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The Papers of John Edward Marr

Reference Code: GBR/590/MARR

Scope and Contents

The collection comprises 68 field notebooks (1875-1925) covering work undertaken in a variety of places in the UK (e.g. Yorkshire, Wales, Cumbria) and Bohemia [Czech Republic]. They include maps, sketches and notes about fossils collected. There are also notes and some correspondence in the collection.


  • Creation: 1875-1933


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for consultation by researchers using Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. The Collections Research Centre [West Cambridge] is open from Monday to Friday, 10:00-13:00 and 14:00-17:00. A prior appointment made at least two weeks in advance, and two forms of identification are required.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies, photographs, and printouts from scanned images may be provided. Charges may apply. Readers may also use their own digital cameras subject to copyright legislation and in-house rules.

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Sedgwick Museum Staff.

Biographical / Historical

John Edward Marr was born at Morecambe, Poulton-le-Sands, Lancashire June 14th 1857, the youngest of 9 children born to John Marr, a Lancaster merchant trader and partner in a silk mill at Wray, and his wife Mary (nee Simpson).

The family moved to Caernarvon in 1863 where Marr attended school. He later attended the Royal Lancaster Grammar School where he met Richard Hill Tiddeman of the Geological Survey and accompanied him on a number of field excursions.

He entered St Johns College, Cambridge as an exhibitioner in 1875, but soon became a scholar. He obtained a first class degree in the Natural Sciences in 1878 and was elected a fellow of his college in 1881 which he retained until his death.

His first paper on the older rocks of the Lake District was published in 1878. This was to be a forerunner of a series of outstanding contributions that were published at frequent intervals during his life.

Immediately after taking his degree Marr made comparative studies of the Lower Palaeozoic rocks in Bohemia [Czech Republic] and Scandinavia. In the November 1933 issue of Nature magazine, it describes how his investigations into the so-called 'colonies' of Joachim Barrande, and the resulting work produced was a most important contribution to science.

His interest in the Stratigraphy of the Lake District took him to practically every part of the region, exploring the rocks of the Lake District and North Wales. On the 1881 Census he is shown staying in Penrith, with his brother Francis, and his occupation is given as 'Geologist B.A. Camb Sc and Persuit'.

He published papers on Skiddaw Slates, Borrowdale Volcanic Series, Coniston Limestone, Dufton Shales, Coniston Grits and many more. In another series of papers he discussed the origin of the lakes and tarns of Lakeland, showing how most of them were due to damming by glacial drift rather than true rock basins.

With the then Woodwardian Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes and others, he was largely instrumental in making Cambridge the foremost school of geology in Britain. He succeeded to the Woodwardian Chair in 1917.

As well as his work at Cambridge, he was active in geological activities elsewhere. He served on the Council of the Geological Society for almost forty years, acting as secretary for ten years, and he was President from 1904 to 1906. He received from the Society three medals in recognition of his services to geology, receiving the societies highest award the Wollaston Medal in 1914. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1891, he was awarded a Royal Medal by the Society in 1930.

He died in Cambridge on the 1st October 1933. In 1934 a memorial tablet was placed in a wall on the promenade, in front of the house where he was born in Morecambe. The ceremony was attended by the President of the Royal Society, Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins, and other distinguished guests. The tablet was unveiled by Professor Marr's only surviving sister, Mrs Walker Jones of Kendal.


6 archive box(es)

Language of Materials



The original order of these files amalgamated into boxes in the 1990s had been lost. No clear original order of these records exists

The collection has been arranged (intellectually and physically) into the following series.

MARR 1 Field Research MARR 2 Correspondence MARR 3 Notes, Photographs

Listing of the field notebooks took place by Dr Lyall Anderson in January 2012.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Some of the material is fragile. Staff will advise.

Other Finding Aids

There are draft descriptions for many of the field notebooks. Please ask staff for further information.

The Papers of John Edward Marr
In Progress
Sandra Freshney (nee Marsh)
Description rules
International Standard for Archival Description - General
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences Repository

A.G Brighton & Colin Forbes Building
Madingley Rise
Madingley Road
Cambridge CB3 0EZ United Kingdom
+441223 765717