Papers of Claude Wilson Wardlaw

Scope and Content

A collection of research papers and consultancy reports of the botanist Claude Wardlaw.

These items were presented to the University Library by Professor Wardlaw at the time of his retirement. A few items relate to the period before he was appointed to the University, in 1940, but the major part of the archive consists of a substantial number of reports, correspondence and photographs detailing his many study tours and consultancies in the Caribbean, central America, Africa and the Far East. His particular areas of interest in the cultivation and diseases of bananas and oil palms are well-documented, and the archive records his continuing relationship as an adviser to the Standard Fruit and Steamship Company of America. Also included are a number of draft and proof copies of those articles and books he wrote before his retirement, including Diseases of the Banana, of Embryogenesis in Plants and Organisation and Evolution in Plants as well as his contributions to the Handbuch der Pflanzenphysiologie.

The collection will be of interest to those interested in plant pathology and mycology, and of the early study of morphogenesis in plants, as well as those with an interest in the history and role of the Standard Fruit and Steamship Company in the agriculture of the developing world.

Administrative / Biographical History

Claude Wilson Wardlaw was born on 4th February 1901, the son of Major J.Wardlaw, and was educated at Paisley Grammar school. He graduated with first-class honours in botany from Glasgow University in 1922. He was appointed lecturer there in 1925 and gained the degrees of Ph.D. and D.Sc. He also spent time researching at Imperial College, London and studying Alpine botany in Geneva. In 1927 he was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

In 1928 he accepted the appointment as pathologist for banana research at the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture, Trinidad, and in 1933 became officer-in-charge of the Low-Temperature Research unit at Trinidad. During these years he published widely on the physiology, pathology and storage of tropical crops. His book Diseases of the Banana, originally published in 1935, was later extended and revised and appeared in new editions (under the title Banana Diseases) in 1961 and 1971. It is generally accepted as the standard work on the subject. He also published an account of his early years in Trinidad, Green Havoc in 1935. He joined the Trinidad Volunteer Regiment, and eventually retired as a Lieutenant–Colonel.

Wardlaw returned to England in 1940, to take up the appointment as Barker professor of cryptogamic botany at the University of Manchester. As well as launching his own research programme into plant morphogenesis, he encouraged the expansion of other research topics in the department. For example, during his time in Trinidad Wardlaw had become deeply interested in plant pathology and mycology, and he promoted these areas in his new department. In the 1950s he was greatly influenced by Alan Turing’s diffusion reaction theory of morphogenesis, which Wardlaw described as “a source of inspiration”.

Wardlaw was also keen to work with private companies to promote mutual interests in research. In 1944 he had been appointed academic consultant at ICI, Trafford Park, Manchester, to advise on penicillin production. Once the war ended, Wardlaw maintained interests in research relating to national food supply and the pharmaceutical industry. He convinced the University to fund two new assistant lecturer posts, in 1946 and 1947, and he negotiated a number of ICI-funded research projects.

He published a number of books during his time in Manchester, most notably Morphogenesis which appeared in 1952; this was followed by Embryogenesis in Plants (1955) and Organisation and Evolution in Plants (1965). Following his retirement he published Morphogenesis in Plants: A Contemporary Study (1968); and the collections Essays on Form in Plants (1968) and Cellular Differentiation in Plants and Other Essays (1969). Professor Wardlaw was also active outside his own department, becoming dean of the Faculty of Science in 1950 and 1951, and pro-vice-chancellor between 1953-1957. In1958 he was appointed George Harrison professor of botany and director of the Experimental Grounds, the senior botany post at Manchester.

In the post-war years Wardlaw undertook numerous field trips to advise and report on tropical fruit production. The archive contains copies of many of his reports, written for companies such as the Standard Fruit and Steamship Company of America.

Wardlaw was recipient of many official and professional appointments: he was a Foreign Correspondent of the Academie D’Agriculture de la France; in 1954 he became a member of the Council of University College, Ibadan; and he was appointed as the representative of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to the governing body of the National Vegetable Research Station, 1955.

Wardlaw married Jessie Connell in 1928, and they had two sons. Following her death, in 1971, he wrote an account of his wife’s life and artistic accomplishments A Quiet Talent: Jessie Wardlaw, 1903-1971. Claude Wardlaw died on 16th December 1985.


Arranged chronologically, where known, and divided into series:

  • CWW/1 - Reports and consultations
  • CWW/2 - Proof copies and manuscripts of publications
  • CWW/3 - Miscellaneous

Access Information

Open, with exception of item CWW/1/51, which has restricted access for data protection reasons.

Acquisition Information

Donated to the University of Manchester Library by Professor Wardlaw in 1966.

Related Material

The University of Manchester department of botany archive contains material relating to Wardlaw's academic career (DBO). There is a vice-chancellor's file on Wardlaw's initial appointment to the cryptogamic botany (VCA/7/36).

The Papers of Alan Mathison Turing, Cambridge University: King's College Archive Centre include material on Wardlaw and Turing's work on morphogenesis in plants ( AMT )


Wardlaw's work at the University's department of botany is discussed in Alison Kraft, "Building Manchester biology 1851-1963: national agendas, provincial strategies" (University of Manchester Ph.D. 2000). W. A. Charlton and E. G. Cutter, 135 years of Botany at Manchester [University of Manchester 1998] is a history of the department, which mentions Wardlaw in passing.