Papers and correspondence of Sir Charles Maurice Yonge

Scope and Content

The papers provide extensive documentation of Yonge's research on molluscs and coral reef ecology over six decades. There is a chronological sequence of research folders, 1922-1982, whose contents may include correspondence, notes on the literature, field observations, experimental data, drafts of scientific papers and lectures, drawings, figures, photographs and printed matter. Particularly well-represented in the sequence is post-war work on the molluscs of the Pacific Coast of North America and a collaboration in the 1960s with T.F. Goreau of the University of the West Indies. The 1928-1929 Great Barrier Reef expedition is represented by journals (some kept by Yonge's first wife), correspondence and a comprehensive photographic record. There is also documentation of Yonge's later interest in the Reef, including a joint Royal Society/Universities of Queensland expedition in 1973; Yonge was chairman of the UK committee supervising arrangements.

Administrative / Biographical History

Yonge was born in Wakefield and educated at Edinburgh University, where he graduated with distinction in zoology in 1922.He was awarded the Baxter Natural Science Scholarship and he remained at Edinburgh for two years for Ph.D. research on the comparative physiology of digestion in marine invertebrates. He was subsequently awarded a Carnegie Research Studentship at Edinburgh but held this for only three months before taking up the post of temporary Assistant Naturalist at the Plymouth Laboratory of the Marine Biological Association, where his classic work on the digestive diverticula of the lamellibranchia quickly established an international reputation. At the 1927 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science Yonge was appointed leader of an expedition to the Great Barrier Reef, 1928-1929, which was the first major study of the ecology of coral reefs. He was accompanied by his first wife (who died in 1945), and other members of the party from Britain were F.S. Russell, S.M. Manton and S.M. Marshall. He returned to Plymouth to publish the scientific results of the expedition and wrote a successful popular account, A Year on the Great Barrier Reef (1930).

In 1933 Yonge became Bristol University's first Professor of Zoology, and initiated a series of observations on the biology of the Bristol Channel. In 1944 he moved to Glasgow University as Regius Professor of Zoology in succession to E. Hindle. While at Glasgow he played a major role in the development of marine science nationally and internationally, taking a keen interest, for example, in the development of the Millport Laboratory of the Scottish Marine Biological Association, of which he was President for over twenty years. In 1964 he resigned from his Chair to resume full-time research first at Glasgow and then from 1970 at Edinburgh; his final paper (on Mesodesmatacea) appeared only a few days before his death in 1986. He was elected FRS in 1946 (Darwin Medal 1968) and was knighted in 1967.


By section as follows: Diaries, Notebooks, Research, Societies and organisations, Correspondence, Non-print material. Index of correspondents.

Access Information

Access by prior appointment with proof of ID, address and research interest.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Sir Charles Maurice Yonge (1899-1986), NCUACS catalogue no. 25/1/91, 95 pp and appendix, 6 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Separated Material

Yonge's scientific library is housed at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Queensland.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1990 by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists from Lady Yonge, widow via the Natural History Museum, London. Deposited in the Museumin 1991.

Related Material

A Second Appendix was prepared by the Natural History Museum of further papers presented by Professor Brian Morton, Royal Society Memorialist of Yonge and by Lady Yonge in 1998. It includes a little additional material for sections C, D, E and F and a new section G of papers of Brian Morton used in the preparation of the Memoir.

Related material held by the Natural History Museum Archives includes papers of the Department of Zoology relating to the Great Barrier Reef Expedition of 1928-1929.