The Papers of Norman Francis Hughes

Scope and Content

The collection includes correspondence with contemporaries; papers and correspondence relating to a number of organizations including the International Commission on Palynology (ICP) of which Norman was the President; references from colleagues and students; teaching records including excursion notebooks and lantern slides; personal records including postcard collections; and a large collection of SEM Pollen negatives from Northern Europe taken in the 1960s-1980s.

Administrative / Biographical History

Norman Francis Hughes was born in Wendover, Buckinghamshire 4th August 1918, the son of Reginald George and Doris Ethel (Lang). He attended Kings College School, Wimbledon London and Queens College, Cambridge where, as an undergraduate he studied the natural sciences tripos (geology, mineralogy, botany and zoology), and won the Wiltshire Prize on part 1. His studies were however, interrupted by the war. He served with Royal Artillery 1939-1946, and was based in the UK, North Africa and Italy in the field and survey regiments. He was an instructor in biology in 1945 in Perugia, Italy when he was released from service.

Norman remained a Territorial Army (TA, later TAVR) geologist, and their two week training period included attachment to the British Army of the Rhine. He was later to visit Thailand. One of the new Army emergency reserve (AER) units in 1953 was a geologists pool, which included Majors N.L. Falcon, T.G Miller, N.F Hughes, and A.W Woodland, and Captains F.Moseley, A.H.V Smith, and A.F Fox. He left the pool, as a Lieutenant Colonel, in 1970, after having advised on terrain, soil mechanics and exploration for materials in Germany, the Canadian arctic, Malaya, North East Thailand as well as the UK.

He completed his part II of the Natural sciences tripos in 1947 with First class honours in Geology, and won the Harkness Scholarship. He married Pamela Diamond/ Le Boutillier July 5th 1944.

After the war he became a lecturer in geology at Bedford College, London 1947-1953. He then returned to Cambridge, where he became a university Lecturer in geology with special responsibility for teaching palaeobotany, a subject that was to remain his overwhelming research passion throughout his life. His first paper was published in 1955, complete with illustrations by his wife Pamela. He developed an internationally recognized school in Palynology.

Norman was particularly interested in new techniques such as electron microscopy and his research into the pollen of ancient flowering plants; he began to detect shortcomings in the conventional methodological approach to data collection and interpretation. The "biorecord" and "palaeotaxon" were seen by some as radical ideas, but from Hughes perspective allowed maximum amount of information to be recorded for the benefit of future workers.

Norman was elected a Fellow of Queens College Cambridge in 1962, where he was keeper of the college records and wine steward secretary from 1963. It was in this role that he figured in the BBC television series on the college in 1984. Outside of academia he was a keen bird-watcher, and actively supported his wifes career as an artist. During this time he became assistant director of studies in Natural sciences (1963-1972), and also acting junior bursar of the college 1974-1976.

Norman retired from his university teaching post in September 1985. He was a Fellow of the Geological society London, and a committee member in many capacities; the International Union of Geosciences, the International Geological Correlation Programme (GCP), The International Commission for Palynology (ICP) in the early 1970s which he served as President, and was one of the founding members of the Paleontological Association. Norman died 18th September 1994 after a short illness in Cambridge, UK.


The filing cabinets had numbers (sometimes) on them but no titles. The filing records from these drawers were in no logical order but had been kept in individual envelopes, with labels (in red ink) on them. The papers within each were largely arranged in date order.

Those files arranged or sent to the department by Ms Chapman in 2002 were presumably originally from the filing cabinets. They were arranged in no particular order either. Other loose records (lantern slides etc) had no clear provenance or original order, other than the name of Hughes on them in most cases.

The collection is still to be arranged, although draft series have been devised.

Access Information

The papers are largely open for consultation by researchers using Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. However, as the papers have not been appraised, there may be some closures, especially in relation to correspondence and reference files.

The Geological Conservation Unit [Brighton Building] is open from Monday to Friday, 10:00-13:00 and 14:00-17:00. A prior appointment made at least two weeks in advance, and two forms of identification are required.

Please contact the Museum to ask about the collection or to make an appointment.

Other Finding Aids

The DDF Archive Inventory spreadsheet is available which contains basic box listing entries for the legacy records of the Sedgwick Museum and Department of Earth Sciences. Please ask staff for further information.

Archivist's Note

This collection level description was written by Sandra Marsh of Sedgwick Museum in September 2010. Information was taken a number of publications and websites, as well as the papers themselves. Assistance was given by a number of volunteers during the course of the DDF Project.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies, photographs, and printouts from scanned images may be provided. Charges may apply. Readers may also use their own digital cameras subject to copyright legislation and in-house rules.

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Sedgwick Museum Staff.

Please cite as Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, The Papers of Norman Francis Hughes, NFHS

Appraisal Information

Initial listing work was undertaken during 2010-2011 as no box/file list could be recovered. During this time some basic appraisal assessments were made at file level, mostly removing duplicates of records such as photocopied teaching resources and forms.

A more considered appraisal approach to the records/collection will be needed when the collection is catalogued.

Custodial History

The 5 filing cabinets were (it is assumed) transferred from Norman Hughes office at the time of his departure from the department/death in 1994.

A number of boxes of records also appear to have been sent to Barry Rickards/Margaret Johnson [Museum curator/Administrator] by Jenny Chapman in August 2002 with notes attached to each envelope (DDF Archive box numbers 115-117). Ms Chapman indicated in her letter/notes that these files were of particular importance, although no further information exists.

The records had been transferred from the Sedgwick Museum [Downing Street, Cambridge] to the Geological Conservation Unit [Madingley Road] between 2002-2009.


No more records are currently expected.