Papers and correspondence of Geoffrey Emett Blackman, 1903-1980

Scope and Content

The papers are representative of much of Blackman's work. There is documentation of his early research on grasses and on the bluebell, and wartime research on oil-seed crops and weed control. Some of the projects of the Biology War Committee are well documented, notably a nation-wide survey of the distribution and ecology of the spindle tree arranged by the historic counties of Britain and the preparation of the booklets for the Forces. Blackman's designated areas of responsibility in respect of the Vietnam herbicides committee are fully recorded and there is also much useful background information, schedules and circulation of drafts, reviews and amendments. Blackman's service with many other committees and organisations is only patchily represented in the surviving material, the most substantial record being of his contribution to the International Council of Scientific Union's International Biological Programme. There is some biographical material including tributes to Blackman and his work, recollections and information, contributed by colleagues. General scientific correspondence is meagre.

Administrative / Biographical History

Blackman came from a family which has included several distinguished scientists; his father, V.H. Blackman and his uncle F.F. Blackman were both botanists and his aunt Dame Harriette Chick was a nutritionist. He was born in Kensington, London and educated at King's College School, Wimbledon and St John's College, Cambridge (Natural Sciences Tripos), 1923-1926. After graduating from Cambridge, he worked briefly at Rothamsted Experimental Station, Hertfordshire and then, 1927-1933, as Head of Botany Section at the ICI Research Station at Jealott's Hill, Bracknell, where F.W. Keeble was Director. His main research was on grasses and on the use of sulphuric acid in weed control. In 1933 he moved to Imperial College, London, as Lecturer in Ecology in the Department of Botany, and remained there (under secondment to the Agricultural Research Council, 1942-1945) until 1945, when he moved to Oxford as Sibthorpian Professor of Rural Economy. Here he continued research on weed control, but also directed research teams on growth analysis. During the Second World War, Blackman played an active part in initiating the Biology War Committee, of which he was Secretary throughout its existence. The Committee advised on research projects and coordinated results in reports on such topics as improved sources and production of food, crop storage and weed control, and prepared booklets for the Forces on 'The dangers of swimming in tropical waters' and 'Living in the jungle'. Blackman's own primary research interest was in weed control, selective toxicity and herbicide techniques, and his international reputation in these areas led to his being invited in 1971 to serve on the US National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Effects of Herbicides in Vietnam. He was elected FRS in 1959.


By section as follows: Biographical and personal, Lectures, Notes, drafts and working papers, Committees and consultancies, Correspondence. Index of correspondents.

Conditions Governing Access

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. Certain items not available.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Geoffrey Emett Blackman (1903-1980) by J. Alton and J. Latham-Jackson, CSAC catalogue no. 79/3/81, 71 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1979-1981 by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre from Mrs Audrey Blackman, widow, Dr J.D. Fryer and Professor J.L. Harley, author of the Royal Society memoir of Blackman. Placed in Bodleian Library (Gift) in 1981.