The Papers of Edward Bernard Tawney

Scope and Content

Comprising 19 notebooks. These span Tawneys early investigations into the geology of south-west England, his time at Bristol Museum, and finally his contributions to the Woodwardian Museum (later the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences).

Administrative / Biographical History

Edward Tawney was born in 1840, the third child of the Reverend Richard Tawney, Vicar of Willoughby, Warwickshire, who had been a fellow of Magdalene College. On the death of his father, young Edward was sent to Clifton, near Bristol to live with his uncle, Dr Bernard.

Between 1860 and 1863 Tawney trained at the Royal School of Mines (London) and gained Diplomas in Geology and Mining. He gained a Royal Scholarship, Duke of Cornwalls scholarship, the De la Beche Medal for mining, and the Edward Forbes Medal for proficiency in Natural Sciences whilst there.

In 1872 he was appointed Assistant Curator at Bristol Museum. His specialisms were Palaeontology and Stratigraphy and he taught these amidst geology classes at the University College of Bristol from 1876. He concurrently held the post of Curator at Bristol Museum and Library.

He worked in Bristol up until 1878, when Thomas McKenny Hughes, Woodwardian Professor, offered him a position at Cambridge as his Assistant. He was hired to sort out the Woodwardian Museum rock collection, and pioneered the preparation of rock slices (microscope slides) from Adam Sedgwicks Welsh collections. This aided the identification and classification of the samples, adding further scientific value to them. Alfred Harker was later to continue and massively expand this work a few years after Tawneys early death.

Tawney was a skilled linguist reading French, Italian and German. This often helped him in the study of Continental geological research. As a result he was appointed the General Secretary of the International Geological Congress British Committee.

He was awarded an honorary M.A. on 4 December 1879 at Cambridge. In the same year, he was made a Fellow of Trinity College. As well as his curatorial duties, he also taught classes in Palaeontology and Petrology at the University. From his base in the Woodwardian, he published many short notes, particularly in the Geological Magazine. Tawney published microscopic examinations of the rocks collected by Adam Sedgwick. In association with his colleague Keeping, he published on the Headon Hill Section on the Isle of Wight. Worked with Henry Keeping on these Tertiary sections and fossils.

Ill-health saw him travel to Menton in France with the then Professor of Mineralogy. He was familiar with French geology and was a Member of the Geological Society of France. He died at Menton, France on 30 December 1882 and was buried there (TBC). His obituary in the Geological Magazine, was written by Professor Thomas Mckenny-Hughes.


No clear original order of these records exists.They have therefore been arranged chronologically.

Access Information

The papers are open for consultation by researchers using Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. However, as the papers have not been appraised, there may be some closures.

The Geological Conservation Unit [Brighton Building] is open from Monday to Friday, 10:00-13:00 and 14:00-17:00. A prior appointment made at least two weeks in advance, and two forms of identification are required.

Please contact the Museum to ask about the collection or to make an appointment.

Other Finding Aids

This collection has been catalogued which is available online, and in hard copy from the Sedgwick Museum. A previous basic box-list from the DDF project 2010-2011 also exists. Please ask staff for further information.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Some of the notebooks are fragile and bindings are broken, so care should be taken when looking at the records.

Archivist's Note

This collection level description was created by Sandra Marsh and Dr Lyall Anderson of Sedgwick Museum in May 2011 using information from E.B Tawneys obituary, an article in Nature, and the papers themselves. The notebooks were catalogued by Dr Anderson in December 2011.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies, photographs, and printouts from scanned images may be provided. Charges may apply. Readers may also use their own digital cameras subject to copyright legislation and in-house rules.

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Sedgwick Museum Staff.

Please cite as Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, The Papers of Edward Bernard Tawney ref TWNY.

Custodial History

1 boxe of 20 notebooks were identified as being records created or retained by Edward Bernard Tawney. These were repackaged into conservation grade folders during the Isaac Newton Trust project 2011-2012.

As no documentation could be recovered in legacy Museum correspondence files to ascertain the provenance or acquisition details, it is not clear when these records were physically transferred to the Museum.

It is assumed however, that they were passed on from McKenny Hughes (Tawneys employer) to Alfred Harker (Tawneys successor)

The records were later transferred to the Geological Conservation Unit, Madingley Road Cambridge between 2002-2010.


No more records are currently expected.