The Papers of William James Lewis

Scope and Content

The collection includes copied research papers in notebooks; receipts for purchased items (specimens); correspondence from mostly 1898; and manuscripts and notes, 1890s.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Lewis was born on 10 January 1847 at Llanwyddelan, Montgomeryshire, Wales. He was educated at Llanrwst Grammar School. From there, he went up to Jesus College Oxford in 1865.

For a short spell, he was a tutor at Cheltenham College (1870-1871). He was elected Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford in 1872. As he remained unmarried, he retained this Fellowship until his death.

Lewis was appointed to the British Museum in 1875 as an assistant to the Mineralogical Department, but later resigned in 1877 due to ill-health. At about this time, he was only given a year to live by his doctors and was ordered abroad for warm weather. He returned to Cambridge in 1879 and Lectured in Mineralogy. He joined Trinity College in 1880 and was elected as Professor of Mineralogy by the University of Cambridge in 1881.

Lewis had studied crystallography under Professor William Hallowes Miller at Cambridge in 1874, and in 1879 deputized for the Professor whilst Miller was ill. He took the Cambridge M.A. degree in 1880 and had rooms in Trinity College. Lewis acquired the Came and Wiltshire Collections for the Museum.

William Lewis was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1909. He served as the President of the Mineralogical Society (1909 -1912). He was also Secretary of the Crystallographic Society 1876-1883. Additionally, he was a Member of the Chemical Society (from 1869) and a Member of the Royal Astronomical Society (from 1873).

Lewis died on 16 April 1926 at his sisters home at Godalming, Surrey. His funeral service was conducted in the Chapel of Oriel College, Oxford.


No clear original order of these records exists.

The collection is still to be arranged and catalogued.

Access Information

The papers are open for consultation by researchers using Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. However, as the papers have not been appraised, there may be some closures.

The Geological Conservation Unit [Brighton Building] is open from Monday to Friday, 10:00-13:00 and 14:00-17:00. A prior appointment made at least two weeks in advance, and two forms of identification are required.

Please contact the Museum to ask about the collection or to make an appointment.

Please contact the Archivist, Sandra Marsh to make an appointment or make an enquiry about the collection.


Some of the material is fragile. Staff will advise.

Other Finding Aids

The DDF Archive Inventory spreadsheet is available which contains basic box listing entries for the legacy records of the Sedgwick Museum and Department of Earth Sciences. Please ask staff for further information.

Archivist's Note

This collection level description was created by Sandra Marsh and Dr Lyall Anderson of Sedgwick Museum in January 2011 using information from an obituary from Nature in 1926, and from the papers themselves.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies, photographs, and printouts from scanned images may be provided. Charges may apply. Readers may also use their own digital cameras subject to copyright legislation and in-house rules.

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Sedgwick Museum Staff.

Please cite as Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, The Papers of William James Lewis

Appraisal Information

The collection is still to be appraised.

Custodial History

6 boxes were identified as being records created or retained by William Lewis during the DDF project (2010-2011)

As no documentation could be recovered in legacy Museum correspondence files to ascertain the provenance or acquisition details, it is not clear when these records were physically transferred to the Museum.

The records had been transferred from the Sedgwick Museum [Downing Street, Cambridge] to the Geological Conservation Unit [Madingley Road] between 1991-2009.


No more records are currently expected.

Location of Originals

There are diaries and notebooks (1872-1877) at the Natural History Museum, record reference DF1,3 and 20.