Papers and correspondence of James Marmaduke Edmonds, 1909-1982.

Scope and Content

Biographical material is very scanty as Edmonds left no personal records. Research records are largely concerned with the geology of Oxford and region and include documentation of several projects for which Edmonds acted as consultant to construction companies, or to Oxford University and its colleges. Borehole logs and site investigation data may be included. There are also papers and correspondence relating to a projected revision of W.J. Arkell's Geology of Oxford (Oxford University Press 1947) which was called off in 1975 because of Edmonds's increasing infirmity. Expeditions and excursions material is of interest in documenting the Oxford University Exploration Club's 1933 expedition to Spitsbergen. It includes journals, photographs, drawings and diagrams, and the manuscript of the B.Sc. thesis submitted by Edmonds on the geology of New Friesland. There are also notes and photographs of the geology of Morocco and the Atlas taken on an excursion in 1952. Lectures and teaching material is of interest in including lecture notes delivered in 1933 when Edmonds was a part-time departmental demonstrator at Oxford, and also a set of notes for a geological demonstration in Khartoum. Documentation of Edmonds's association with societies and organisations is not extensive and is confined to meetings and excursions by societies held in Oxford. There are few records relating to publications, partly because Edmonds was notoriously slow to complete writing projects. However, his last paper, on William Buckland and W.D.Conybeare, published posthumously in 1991, is documented. Edmonds's lifelong interest and extensive research in the history of geology and its practitioners, with special reference to Oxford and such pioneers as Buckland and John Phillips produced extensive documentation, and Edmonds's collection of photocopies of original documents assembled in 1976 about the Oxford Museum and the biographical information on Oxford alumni form a corpus of material not readily available elsewhere. Edmonds's general scientific correspondence is not extensive. There are, however, letters from J.A. Douglas with lively recollections of the Oxford Department of Geology and its personnel, and letters from Victor and Joan Eyles on aspects of geological research.

Administrative / Biographical History

Edmonds was born in Cumberland on 13 June 1909. His father Charles Edmonds had been a haematite miner, later a Union official and active in the Workers Educational Association. A self-taught geologist, Charles Edmonds became the leading authority on the West Cumberland Lower Carboniferous and a founder member of the Cumberland Geological Society. He encouraged his son in the study of geology and collaborated with him on research and papers. James Edmonds was educated at St Bees School Cumberland 1922-1928. In 1929 he entered St Edmund Hall Oxford to read geology, graduating in 1932, when he won the Burdett-Coutts Scholarship for research in geology, and became a Senior Exhibitioner of the Hall. In 1933 he was a member of the Oxford University Exploration Club expedition to Spitsbergen and was awarded a B.Sc. in 1934 for his thesis on the Geology of New Friesland. In 1934 Edmonds was appointed Government Geologist in the Sudan. In April 1938, however, he developed rheumatoid arthritis and was invalided out of the service. Although there appeared some possibility of a return to the Sudan in 1944, his health did not permit this and an overseas career was over. After war service as a meteorological officer, Edmonds returned to Oxford and was appointed Graduate Assistant in the Department of Geology 1946-1965 and Curator of the Geological Collections of the Museum 1955-1976. He was a Fellow of the Geological Society (Vice-President 1963-1964), and a Fellow of St Cross College Oxford 1965-1976. Edmonds had been an active athlete at school and university, but the arthritis which had ended his career in the Sudan continued to develop and circumscribe his life. He underwent many operations and was latterly confined to a wheelchair. He had always had an interest in the history of his subject, encouraged by his work in arranging and cataloguing the geological collections; the increasing immobility which denied him opportunities for field research allowed him to develop his historical studies especially after his retirement in 1976. In 1936 Edmonds married Josephine Reynolds (d. 1997). They had one daughter Barbara. Edmonds died on 31 July 1982.


By section as follows: Biographical and personal, Research, Expeditions and excursions, Lectures and teaching, Societies and organisations, Publications, History of geology and geologists, History of teaching of science at Oxford, Oxford University Museum, Alumni Oxonienses, Correspondence. Index of correspondents.

Access Information

Access to bona fide scholars upon written application to the Director of the Museum.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of James Marmaduke Edmonds (1909-1982) by J. Alton and P. Harper, NCUACS catalogue no. 77/6/98, 77 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath

Separated Material

Photocopies and transcripts of correspondence between Charles Lloyd (Dean of Christ Church and Bishop of Oxford) and Sir Robert Peel, and others c 1813-1834 on Oxford affairs, elections, nominations to Chairs, Canonries, Headships of Houses etc. have been accepted by the Archivist for the Muniment Room, Christ Church Oxford. Specimens of Lower Carboniferous material collected by Charles Edmonds are deposited with the British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottinghamshire.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1997-1998 by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists from the Library of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and via Mr H.P. Powell. Returned to Museum 1999.

Geographical Names