Hugh Robert Mill collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of notes regarding polar exploration and polar explorers particularly in regard to Mill's biography of Sir Ernest Shackleton and a catalogue of the books held by Mill on the polar regions. The second part of the collection comprises of a large amount of correspondence by Mill written to polar explorers and their families over a period of thirty-six years.

Administrative / Biographical History

Hugh Robert Mill was born at Thurso, Scotland, on 28 May 1861. He read chemistry and physics at Edinburgh University and specialised in marine chemistry, working on the scientific reports of the Challenger expedition under Sir John Murray. In 1887, he became lecturer in geography and physiography at Heriot-Watt College, Edinburgh, and four years later, published The realm of nature, an important textbook of scientific geography. In 1892, he was appointed librarian of the Royal Geographical Society, where one of his first tasks was to draw up a set of instructions for naturalists visiting the Antarctic regions. Soon afterwards, he recommended William Speirs Bruce and Charles William Donald as naturalists for the British whaling exploration (from Dundee), 1892-1893. He was also responsible for the Antarctic bibliography, published in The Antarctic manual for the use of the expedition of 1901. On Robert Falcon Scott's invitation, he accompanied the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904, to Madeira in order to give practical instruction in meteorology and oceanography to the scientific staff.

Mill resigned his post with the Royal Geographical Society to become Director of the British Rainfall Organization, a post which he occupied from 1901 until 1919, when he handed over the work to the Meteorological Office. He was a member of many scientific societies and for eight years was British representative on the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. In 1901, he was appointed President of the Geography Section of the British Association, and in 1907 became President of the Royal Meteorological Society, receiving the society's Symons Memorial Medal in 1918. Mill was closely involved with the Scott Polar Research Institute from its foundation, becoming a member of the Institute's Committee of Management in 1926 and Chairman of the Committee from 1930 until 1939. On his retirement, he presented the Institute with his unique collection of Antarctic books. Throughout his life, he maintained personal friendships with many Polar explorers and acquired an expert knowledge of Antarctic exploration. He died in East Grinstead on 5 April 1950.

Published work, The siege of the South Pole, the story of Antarctic exploration by Hugh Robert Mill, Alston Rivers, London (1905) SPRI Library Shelf (7)91(091)[1905] The realm of nature, an outline of physiography by Hugh Robert Mill, John Murray London (1907) SPRI Library Shelf 551.4 'A bibliography of Antarctic exploration and research' by Hugh Robert Mill in The Antarctic manual for the use of the expedition of 1901 edited by George Murray, Royal Geographical Society, London (1901) SPRI Library Shelf (7) The Record of the Royal Geographical Society 1830-1930 by Hugh Robert Mill, Royal Geographical Society, London (1930) SPRI Library Shelf 061.2[GB Royal Geographical Society] The life of Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, CVO, OBE, (Mil), LlD. by Hugh Robert Mill, William Heinemann Ltd. London (1924) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Shackleton, E.H.]


The collection is split into two sub-fonds covering the notes 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 assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to 'Hugh Robert Mill, an appreciation' by James Mann Wordie in The Polar Record (January 1951) volume 6 number 41 p5-6 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.

Related Material

The Scott Polar Research Institute holds a number of photographs, film and other illustrative material in the Picture Library, these include photographs of Mill. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.