Reginald William James collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition [Weddell Sea Party] 1914-1916 (leader Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton) and later correspondence by James.

Administrative / Biographical History

Reginald William James was born in London on 9 January 1891. He was educated at the Regent Street Polytechnic and read physics at St John's College, Cambridge. After two years research studentship in the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, he joined the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition [Weddell Sea party], 1914-1916 (leader Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton) as physicist.

After Endurance was lost, James played an important part in the saving of the expedition members by determining the longitude of the floe on which they were drifting when the ship's chronometers had become unreliable.

On return to England James was commissioned in the Royal Engineers and did pioneer work in the development of sound ranging as a method of discovering the position of enemy guns. After the First World War he lectured in physics at Manchester University, gaining a worldwide reputation as an X-ray crystallographer. In 1937 he became Professor of Physics at the University of Cape Town,South Africa, retiring in 1957. James died in Cape Town on 7 July 1964.


The collection is split into two sub-fonds, comprising of expedition material and correspondence 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 The Polar Record (January 1965) volume 12, number 79, p497-498 and Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7) and Robert Keith Headland Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events, (1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN 0521309034

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.