The Papers of Professor Oliver Meredith Boone Bulman

Scope and Content

The collection contains correspondence with contemporaries including Harry Whittington, 1956-1965; and Barry Rickards 1968, mostly concerning Graptolite specimen research. Most of the correspondence is arranged by country of origin of the correspondent.

There is also correspondence relating to the Palaeontological Society and association international conferences; and committee meeting notes and papers of a number of organizations; of which Bulman sat on. These include the Geological Society and Royal Society; and Trend Committee (to enquire into the organisation of civil science, 1963). There is also a file on the Cambridge Spitsbergen expeditions.

Other records include typescripts of papers; notebooks of trips made abroad to Sweden, Brussels, Norway and Holland; some personal papers; maps; and a large number of lantern slides (over 600). These are likely to have been utilised for teaching purposes and need to be appraised. Many of the images are SEMs of graptolites. The original negatives have not been located at present.

Administrative / Biographical History

Oliver Bulman was born 20th May 1902 in Wandsworth, the second of three children born to Henry Herbert Bulman, an artist and his wife Beatrice Elizabeth Boone. His younger sister Joan C. Bulman gained a first class honours degree in Swedish from Cambridge University, later becoming a specialist in Swedish literature, whilst his elder brother Micheal W.B Bulman became a distinguished gynaecologist and served Norwich as its lord Mayor in 1959-60, as well as being involved in the founding of the University of East Anglia.

After attending Battersea Grammar School in 1910, evening classes at Chelsea polytechnic in 1920-1921, University College London 1922-1923, and the Imperial College of Science and Technology 1925-1926, Oliver arrived at Sidney Sussex College to study dendroid graptolites with Miss Gertrude L. Elles at the Sedgwick Museum. His work on dendroid graptolies earned him a Cambridge Ph.D degree which was additional to the Ph.D he obtained in London for his work on Shineton Shales.

However, he returned to London in 1928 to take up a demonstratorship in Zoology and from 1929 taught geology at the Imperial College until 1931. W.B.R King (1889-1963) took up the Yates-Goldsmid chair of geology at University College, London leaving a lecturer position in geology available in Cambridge, which Bulman filled. When Henry Woods (1868-1952) retired from the lectureship in Palaeozoology Bulman succeeded him.

Teaching dominated his work over the next couple of years, but he also became the biological secretary of the Cambridge Philosophical Society in 1936. Two years later he married Marguerite, the elder daughter of Professor and Mrs W.G Fearnsides.

In 1939 Bulman received a grant to study the levis shale graptolites in Quebec. At the start of the Second World War he served as a special constable and in 1941 joined the Royal Observer Corps. He continued with his work, intermittently throughout the war and was soon promoted to a readership in Palaeozology and a fellow at Sidney Sussex College.

When W.B.R King retired from the Woodwardian Professorship in 1955, Bulman was appointed to succeed him. 1959 saw him President of the Paleontological association and a year later became Vice-Master of Sidney Sussex College (1960-1962). In 1962 he took up membership of the Geological Survey advisory board, which became the Natural Environment Research Councils (NERC) geology and geophysics research committee, and President of the Geological Society of London. In 1963 he was appointed a trustee of the British Museum (Natural History).

Awards included the Huxley Memorial Medal and Prize in 1928 and the Lyall Medal in 1953. Bulman was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1940 and sat on the council from 1950-1952, and made a fellow of Imperial College of Science and Technology in 1961.

In 1966 Bulman retired from the Woodwardian Professorship at the age of 64. He subsequently spent two months in Oslo working on Graptolites. Bulman was given a room to use at the Sedgwick Museum where he continued to concentrate on graptolites. In 1971 he became president of the Palaeontographical Society.

In the Spring of 1972 one of his lungs was removed and he endured further surgery for an intestinal adjustment. Oliver became seriously ill in the summer of 1973 and died 18 February 1974.


The filing cabinet records were in good order. The drawers were labeled 1) Correspondence 2) Research Materials 3) Paleography Miscellaneous 4) Lecture Notes Pt II and most of the records corresponded to their cabinet label.

Original order of the other files and loose material has been lost.

The collection is still to be arranged, but will follow the original order of the filing cabinet as described above, wherever possible.

Access Information

As the papers have not been appraised, there may be some closures, especially correspondence files.

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

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.

Please contact the Archivist, Sandra Marsh to make an appointment or make an enquiry about the collection.

Other Finding Aids

The DDF Archive Inventory spreadsheet is available which contains basic box listing entries for the legacy records of the Sedgwick Museum and Department of Earth Sciences.

For those records originally from the filing cabinets (box ref 898-906) there are additional paper notes available.

Please ask staff for further information.

Archivist's Note

This collection level description was created by Sandra Marsh of Sedgwick Museum in October 2010 using information from Oliver Bulman's entry in Who Was Who (A and C Black, 1997), Royal Society memoirs, and the papers themselves.

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 Oliver M.B Bulman, BLMN

Appraisal Information

The collection is still to be appraised.

Custodial History

A full filing cabinet of files and a number of boxes of lantern slides were identified as being records created or retained by Oliver Bulman. These were repackaged into 19 conservation grade boxes during the DDF project (2010-2011)

As no documentation could be recovered in legacy Museum correspondence files to ascertain the provenance or acquisition details of boxes 898-915b, it is not clear when these records were originally physically transferred to the museum.

Boxes 907-910 were originally found in the office of Professor Barrie Rickards in February 2011. There was no correspondence attached to these records to explain why they were in his office, although as curator he was likely to have been using them during his time in the department.

The records had been transferred from the Sedgwick Museum [Downing Street, Cambridge] to the Geological Conservation Unit [Madingley Road] between 1991-2009.


No more records are currently expected.

Geographical Names