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Archives of the Department of Zoology, 1882 - 2016

Reference Code: GBR/0265/UA/ZOO

Scope and Contents

The records of the Department of Zoology have come to the University Archives in two tranches: i) account books,1882-1956, which are stray survivals and ii) much fuller departmental records from the 1960s onwards, produced in the main by the Head of Department and Departmental Administrator. The latter cover every aspect of departmental activity. Teaching and research shifts towards Ecology and Conservation, and securing the funding to support them, are a particular feature of the records from the late 1990s onwards.
The archives include the records of the Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour, 1948-88.


  • Creation: 1882 - 2016


Conditions Governing Access

From the Management Group:

The University Archives are generally freely available to the holder of a reader's ticket for the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR. Restrictions on access are imposed on certain categories of sensitive record: financial, governmental and personal, by order of the originating body or under data protection legislation. Access information, including opening hours and how to obtain a reader's ticket, appears as part of the Library's web site (

Biographical / Historical

While Professor of Anatomy between 1785 and 1814, Sir Busick Harwood began to assemble an osteological collection in Cambridge which, along with several others, formed the basis of a Museum of Zoology. It moved into accommodation on the New Museums Site in 1865 at the same time as a Syndicate, appointed to consider the best mode of providing for the teaching of Anatomy and Zoology within the University, recommended the appointment of a Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy. Alfred Newton (1829-1907) was elected first professor in 1866. Other individuals significant in early teaching and research were Francis Maitland Balfour (1851-1882), Adam Sedgwick (1854-1913) and John Stanley Gardiner (1872-1946). Following Balfour's early death, Adam Sedgwick established Zoology within the framework of undergraduate teaching in Cambridge. The subject has been increasingly wide-ranging in its make-up. By the 1870s, the development and growth of animals had been added to natural history and anatomy as topics to be taught. In the early twentieth century, the curriculum expanded to include Comparative Physiology, Entomology and Oceanic Ecology. By the late twentieth century, research groups and units dealt with, for instance, molecular embryology, insect neurophysiology, cell and development biology and pharmacology, and sub-departments and field stations flourished in applied entomology and animal behaviour. A growing interest in Conservation Biology has been among the most significant developments since the late 1990s. The subject was formally overseen by the Board for Biological and Geological Studies, 1882-6 and Special Board for Biology and Geology, 1886-1926. The Faculty of Biology 'A', comprising the departments of Anatomy, Botany, Genetics, Parasitology and Zoology, was established under the new University statutes of 1926. In 1996 the faculties of Biology 'A' and 'B' were merged and a new Faculty of Biology instituted, within the School of Biological Sciences. The first professor and his assistant were initially given no more than a single room in which to lecture and teach. By the mid-1880s a bigger space accommodating 30 had been constructed over the top of the old Philosophical Library on the New Museums Site. Piecemeal expansion in the succeeding decades was resolved in 1933 when the Department moved from its various buildings into a newly redeveloped L-shaped building with frontages on Downing Street and Corn Exchange Street. The architect was Mr. J. Murray Easton, of the firm of Stanley Hall and Easton and Robertson. On the Downing Street side the building retained the stone wall of the old Medical School, opened in 1904, the rest of which was pulled down. It also incorporated the former Humphry Museum, opened to commemorate the work Sir George Humphry, first Professor of Surgery 1883-96. Although externally unaltered, the museum was entirely reconstructed within. In 1965 the Arup Building (renamed the Attenborough Building in 2015) was erected on the New Museums Site providing further expansion space for the department to the north. The Zoology Museum moved into new purpose-built adjacent accommodation designed by Philip Dowson in 1970. Closing for extensive refurbishment in 2015, it reopened in 2018. A departmental timeline is online at and biographies of eminent Cambridge zoologists are at


23 linear metre(s) : paper

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

ZOO 2/4/6/2, 3/1/1-11, 3/4/1, 6/1 transferred by Dr Donald Parry, Head of Department, on 5 October 1979. ZOO 8 transferred by the Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour on 10 December 2018. Remainder transferred by Julian Jacobs, Departmental Administrator, on 11 June 2019. The records are a permanent transfer to the University Archives.

Related Materials

For records relating to Zoology , mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century, see also UA History of New Museums (online in Cambridge University Digital Library); CUR 39.28 and CUR.113.V.


This online catalogue was first published in 2002. It was expanded in January 2019 and completely reworked after the large July 2019 transfer in the period October 2018-January 2020.


Department of Zoology

Finding aid date

1998-05-14 16:54:41+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom