Letters of Professor Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873)

Scope and Content

The correspondence consist of: a batch of letters to a variety of correspondents, 1840s.

Administrative / Biographical History

The geologist Adam Sedgwick was born on 22 March 1785 in Dent, Yorkshire. He was educated locally in Dent then at Sedburgh, before studying at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1808 he was awarded a degree in Mathematics with distinction, and in 1810 he was elected a Fellow of Trinity College. In 1817, Sedgwick was ordained, and in 1818 he was elected as the Woodwardian Professor of Geology, University of Cambridge. The same year he became a Fellow of the Geological Society of London. Sedgwick's lectures on Geology proved extremely popular despite being optional and this had a large impact on the shaping of English educated opinion on Geology. He expanded a geological collection at the University and made it into one of the finest museums in the world. The present museum was erected as a memorial to him. Sedgwick was an excellent field geologist and he worked with Roderick Impey Murchison on the Eastern Alps and believed that Lyell's principles of uniformity should be tested by empirical observation and not assumed a priori. His most important geological work led to the foundation of the Cambrian system. This arose out of a desire to penetrate the fossil record back to its farthest limits. Between 1829 and 1831 he was President of the Geological Society of London. Professor Adam Sedgwick died on 27 January 1873.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.17. Robinson-Sheares. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1909.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various other references to Sedgwick related material (check the Indexes for more details): letter to J. O. Halliwell-Phillips, 1839, at L.O.A. 6/9; letter to Sir R. I. Murchison, 1856, at Gen.523/4; letter to Murchison, at Gen.1425/400; extract from a letter to Mrs. Tollemache, at Dk.6.19/8; letter from Murchison, 1838, at Gen.523/3; letters to Sir A. C. Ramsay, 1849 and 1861, at Gen. 1999/1/28 and Gen. 1426/209; and, various mentions of and statements about Sedgwick in letters of Murchison, 1827-1829, at Gen.2216/2-34, and Gen.523/3; mention in a letter of J. Murray, 1845, at Gen.1996/7/28; and, mention in a letter of James Nicol, 1854, at Gen.1999/1/20. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes several locations of Sedgwick related material.