Edward Adrian Wilson collection

Scope and Content

The collection covers Wilson's two Antarctic expeditions, (the British National Antarctic, 1901-1904 and the British Antarctic, 1910-1913 both led by Robert Falcon Scott), correspondence and miscellaneous material.

Administrative / Biographical History

Edward Adrian Wilson was born in Cheltenham, England on 23 July 1872, second son of a respected Cheltenham medical practitioner. He was educated at Cheltenham College and studied natural science and medicine at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and St. George's Hospital, London. In 1898, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent several months convalescing in Norway and Switzerland, giving him the opportunity to hone his skills as a watercolour artist and wildlife illustrator. After qualifying in medicine in 1900, Wilson practised at Cheltenham Hospital, where in 1901 he was appointed Junior House Surgeon. Later in the same year he was selected to join the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904 (leader Robert Falcon Scott), as junior surgeon and zoologist. Less than a month before his departure to the Antarctic, he married Oriana Souper. Whilst on this expedition, he accompanied Scott and Ernest Henry Shackleton on a major sledge journey, exploring inland across the Ross Ice Shelf toward the South Pole. On 30 December 1902, the party reached 82°17'S, their farthest south. Wilson's abilities in accurately illustrating both topography and wildlife on the expedition were invaluable and his skills as confidant and mediator were equally valued.

On his return to England in 1904, Wilson wrote up and published his zoological data, and was commissioned to illustrate books on British birds and mammals. He was appointed as principal field-observer, anatomist and physiologist to the Board of Agriculture's investigation into the cause of grouse disease on British moor lands.

In 1909, Wilson was again approached by Scott to accompany him on the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913, as chief of the scientific staff. During the winters at Cape Evans on Ross Island, he sketched and painted many Antarctic landscapes, the majority of which are now held in the archives of the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge. He led a winter sledging journey with Henry Robertson Bowers and Apsley Cherry-Garrard to Cape Crozier to collect emperor penguin embryos, and was selected by Scott for the long sledging journey to the South Pole. On 17 January 1912, Wilson, along with Scott, Henry Robertson Bowers, Lawrence Edward Grace Oates and Edgar Evans, attained the Pole only to find that the Norwegian Roald Amundsen had reached the South Pole on 14 December 1911. On the return journey, the weakened party faced exceptionally unfavourable weather and sledging conditions. Wilson died with Scott and Bowers in late March 1912, laid up in a blizzard 11 miles short of One Ton Depot.

Published works, Diary of the Terra Nova expedition 1910-1912, An account of Scott's last expedition edited from the original mss. in the Scott Polar Research Institute and the British Museum by H.G.R. King, Blandford Press, London (1972) UDC number (7) 91(08)[1910-1913 Scott] Diary of the Discovery expedition to the Antarctic regions 1901- 1904. Edited from the original mss. in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge by Ann Savours, Blandford Press, London (1966) UDC number (7) 91(08)[1901-1904 Scott]


The collection is arranged into four sub-fonds covering the two expeditions, miscellaneous 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 Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7) and Dr Edward Adrian Wilson, B.A., M.B. (1872-1912) Quarto Abbot Hall Art Gallery (1972) SPRI Library Shelf Pam 92[Wilson, E.A.] and 'Heroic painter of the Antarctic' by Harold Godfrey Rudolf King in Geographical Journal (January 1976) volume 48 number 4 SPRI Library Shelf Periodical, Folio 92[Wilson, E.A.], Bound Pams volume 1 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.

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Further accessions possible.