Papers and correspondence of Sir Alister Clavering Hardy, 1896-1985

Scope and Content

The papers give a good picture of many aspects of Hardy's life and career. Biographical material includes the plans, outlines and several draft chapters for the autobiography which Hardy did not live to complete; the extant draft goes to 1925. Hardy's scientific research and publications are perhaps under documented but there is material on the early plankton research and the development of the plankton indicator and recorder, and on the Discovery expedition, with Hardy's preparatory work and sketches and his journals and reports. Other projects represented are aerial drift, vertical migration and the 'Aquatic man' theory. The correspondence, though generally slight, has more substantial exchanges in the 1920s with Armand Denis, the Belgian zoologist and film-maker whom Hardy met at Naples, and with Sir John Ellerman the shipping magnate who supported Hardy's oceanographic work at Hull. Another dimension of Hardy's life and work is represented by material on his religious interests. There are records of his early (1916) and continuing interest in telepathy and thought transference, a considerable number of lectures and publications, and documentation of the history of the Religious Experience Research Unit from its founding in 1968 to Hardy's death in 1985. A special feature of the papers is documentation (including photographs) of Hardy's service with the Northern Cyclist Battalion during the First World War and of his continuing contacts with members of the battalion and their families throughout the rest of his very long life. Other interests such as flight and balloons, boxing, writing fiction and poetry, and drawing and painting are also represented.

Administrative / Biographical History

Hardy was born in Nottingham and educated at Oundle School and Exeter College, Oxford where his studies were interrupted in 1915 by war service with the Northern Cyclist Battalion. He returned to Oxford in 1919 and undertook research at the Stazione Zoologica, Naples before taking up his first post at the Fisheries Laboratory, Lowestoft in 1921. Here the study of plankton became his principal research interest and prompted the devising of recording apparatus leading to the Continuous Plankton Recorder. In 1924 Hardy was appointed Zoologist on the Discovery expedition to the Antarctic, 1925-1927, and on his return he was appointed to the newly created chair in zoology and oceanography at University College, Hull. In 1942 he moved to the Regius Chair in Natural History at Aberdeen University and in 1946 to the Linacre Chair in Zoology at Oxford University where he remained for the rest of his career. Here he encouraged the ecological field researches of the Bureau of Animal Population (C.S. Elton) and the Edward Grey Institute for Field Ornithology (D.L. Lack) and was responsible for persuading the ethologist N. Tinbergen to move his animal behaviour research from the University of Leiden to Oxford. Hardy retired from his Oxford chair in 1960 and increasingly devoted himself to his longstanding religious interests. In 1968 he set up the Religious Experience Research Unit at Manchester College, Oxford to assemble and analyse religious experiences and the award of the 1985 Templeton Prize enabled this work to continue as the Alister Hardy Research Centre.


By section as follows: Biographical and autobiographical, Zoology and marine biology, Religion and the paranormal, Patents, inventions and ideas, Other interests, Non-print material. Index of correspondents.

Access Information

Entry permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card or an Oxford University Card displaying the Bodleian logo. All applicants for new or replacement cards must apply in person, with a recommendation and payment if required, and with proof of their identity.

Some items not available for 30 years from date of writing.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Sir Alister Clavering Hardy (1896-1985) by J. Alton and P. Harper, NCUACS catalogue no. 5/4/88, 98 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Separated Material

Watercolours of temples are held at the Alister Hardy Research Centre, Oxford.

A framed photograph of the George Bligh and crew, and plans and miscellaneous photographs of the Continuous Plankton Recorder are held at the Fisheries Laboratory, Lowestoft.

Taped recollections are held in Hull University Archives.

26 watercolours and three photographs of the Discovery expedition are held at the Natural History Museum, London.

The original Continuous Plankton Recorder was deposited in the Science Museum, London.

Insect drift material is held at the Monks Wood Experimental Station, Huntingdon.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1986-1988 by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists from Mr Michael Hardy and Mrs Belinda Farley, son and daughter. Placed in Bodleian Library (gift) in 1988.

Geographical Names