), as surgeon and naturalist; the expedition concluding in 1843. During 1845-1848 he was assigned to ships based at Woolwich Dockyard and came into conflict with the Admiralty over promotion. During the search for the expedition of Sir John Franklin (1786-1847), lost in the Arctic, McCormick argued that an open boat might profitably search up the Wellington Channel and in 1852, as surgeon of the North Star , he was able to undertake this: he returned to England in 1853 and in 1854 published his Narrative of a Boat-Expedition up the Wellington Channel in the Year 1852 (London: Eyre and Spotteswoode, 1854). McCormick was not subsequently active as a naval surgeon and again spent time in conflict over promotion. He was placed on the retired list in 1865 and died in 1890.

Arrangement

MSS.3356-3382 comprise journals and memorandum books and are arranged in chronological order of composition. MS.8682 comprises loose miscellaneous material, chiefly printed.

Conditions Governing Access

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Puttick and Simpson, London, July 1907 (accession number 18870) and presented c.1910, source not known (accession number 25613).

Other Finding Aids

Described in: S.A.J. Moorat, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts on Medicine and Science in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library (London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 1962-1973) and subsequent typescript supplementary finding aids by Richard Aspin, Christopher Hilton, Keith Moore and Richard Palmer. Detailed catalogue available at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a/.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

volumes and a few loose papers; holograph and printed.

Archivist's Note

description compiled by Christopher Hilton based upon those in the Library's published finding aid by S.A.J. Moorat and subsequent typescript supplementary finding aids by Richard Aspin, Christopher Hilton, Keith Moore and Richard Palmer. Biographical information from the Dictionary of National Biography.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Bibliography

Robert McCormick's Narrative of a Boat-Expedition up the Wellington Channel in the Year 1852 (London: Eyre and Spotteswoode, 1854) draws upon material in MSS.3374-3382; proof copies and early versions of the work are to be found in MS.8682.