A small collection of correspondence and other material of Robert Neal Rudmose Brown, Professor of Geography at Sheffield University, relating to his writings on and interest in Polar exploration in the period 1922-1937
Rudmose Brown Collection
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
The collection consists of letters, together with some ephemera, formerly in the possession of R. N. Rudmose Brown. The letters are mainly written to Rudmose Brown by others, including fellow Polar scientists and explorers, about his books on Polar exploration: A Naturalist at the Poles: the Life, Work & Voyages of Dr. W.S. Bruce the Polar Explorer (1923), and The Polar Regions (1927), and related matters, though one letter by himself - to the Polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen whom he invited to write a foreword for his life of Bruce - together with the reply by Nansen, declining the invitation - is also in the collection.
Robert Neal Rudmose Brown (1879-1957), Professor of Geography at the University of Sheffield from 1931 to 1945, and an authority on Polar studies, was born in London, 13th September 1879, and educated at Dulwich College, Aberdeen University and Montpellier University. He took pride in his Aberdonian and Scandinavian parentage, 'Rudmose' being his mother's maiden name. His university training was in biology at Aberdeen (1896-1900), folowing which he found a post as assistant to the Professor of Botany at University College, Dundee, Patrick Geddes, from 1900-1902. However, in 1902 he sailed as naturalist on board the converted Norwegian whaler 'Scotia' with the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition (1902-4), led by William Speirs Bruce, which surveyed in extreme conditions the unexplored Antarctic seas, for which work he was awarded the medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. An account of this expedition, The Voyage of the Scotia, was written by three members of the expedition, including Rudmose Brown, and published in 1906. In 1904 he was appointed assistant at Bruce's Scottish Oceanographical Laboratory in Edinburgh, and in 1906 visited Burma to report to the Indian Government on the pearl oyster fisheries of the Mergui Archipelago. In 1907 he was elected Vice-President of the International Polar Congress; in 1909 he was awarded a doctorate by Aberdeen University.
In 1908 he was appointed the first head of the new Department of Geography at Sheffield University, which he served for 37 years, in 1924 establishing there an Honours course in Geography, retiring in 1945 as Emeritus Professor.
During his time at Sheffield he was involved in many other activities. In 1909 he served as surveyor and naturalist on Bruce's Scottish Arctic expedition to Spitsbergen, making other visits to the area in later years, and received in 1919 the Cuthbert Peek Grant of the Royal Geographical Society for this work. During the First World War he was seconded to the Admiralty Intelligence Division, some of this work continuing during the Second World War, for which service he was awarded the Insignia of the Commander of the Order of St. Olav by King Haakon of Norway. Having been in 1932 elected President of the Antarctic Club, he was elected in 1949 President of the Arctic Club.
Rudmose Brown published many books and papers on Polar geography, though his textbook on Economic Geography, published in 1923, also became a standard reference work. His scholarship brought him wide academic recognition: President of Section E of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1927, a member of its Council 1933-1938; President of the Institute of British Geographers 1938 and 1939; member of the Council of the Royal Geographical Society 1925-1928 and 1945-1946.
He died in Sheffield on the 27th of January 1957.
[Notes based on the obituary by A. Garnett, University of Sheffield Gazette, No. 28, March 1957, and appreciation by T.W. Freeman, Geographers Bibliographical Studies, Vol. 8, 1984]
Available to all researchers, by appointment
Donated by Professor J.A. Lee
Description prepared by Lawrence Aspden
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