Papers and correspondence of Sir Thomas Richard Edmund Southwood b.1931

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 T.R.E. Southwood papers
  • Dates of Creation
  • Physical Description
      Original collection, 151 boxes. Supplementary papers, 450 items approx.English

Scope and Content

Original collection: The papers provide a full account of Southwood's career to date, and illustrate his development from a youthful interest in natural history and especially entomology, via research in population dynamics, insect-plant relationships and pest control to ecological principles, biodiversity and matters of general environmental concern.

Biographical and personal documentation furnishes a full overview of Southwood's career from schooldays onward and includes some family material and his very early diaries and notebooks of natural history observations. There are also press-cuttings and photographs (the majority dated and described on the verso by Southwood) extending over the whole period. There are sequences of correspondence and papers dealing with Southwood's career at Imperial College 1955-1979, appointments, promotions etc., and with the general work of the Department of Zoology and Silwood Park. There is also a sequence of notes and notebooks of his undergraduate lectures, notes and essays 1949-1952, and of his own lecture and teaching courses from 1956. There is good coverage of Southwood's career at Oxford University from 1979-1997, as Linacre Professor of Zoology, Fellow of Merton College, and Vice-Chancellor, including his memoranda and notebooks on Oxford affairs. Research material is not extensive, since Southwood currently retains many of his notes and data, not all of which are published. There is, however, a full account of his work in the 1960s on the ecology of the partridge. Documentation of Southwood's lectures, speeches and addresses begins in 1944 with the teenage Southwood's talks on natural history to school societies and extends to 1995 covering the full range of his ecological and environmental interests, given to professional and learned societies and to less specialised audiences. Publications and editorial papers include useful material on his books: Land and water bugs of the British Isles, Life of the wayside and woodland, and especially of his influential Ecological methods first published in 1966. There is also correspondence, comment and advice exchanged with publishers and journals, such as the Entomologist's Monthly Magazine, the Journal of Animal Ecology and Oxford University Press, of which he was a Delegate for fourteen years. Societies and organisations represented in the papers include a number with which Southwood had long associations as member, officer, contributor or advisor such as the British Ecological Society, the British Empire Naturalists' Association, Field Studies Council, the Rhodes Trust, the Royal Entomological Society and the Royal Society. Visits and conferences are documented 1960-1995, and include major extended visits as Visiting Professor in Mexico, California, South Africa and at Cornell.

There is significant material specifically dealing with Southwood's service on official bodies or specific projects. Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution papers cover the period from 1974 when Southwood was appointed a Commissioner to 1985 when he took up his appointment as Chairman of the National Radiological Protection Board, the main concentration of the papers being 1981-1985 when he was Chairman of the Commission. There are papers relating to the National Radiological Protection Board 1984-1995. The Surface Water Acidification Programme papers cover the period 1983-1990 and include correspondence with colleagues and officials of the three academies involved, research projects, reports and position papers. The Working Party on Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy is represented from its establishment in 1988. Although its final report was published in February 1989, the continuing incidence of the disease and the increasing public concern extend the material to 1997. Southwood's involvement with the Round Table on Sustainable Development is documented 1994-1997. The collection also includes a little material relating to Glaxo-Wellcome plc (Southwood was appointed a non-executive director in 1992) and the Central European University where for a period Southwood was Head of the Department of Environmental Studies and Policy. Southwood's general scientific correspondence is extensive and covers the period 1946-1996. Correspondents include scientific mentors, colleagues and students, particularly associated with Rothamsted, Imperial College and Oxford University.

Supplementary papers: Biographical and personal material includes many letters and messages of congratulation received to mark various high points of Southwood's career, and documentation of his continuing career and honours from 1995. There are some additional early school and student notes. Oxford University material includes continuing documentation on the Department of Zoology, on Merton College and on general university affairs during the period of Southwood's Pro-Vice-Chancellorship, with special reference to external affairs and collaborative meetings, committees and electoral boards.

Research material includes data and background material often related to early work and publications begun at Rothamsted Experimental Station where Southwood was a full-time research student funded by the Agricultural Research Council, and which was later developed more fully in his work on the ecology of game birds. Lectures and teaching material documents the regular teaching and examinations conducted by Southwood 1951-1963 for the University of London Department of Extra-Mural Studies Certificate of Proficiency in Natural History. Publications material includes some very early published papers and some recent (2000) publications.

There is a little additional societies and organisations and visits and conferences material, papers re Glaxo-Wellcome plc (Southwood was appointed a non-executive director in 1992) and a little correspondence with staff and former students of the Central European University. The scientific and general correspondence covers the period 1974-2000 and contains relatively short exchanges, some of them Southwood's outgoing letters only.

Administrative / Biographical History

Southwood was born in 1931 at Northfleet, Gravesend, Kent and educated at Gravesend Grammar School, and at Imperial College London, where he graduated in 1952 with first class honours in Zoology. He had already, in 1948 as a schoolboy, and later during university vacations, spent time as a voluntary worker in the Entomology Department at Rothamsted Experimental Station, Harpenden, Hertfordshire. He returned there in October 1952 with an Agricultural Research Council (ARC) scholarship as a full-time research student, under the overall supervision of C.B. Williams though working in practice under the supervision of C.G. Johnson. He completed his thesis, on 'Some studies on the systematics and ecology of heteroptera', in 1955 and returned to Imperial College Silwood Park to work on frit fly ecology with W.F. Jepson. His subsequent career at Imperial College advanced rapidly through lecturer to reader and professor; in 1967 he succeeded O.W. Richards as Head of the Department of Zoology and Applied Entomology, and also served as Director of Silwood Park, Dean of the Royal College of Science 1971-1972, Acting Head of the Biochemistry Department 1973-1974 and Chairman of the Division of Life Sciences, Imperial College 1974-1977. In 1977 Southwood moved to Oxford University as Linacre Professor of Zoology and Fellow of Merton College, serving the University as Vice-Chancellor 1989-1993 and then as Pro-Vice-Chancellor. He was also President of the Campaign for Oxford.

Southwood's interest in natural history, based on the observation of plants and creatures around his childhood home, began at a very young age. His early entomological work was on the morphology and taxonomy of Hemiptera-Heteroptera. Aspects of his Ph.D. studies on the migrations and movements of insects and the ecology of field-margins suggested long-term research into habitat and the influence of the environment, whether natural or man-made, on population density and survival. Examples are the study of insect fauna in different species of tree, and the impact of agriculture on the natural ecosystem shown in the decline of the partridge population in Western Europe. His interests extended to the dynamics of natural populations and communities and he was particularly concerned with the appropriate methodology (for both measurement and analysis) and the development of models to provide a general synthesis (e.g. his habitat templet). Studies on the structural dynamics of natural systems and the problems of maintaining a balance between these and the demands of man have continued as the basis of Southwood's scientific research and of his public work.

Southwood's public service has been extensive and important. He served as Chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, 1981-1985 (Commissioner from 1974). Three major Reports were published during his Chairmanship, and several research projects launched. The 1983 Report 'Lead in the Environment' was influential in arousing official and public concern. In 1985 Southwood took up the appointment as Chairman of the National Radiological Protection Board (Member of the Board from 1980), serving until 1994. He established an 'Environmental Issues Panel' with a wider membership including 'Green' organisations, and chaired an International Conference on the Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation organised by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace International. He also played a leading role in the Surface Water Acidification Programme, a tripartite research programme, conducted by the Norwegian and Swedish Academies of Sciences and the Royal Society (for the UK), set up to investigate claims that sulphur emissions ('acid rain') emitted by UK industry and especially by the Central Electricity Generating Board were adversely affecting fish in Scandinavian surface waters. Southwood became Chairman of the Management Group on the death of Sir Maurice Sugden in 1984. Southwood also chaired the Working Party on Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy set up jointly by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of Health and Social Security to report on the recently identified cattle disease commonly known as BSE. The Working Party made recommendations in 1988 and 1989, and reported in 1989. In 1994 Southwood became Co-Chairman (together with J.S. Gummer, then Secretary of State for the Environment) of the Round Table on Sustainable Development. The Round Table was one of several initiatives in 1994 by the Conservative Government to advise on environmental matters, and maintained after the 1997 General Election by the incoming Labour Government.


By section as follows: Biographical and personal, Imperial College of Science and Technology, London, Oxford University, Research, Lectures, speeches, addresses, Publications and editorial, Societies and organisations, Visits and conferences, Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, National Radiological Protection Board, Surface Water Acidification Programme, Working Party on Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, Round Table on Sustainable Development, Glaxo-Wellcome plc, Central European University, Correspondence, References and recommendations. Index of correspondents.

Conditions Governing Access

Entry permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card or an Oxford University Card displaying the Bodleian logo. All applicants for new or replacement cards must apply in person, with a recommendation and payment if required, and with proof of their identity.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogues of the papers and correspondence of Sir Thomas Richard Edmund Southwood: NCUACS catalogue no. 72/1/98, 355 pp and NCUACS catalogue no. 90/3/00, 108 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Custodial History

Original collection: Received for cataloguing by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists in 1995-1997 from Southwood. Placed in the Bodleian Library (gift) in 1998.

Supplementary papers: Received for cataloguing by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists from Southwood on various dates August 1999 - April 2000. Placed in the Bodleian Library (gift) in 2000.

Related Material

Southwood's copies of official papers, minutes etc relating to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution 1974-1985 were deposited at the Imperial College Centre for Environmental Technology (prior to 1981) and at the Environmental Change Unit, Oxford.