Leonard Darwin collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of letters to Antarctic explorers and their families regarding various polar expeditions.

Administrative / Biographical History

Leonard Darwin was born on 15 January 1850, fourth son of the naturalist Charles Darwin. He joined the Royal Engineers as a soldier in 1871 and became a Major in 1890, teaching at the School of Military Engineering at Chatham from 1877 to 1882. Being interested in various branches of science, he had been commissioned to carry out astronomical observations on the Transit of Venus expeditions of 1874 and 1882, and also to observe solar eclipses in distant countries. Darwin went on to serve in the Ministry of War, Intelligence Division, from 1885 to 1890. He later became a liberal-unionist Member of Parliament for the town of Lichfield in Staffordshire from 1892 to 1895.

In 1894, Darwin became Honorary Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society, a post he held for fifteen years. He went on to serve as President of the Society between 1908 and 1911. He married twice but had no children. He died in 1943.


The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by recipient.

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.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to about Darwin and The Record of the Royal Geographical Society 1830-1930 by Hugh Robert Mill, Royal Geographical Society, London (1930) SPRI Library Shelf 061.2[GB Royal Geographical Society] and Robert Keith Headland Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events,(1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN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.