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Museum Records

Reference Code: GBR/0279/CPS 8

Scope and Contents

By the late 1830s the Cambridge Philosophical Society had acquired, through donations and purchases, a sizeable museum of natural history, comprising collections of British birds, shells, fish and insects, together with fish, insects and various curiosities from China, South America and elsewhere. The Society employed a curator to look after the collections. Apart from several hundred species of fish presented by Charles Darwin, however, the museum did not attain major scientific importance, although John Willis Clark (see below) believed it was instrumental in exciting interest in the University of Cambridge in the science of zoology. In 1865 it was donated to the University and formed the basis of the University’s Museum of Zoology.
There are no surviving records deriving solely and directly from Museum administration and activities, although there are a few items relevant to the Museum listed here. The Museum is, however, referred to in other records of the Cambridge Philosophical Society: see, for example:
CPS 1/1/2, containing Leonard Jenyns’ account of the establishment of the Museum, circa 1838;
CPS 3/1, minutes of general meetings, which include a record of early donations to the Society;
CPS 5/2/2/1, Treasurer’s Account Book, containing Museum Fund accounts, 1838-65;
CPS 5/4/2, containing a note of the Curator’s salary, 1851;
CPS 6/3/2/14, subscription book including a list of those subscribing to the Museum Fund, 1841;
CPS 7/2/9, containing regulations for the attendance of the Curator in the Society’s house, circa 1850;
CPS 9/2/3, two volumes recording donations to the Library and Museum, 1851-1874;
CPS 11/3/1/2, including a list of ten stuffed birds formerly belonging to the Society displayed at an exhibition at the Museum of Zoology exhibition in 1982.
John Willis Clark, in ‘The Foundation and Early Years of the Society’, given on his resignation as President in 1890 and printed in Vol. VII of the Proceedings 1891, provides useful background on the Museum. He attributes the foundation of the Museum to John Stevens Henslow who, in 1820, donated his collection of British insects and shells, together with display cabinets. The address includes Leonard Jenyns’ account of the Museum which appeared in 1838 in ‘The Cambridge Portfolio’. This notes other donations, including those of John Morgan, Mr Stephens, Mr Yarrell, Mr Leadbeater, Thomas Bell, Rev R T Lowe, Rev G Vachell, Charles Darwin and Leonard Jenyns himself.


  • Creation: 1847 - 1865


2 file(s) : paper

Language of Materials



Cambridge Philosophical Society

2015-05-08 08:29:52+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge Philosophical Society Repository

CPS Archivist, Joan Bullock-Anderson
c/o Sedgwick Museum Archives, A G Brighton Building
Madingley Rise
Cambridge CB3 0UD