Adam Sedgwick: Correspondence with William Ainger

Scope and Content

Correspondence between Adam Sedgwick and William Ainger, with a summary of contents including information about their relationship.

Administrative / Biographical History

Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873) was born in Dent, Yorkshire, on 22 March 1785. He attended Sedbergh School, and entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1804 (B.A, 1808). He became a Fellow in 1810, and was ordained in 1816. In 1818 he was elected to the Woodwardian Professorship of Geology at Cambridge. Over the next fifty years he lectured regularly and promoted the study of natural science in the university. He spent many of his vacations carrying out fieldwork in Great Britain, and made contributions to the university's geological collections. Sedgwick was the founder of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, and was active in the Geological Society, Royal Society and British Association. He was involved in university business and in Church affairs, becoming a canon of Norwich Cathedral in 1834. He died in his rooms at Trinity College on 27 January 1873.

William Ainger (1785-1840) was born at Whittlesea, Cambridgeshire, and educated at Sedbergh School. He entered St John's College, Cambridge, in 1803 (B.A., 1807; M.A., 1810), and subsequently became a Fellow. He was ordained deacon in 1808, and priest in 1809, and was Vicar of Sunninghill, Berkshire, 1817-1829, and Rector of Northenden, Cheshire, 1829-1840. He was made canon of Chester in 1827. Ainger was principal of St Bees Theological College, Cumberland, 1816-1840. He died at St Bees on 20 October 1840. Ainger knew Adam Sedgwick at school and college, and their families were friends. Sedgwick was with Ainger when he died.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by the Sedgwick Museum, 1983.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. The biographical history was compiled with reference to the entry on William Ainger in J.A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses, part II, vol. I (Cambridge University Press, 1940), p. 19.

Other Finding Aids


Custodial History

The letters were presented to the Sedgwick Museum by Mrs R. Tait.

Related Material

Cambridge University Library holds other papers relating to Adam Sedgwick, MSS.Add.3144, 5100, 5101, 7652, 7670 and 7763.