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E.J.H. Corner photographs

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/Y3031M

Scope and Contents

Photographs and glass and film negatives showing scenes in the Malay Peninsula and Singapore, the Solomon Islands and New Guinea. The majority are highly specialised forestry images, and many are uncaptioned, making identification difficult. Captions are taken from, in most cases, the envelopes that originally held the images or the reverse of the prints in conjunction with information from an accompanying annotated draft catalogue. There are also four watercolours (three of Pinang) by local artists.


  • Creation: 1929 - 2006


Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

Edred John Henry Corner was born on 12 January 1906 and died on 14 September 1996. He studied biology at Rugby School and Sidney Sussex College, and in 1929 was appointed Assistant Director of the Gardens Department of the Straits Settlements, which 'had as a duty the botanical exploration of the whole Malay Peninsula.' His photographs indicate the extent of his travels, and he later wrote of 'the experience I had gained through the whole country from Perlis and Gunong Tahan to the islets south of Singapore.' Though initially a mycologist (the scientific study of fungi), he soon found his main interest in trees, as the main subjects of his photographs indicate. As he commented in 1981 'I found life in Singapore distasteful until I discovered the sprinkling of persons throughout the peninsula who had grown to love the country. Had it not been for the wonder of the forests, which I have since learnt were the richest botanically in the world - and the tense is past for these forests are now decimated - I would not have stayed.' (‘The Marquis’, pp. 21-22). His first book, later revised, and the forerunner of many botanical works, was ‘Wayside Trees of Malaya’ (1940).

In his collecting of specimens he utilised the climbing powers of Berok monkeys (see his ‘Botanical monkeys’, 1992). With the approach of the Japanese he was conscripted into the Singapore Volunteer Force, but a serious bite from one of his monkeys led to his being invalided. His civilian status enabled him (with the approval of the former British Governor, Sir Shenton Thomas) to cooperate with the Japanese in saving specimens and records from the libraries and museums. He was particularly fortunate in the friendly attitude of Professor Hidezo Tanakadate and, from 1942 to 1944, of Marquis Yoshichika Tokugawa, Supreme Consulting Adviser to the Japanese Military Administration, and President of the Museum and Botanical Gardens. After his death, Professor Corner told of his own wartime experiences and the life of Yoshichika Tokguwa in ‘The Marquis: a Tale of Syonan-to' in 1981. Syonan-to was the Japanese term for Singapore.

Professor Corner left Singapore in November 1945. He became Principal Field Scientific Officer for Latin America for Unesco, 1947-48, and returning to Cambridge, he was Lecturer in Botany 1949-59, Reader in Plant Taxonomy 1959-65, Fellow of Sidney Sussex 1959-73, and Professor of Tropical Botany 1965-73. During this period he led Royal Society Expeditions to Borneo (1961, 1964) and the Solomon Islands (1965), and visited Japan in 1966. His many honours include CBE and FRS. He retired as Emeritus Professor in 1973. Corner married twice, and is succeeded by a son and daughter. He was a very tall man with spectacles.


10 archive box(es) (10 boxes) : negative/photograph

1 file(s) (1 file)

1784 item(s) (1784 images)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was presented to the Royal Commonwealth Society in April 1996 on behalf of Professor Corner by his Literary executor and also his last Ph.D. pupil 1970-3, Dr David Mabberley of Oxford.

Related Materials

Cambridge University Library's Department of Manuscripts and University Archives hold the letters of Robert Hill, which include correspondence with E.J.H. Corner, MS Add.9267.


Corner's first published book can be found at: Corner, E.J.H (1940), 'Wayside trees of Malaya.' 2 volumes, Singapore: Government printing office by W. T. Cherry. An account of Corner's experiences during the World War II occupation of Singapore by the Japanese can be found in: Corner, E.J.H (1981), 'The Marquis: a tale of Syonan-to.' Singapore: Heinemann Asia. (There is a note - author unknown- included in the collections annotated draft catalogue which reads: 'Incidentally, I think the photo with "the little soldier" in the Marquis is wrongly dated'). Corner's observations on monkeys can be found in: Corner, E.J.H (1992), 'Botanical monkeys.' Edinburgh: Pentland.

A biography has been written by Corner's son, John K. Corner, 'My father in his suitcase : in search of E. J. H. Corner the relentless botanist' (Singapore, 2013).


This collection level description was entered by WS and MJC using information from an accompanying annotated draft catalogue.


Corner, Edred John Henry, 1906-1996, Botanist

Includes index.
2006-01-05 10:04:40+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

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Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom