University of Manchester, Department of Geology/Earth Sciences

Scope and Content

The archive comprises primarily records of the department's committees from 1990-2004 . The Department had an departmental board from at least 1973, but minutes for the period 1973-1990 have not survived. During the 1980s and 1990s, with the more formal methods of monitoring academic performance and financial resource allocation being introduced, this committee organization became more complex. For this department, records are present for the departmental board, 1991 -2003 (DES/1), Postgraduate and Undergraduate Committees (DES/2-3) and the Research Committee (DES/4).

Administrative / Biographical History

Geology has been taught at the University since W.C. Williamson was appointed professor of natural history in 1851. Williamson's remit of subjects included all the biological sciences as well as geology, and it was not until 1872 that geology became an independent subject. In that year William Boyd Dawkins (1837-1929), an Oxford-trained geologist, was appointed as lecturer, with Williamson relinquishing his duties for the subject. In 1874, Dawkins was promoted to a chair, which he held until 1908. During the 1860s, the College authorities had raised funds for the subject, emphasising its relevance to mining, an important local concern. Dawkins was the public face of Manchester geology for many years. Dawkins stressed both the scientific and economic aspects of geology in the Department's work , and he did much build up Manchester Museum's geological collections (in part) as an aid to teaching.

In 1908, Dawkins was succeed by Sir Thomas Holland (1868-1947), formerly of the Indian Geological Survey. When Holland left Manchester in 1919, he was succeeded by O. T. Jones (1878-1967), who in turn was followed by W. J. Pugh (1892-1974). Under both men, the Department's research and teaching gave much emphasis to stratigraphy and paleontology. After William Deer (1910-2009) was appointed professor in 1950, new areas of research were developed including mineralogy, petrology, geophysics and geochemistry. The Department took up new techniques of optical emission spectrography, and X-ray diffraction, and later, neutron activation analytical techniques, ore microscopy, high temperature high pressure investigations, electron microscopy and atomic absorption analysis. Professor W. S. Mackenzie led an important research programme in experimental petrology from the 1960s, while Professor W. S. Fyfe (1927-2013) worked in the area of geochemistry .

From 1903, geology formed part of the Faculty of Science, and the subject was taught as an honours degree and as part of the ordinary science B.Sc. The department underwent a major expansion in the 1950s and 1960s (for example, in 1935/6 there were 2 single honours students, and in 1970/1, there were 68 honours students). Formerly housed in the Beyer building, since the early 1960s the department has been based in the Williamson Building. Since 2004, it has been part of the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (SEAES).

Professors of Geology 1851-1980

  • W.C. Williamson, 1851-1872 (part of natural history)
  • William Boyd Dawkins, 1874-1908
  • Thomas Holland, 1908-1919
  • O.T.Jones, 1919-1930
  • W.J.Pugh, 1931-1950
  • W.A.Deer, 1950-1962
  • E.A.Vincent, 1962-1966
  • W.S.Mackenzie, 1964-1988
  • William Fyfe, 1966-1972 (geochemistry)
  • Jack Zussman, 1967-1991
  • J. W. Elder, 1970-1984 (geophysics)


  • DES/1 - Departmental Board minutes
  • DES/2 - Postgraduate Programme Committee minutes
  • DES/3 - Undergraduate Committee minutes
  • DES/4 - Departmental Research Committee minutes
  • DES/5 - Course Review Committee minutes
  • DES/6 - M.Sc. Examiners Meetings minutes
  • DES/7 - Health and Safety Committee minutes

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader, unless otherwise stated. Some items are currently closed to public inspection, and others may require review before access is granted to researchers.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 2018. Under the Act 2018 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for archiving and research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Open parts of this collection, and the catalogue descriptions, may contain personal data about living individuals. Some items in this collection may be closed to public inspection in line with the requirements of the DPA. Restrictions/closures of specific items will be indicated in the catalogue.

Acquisition Information

Transferred by the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences in August 2006 and May 2011.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.


Information provide by the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences indicates that further accruals are not likely, and it is believed that pre-1990 committee records are not extant. Post-2004 School records will be treated as a separate archive.

Related Material

The Faculty of Science archive will contain information relating to admissions, curriculum and examination matters for this department (FSC). Annual reports (1903-1996) can be found in the Reports of Council (UOP/2); general prospectus information in the prospectuses collection (primarily the Faculty of Science handbooks).

The Vice-Chancellor's archive includes several files relevant to the administration of this department:

[access conditions apply].

The Library also holds some of the personal papers of William Boyd Dawkins, but this does not include any departmental material. WBD).

Geographical Names