Papers and correspondence of Wilfrid Hogarth Dowdeswell (1914-1996), educationalist and lepidopterist

Scope and Content

Biographical material is slight, principally photographs, relating to various aspects of Dowdeswell's academic and teaching career. There is substantial documentation of Dowdeswell's research, especially his work with isolated butterfly populations in the south west of England over an extended period 1936-1967. Two series of field notebooks and a set of statistical data relating to the Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) butterfly document Dowdeswell's methods and results, including his collaborative work with E. B. Ford. There is also material relating to Dowdeswell's work on other species of butterfly and on snails. University of Bath School of Education papers mainly relate to the major part played by Dowdeswell in one of the School's first joint programmes with industry. The 'Decisions' series of educational resource packs were an innovative way of introducing mathematics, geography and general studies students to the policy-making processes of industry. Dowdeswell's commitment to the Wiltshire Trust for Nature Conservation is reflected in the surviving material and there is also a set of Dowdeswell's off-prints of scientific papers and other publications, 1936-1985.

Administrative / Biographical History

Wilfrid Hogarth Dowdeswell was born on 16 June 1914 in Northam, Devon. He was educated at Sherborne School, Dorset and Merton College, Oxford. After a short spell of teaching at Canford School, Wimborne, Dorset, 1937-1939, he planned to return to Oxford to continue his studies in zoology but was prevented from doing so by the outbreak of war. His military service included work with the Army Operational Research Unit in the Far East and with the Scientific Advisory Department of the War Office. After the war Dowdeswell returned to teaching, first at Blundell's School, Tiverton, Devon and then from September 1951, Winchester College where he became head of the science department. During the school vacations he travelled extensively, visiting the USA, Ceylon and Rhodesia as part of academic programmes overseas and became a member of a UNESCO project on biology teaching in Ghana. Between 1963 and 1965 Dowdeswell was organiser of the Nuffield Foundation O-level science project and from 1966 to 1969 a joint co-ordinator of the Nuffield Foundation A-level science project.

Dowdeswell joined the recently instituted University of Bath School of Education, which placed particular emphasis on the development of science and mathematics teaching, as a senior lecturer in January 1969 and was promoted to a personal chair in 1972. He served as head of the school from 1974 to 1977 before retiring in 1979. During his time at the University of Bath Dowdeswell maintained his association with the Nuffield Foundation and led an inter-university biology teaching venture with the universities of Birmingham, Glasgow, London and Sussex. As well as being Britain's first professor of biological education, Dowdeswell was also a respected academic biologist, specialising in ecology and lepidoptery. He taught a course in ecological genetics to undergraduate students in the University of Bath School of Biological Sciences and worked closely with, amongst others, the Oxford geneticist E. B. Ford on various aspects of national butterfly populations. In retirement he was active in promoting the work of the Wiltshire Trust for Nature Conservation.


By section as follows: Biographical, Research, University of Bath School of Education, Wiltshire Trust for Nature Conservation, Publications. Index of correspondents.

Access Information

Open for use by researchers. Personal identification required. Please contact:

The Archivist The Library University of Bath Claverton Down Bath BA2 7AY


Telephone: +44 (0)1225 383464

Acquisition Information

Received for cataloguing in April 1999 by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists from Mrs M. Dowdeswell, widow. Deposited in Bath University Library in 1999.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue (ref. 83/4/99), prepared in collaboration with the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists (NCUACS), is available online, in PDF format on the Archives and Research Collections homepage.

Conditions Governing Use

Enquiries should be made in the first instance to:

The Archivist The Library University of Bath Claverton Down Bath BA2 7AY


Telephone: +44 (0)1225 383464

Related Material

The correspondence and papers of E.B. Ford (1901-1988) were catalogued as NCUACS catalogue no. 14/7/89 and placed in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.