Sidney Harmer collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence regarding the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 and the British Museum (Natural History)

Administrative / Biographical History

Sidney Frederic Harmer was born in Norwich on 9 March 1862. He studied natural science at University College, London, and King's College, Cambridge, where in 1885 he was appointed lecturer in zoology and, in 1892, superintendent of the University Museum of Zoology. In 1908, he was appointed keeper of zoology in the Natural History department of the British Museum, succeeding as director of the department from 1919 until his retirement in 1927. Harmer returned to the study of cetacea at the British Museum, publishing a series of reports on cetacea stranded on the British coasts.

In 1920, Harmer wrote an article on the position of the southern whaling industry for a report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Research and Development in the Dependencies of the Falkland Islands, established in 1918 to consider what scientific investigations were needed to preserve the Antarctic whaling industry. Four years later, Harmer was appointed vice-chairman of the Discovery Committee, a scientific group set up to develop the Hydrographic and oceanographic research programme recommended in the report of the Interdepartmental Committee.

He was knighted in 1920 and was awarded the gold medal of the Linnean Society in 1934. He died in Cambridge on 22 October 1950.


The collection is arranged chronologically.

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 'Sidney Frederic Harmer 1862-1950' by W.T. Calman in Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society (7 November 1951) volume 7 SPRI Library Shelf Pam 92[Harmer, S.F.] and Who was who 1941-1950 (1952), volume IV, A. & C. Black London and Robert Keith Headland Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events,(1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN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.