Charles Elton collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the Oxford University Lapland Expedition, 1930, correspondence and biographical papers

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Sutherland Elton was born on 29 March 1900. He read zoology at New College, Oxford, graduating in 1922. An interest in natural history had been stimulated by his participation in the Oxford University Spitsbergen expedition (leader Francis Jourdain) in 1921, organized to conduct mainly ornithological work along the north-west coast of Spitsbergen and to attempt to sledge across the ice cap of central Spitsbergen. In 1923, Elton was appointed chief scientist on the Merton College (Oxford) Arctic expedition (leader George Binney), organized to continue scientific work in Spitsbergen and to make a reconnaissance of Nordaustlandet. The following year, Elton returned to the Arctic with the Oxford University Arctic Expedition to North East Land. His first book Animal Ecology was published in 1927 and reflected his life-long interest in plant and animal relationships. He returned north in 1930 on the Oxford University Lapland Expedition, involving himself in breeding cycles of small tundra mammals and their inter-relationships with food and predators.

In 1932, Elton founded both the Oxford University Bureau of Animal Population, of which he remained director until his retirement in 1967, and the Journal of Ecology, which he edited until 1951. Throughout the 1930s, he studied population cycling in rodents and other small mammals, work that acquired national importance in the Second World War when pest control measures were urgently needed. After the war, Elton developed coordinated ecological studies in Wytham Wood, near Oxford, and helped to establish the Nature Conservancy in 1948, serving on its scientific policy committee until 1956. He died on 1 May 1991. Published work Scientific results of the second and third Oxford University expeditions to Spitsbergen in 1923 and 1924 edited by Charles S. Elton, Oxford University Press (1929) SPRI Library Shelf (32)91(08)[1921 Oxford University] Bound Pamphlets volume 2


The collection is split into three sub-fonds comprising of expedition material, correspondence and papers 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 Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland, Garland Publishing, London (1994) Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills, San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and Polar Record volume 27 number 162 July 1991 p271 and Who's who 1977, Adam and Charles Black London (1977)

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, which includes photographs by Elton. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.