Papers of William Carmichael McIntosh

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 227 ms36344-7; ms37097-37120, ms38206; ms38225, ms37816-37821 and other locations.
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Physical Description
      22 boxes + 28 volumes + 8 volumes + many outsize items + 2 metres other material The papers are of mixed media and include: personal papers and correspondence; scientific and medical study and research papers and correspondence; important early photographic holdings; illustrative zoological plates and University teaching aids; mounted marine botanical specimens.

Scope and Content

The professional and personal papers of William Carmichael McIntosh, 1838-1931, Professor of Natural History at the University of St Andrews from 1882 to 1917, together with various related papers, comprising: some 2,000 scientific letters; scrapbooks; notes on psychiatric and scientific subjects (including University lecture notes); personal, family and business papers; scientific sketches including important marine natural history illustrations, many of which are by the noted natural history watercolourist Roberta McIntosh (1843-1869), who was McIntosh's sister, and who assisted in preparation of lecture and publication illustrations.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Carmichael McIntosh FRS, FRSE (1838-1931) was the first systematic marine zoologist in Britain. He started his academic career at Madras School, St Andrews around 1845, later entering the University of St Andrews at the age of 15. His life-long interest in natural history and in collecting marine creatures was already established by the time he entered Edinburgh University to study Medicine in 1857, whence he graduated in 1860. From 1860-1882 McIntosh was employed in institutional psychiatry in Perthshire, most importantly as the first director of the Murthly Hospital County Asylum from 1863. He was never to marry. His sister Roberta assisted him in many of his most important projects by providing drawings before her early death in 1868.

In 1873, British Annelids Vol. 1 Nemertea was published by the Ray Society; this was the first of a classic series of monographs, which would not be finally completed until 1923. McIntosh was also a pioneer of United Kingdom fisheries research, most especially in the period 1883-1896. Honours followed his many scientific achievements, including election to Fellowships of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1869 and the Royal Society of London in 1877.

From 1882 to 1917 McIntosh was Professor of Natural History at the University of St Andrews. During this period, he made a number of important contributions to the development of the University. These included the reform of Natural History teaching and the establishment of a Botanic Garden. He also played an important part in establishing a modern School of Medicine at St Andrews. Perhaps his most important contribution was the establishment of the St Andrews Fisheries Laboratory in 1884, the first dedicated facility of its kind in the British Isles. This was followed by the establishment of the world-renowned Gatty Marine Laboratory in 1896. In his later years, McIntosh made a number of important benefactions and bequests to the University.

The vast majority of photographic holdings within this collection relate to McIntosh's personal and family life. McIntosh was born into a prosperous middle-class family which had both the means and opportunity to be involved in photography from a relatively early period. The family certainly embraced formal portrait photography from the mid-1850s, while a note within the collection records McIntosh himself owning a camera in 1857 (ms37115 /2/23v).

From 1861, McIntosh's companion was his sister, Agnes McIntosh. She remained with her brother until her death in 1923. Agnes was an avid compiler of scrapbooks which chronicle her personal interests, the family and her brother's career. Dating principally from ca. 1850 to ca. 1905, these scrapbooks contain a significant amount of photographic material including much of the early material.


The manuscripts database arranges the collection in the following sections:

  • Professional and Personal Correspondence, 1860-1931, 1940s-ca.1980, comprising W C McIntosh correspondence, 1860-1931, McIntosh and Gunther family correspondence, A E Gunther correspondence relating to W C McIntosh's papers and various family history studies;
  • Academic Study Notebooks - ca.1850-1925. Subjects covered include medicine, natural history, chemistry, geology, fisheries research, and elementary (schoolboy) Latin. Also included are brief studies relating to the University of St Andrews;
  • Medical Papers including Psychiatry, 1857-1883, relating to W C McIntosh's medical studies at Edinburgh University, 1857-1860 and to his career in institutional psychiatry in Perthshire from 1860 to 1882;
  • Marine Annelid Research Papers, 1863-ca.1925, also includes material relating to McIntosh's research on other marine invertebrates;
  • Fisheries Research Papers, 1861-1928. This includes his involvement in governmental fisheries research in the period 1883 to 1901, in important work on the lifecycle of the salmon in the 1860s and in general marine fish research in the period 1865 to 1925;
  • Other Natural History Research Papers, 1850-1930, W C McIntosh's natural history research in areas other than marine annelids and fisheries research including early studies up to and including University; crustacea; ichthyology other than fisheries research; botany; marine botany; mammalian physiology; McIntosh, Darwin and the theory of evolution;
  • University of St Andrews Papers, 1853-2001, also including a body of correspondence involving the University and the Gunther family regarding McIntosh's Papers dating from the 1940s as well as manuscript texts relating to the history of marine research at St Andrews compiled up to 2001;
  • Family and general St Andrews Papers, ca 1800-ca.1980, various personal and family connections with the burgh of St Andrews in the period ca.1800 to 1932, also some 3 boxes of material relating to the family history research of A E Gunther in the period up to around 1980;
  • McIntosh Family Scrapbooks - ca.1840-ca.1920, comprising printed, autograph and photographic material, with one autograph commonplace book;
  • 10: McIntosh Marine Botany, 1822-ca.1920, being mounted marine botanical specimens collected by W C McIntosh.

Access Information

By appointment with the Archivist. Access to unpublished records less than 30 years old and other records containing confidential information may be restricted. Special conditions apply to photographs.


The significant collection of early photography within the McIntosh collection is described separately at GB 227 phWCM.

Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project Archivist, using manuscripts database entries compiled by Meic Pierce Owen, HOST project archivist.

Other Finding Aids

The collection has been listed as part of the RSLP-sponsored History of Science and Technology project, 2000-2002 and the list is available on the manuscripts database of the University of St Andrews Special Collection Department.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents. Special conditions apply to photographs.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 227 procedures.

Custodial History

The various sections of this collection and the other McIntosh material included within this catalogue have been transferred to the University Library, and thereafter to its Special Collections Department, at various times, principally from the early 1970s onwards. There are three sources: 

  • ms36344-ms36347 and ms37097-ms37120, the Papers of W C McIntosh were gifted to the University Library by Albert Everard Gunther, W C McIntosh's grand-nephew and biographer, in a series of separate transfers and were accessioned in 1971.
  • ms38206, ms38219, ms38224-ms38225, ms38340/5, ms38458, ms38463 and ms38501 (part) comprise items transferred from within the University since 1989. The principle source has been the School of Biology (the successor body of the Department of Natural History), most especially the Gatty Marine Laboratory and the Bute Medical Building. Important transfers have also been made from the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Botany.
  • ms38340 manuscript material relating to the study of McIntosh and the history of the marine research at St Andrews was part-gifted by the estate of the Late Professor M S Laverack and by Professor Adrian Horridge, and accessioned in 1996, 1999 and 2002.
  • In addition, a quantity of material included in this catalogue originates from other identified sources while the provenance of a small number of items is unclear. These holdings are located at ms38488 and within ms38501 and were accessioned in 2002 and 2002.

Related Material

GB 227 phWCM Photography - ca.1850-ca.1990. There is other material relevant to McIntosh at GB 227 within the manuscripts, muniments and rare books collections, see manuscripts database for full details, which also gives details of non-manuscript McIntosh holdings within the University of St Andrews and material held in the British Museum of Natural History and elsewhere.


A E Gunther, William Carmichael McIntosh, MD, FRS, a pioneer in marine biology (University of St Andrews, 1977).