Sir Charles Wright collection

Scope and Content

The collection covers Wright's participation in the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott) and general correspondence encompassing both polar and personal material.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Charles Seymour Wright, KCB, OBE, MC, MA, was born in Canada in 1887. He was educated at Upper Canada College and the University Toronto. He won a scholarship to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, England, undertaking research in cosmic rays at the Cavendish Laboratory. It was while studying in Cambridge that he met Douglas Mawson who had been part of the British Antarctic Expedition, 1907-1908 (leader Ernest Henry Shackleton). Wright applied to join the forthcoming British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott). He was accepted as physicist, and along with five other scientists spent the first winter at Cape Evans studying glacier ice, snow and sea ice. Magnetism, gravity and aurora were added to these studies the subsequent winter. Scott appointed Wright to be a member of the first supporting party on the polar journey with Edward Leicester Atkinson, Apsley Cherry-Garrard and Patrick Keohane. Wright was later part of the search party, which searched for Scott and the missing pole party. On 11 November 1912 he discovered the party's tent on the Ross Ice Shelf.

On returning to England, he lectured in cartography and surveying while also writing up his scientific work. In 1914, he joined the Royal Engineers as a second lieutenant and served in France. He rose to the position of General Staff Officer in wireless intelligence and was awarded the MC and OBE. Wright joined the Admiralty Research Department in 1919, becoming superintendent at Teddington ten years later. Between 1934 and 1936 he was director of scientific research at the Admiralty. He played an important part in the early development of radar and detection of magnetic mines and torpedoes. He received the KCB in 1946 and took the post of chief of the Royal Naval Scientific Service. He took up several positions in subsequent years, firstly as scientific advisor to the Admiral at the British Joint Services Mission, Washington DC, then in 1951, director of the Marine Physical Laboratory of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at La Jolla, California. He joined the staff at the Pacific Naval Laboratory at Esquimaault, Canada in 1955.

Wright revisited Antarctica in 1960 and 1965. In 1967, he joined the Institute of Earth Sciences, University of British Columbia and Royal Roads Military College, Victoria, British Columbia. In 1969, he retired to Saltspring Island near Victoria in British Columbia. He died on 1 November 1975.


The material is split into two sub-fonds, that relating to the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott) and correspondence respectively.

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with reference to The Polar Record, (1976) volume 18 number 114, p313-315 and Robert Keith Headland Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events, (1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN 0521309034

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England, a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist


Further accessions possible.