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Natural History Collection

TitleNatural History Collection
DescriptionThe Natural History Collections comprise approximately twenty thousand zoological specimens and numerous models. The current collections were founded by J. H. Ashworth, Professor of Natural History (1927 - 1936) and are still housed in the Museum Suite in the Ashworth Laboratories (formerly the Department of Zoology), which were designed by Sir Robert Lorimer and opened in 1928. The Collections were assembled specifically to represent the entire animal kingdom. All the invertebrate phyla and all classes of vertebrates are therefore represented. The collections are used for teaching students of the University and outside institutions about animals and scientific research at various levels - genetic, taxonomic, biological, ecological and epidemiological. The early history of its collections, from 1697, was often turbulent and dominated by colourful and controversial individuals. This led ultimately to the creation of an entirely separate museum, leaving the University to begin collecting anew. The present collection, which is in fact the third, was assembled over the last hundred years Most prominent among these is the collection of corals donated by Sir Maurice Yonge, who lead a sixteen month expedition to the Great Barrier Reef in 1928. Other diverse items to be found among this comprehensive collection of invertebrate and vertebrate specimens include, jellyfish and sea-spiders from one of the 'Discovery' voyages, giant Australian earthworms, emperor penguin eggs brought back from Scott's ill fated quest for the South Pole, and an incredible selection of finely crafted papier-mâché models ranging from sea urchins to a life size human figure. Archival material documenting the Collections is also held by the University; most has been transferred to the University Archives. The Natural History Collections may also by visited electronically via the web site,, which provides a digital record of the displays and specimens and includes the history of the collection.
CustodianWyville Thomson; Sir John Murray; Louis Dufresne; William Bullock; Robert Jameson; James Cossar Ewart; James Hartley Ashworth; Sir Maurice Yonge
Custodial HistoryRobert Sibbald (c. 1697), Robert Ramsey (until 1779), John Walker (1779 - 1804), Robert Jameson (1804 - 1854), Edward Forbes (1854), George Allman (1855 - 1870), Charles Wyville Thomson (1870 - 1872), Ramsey Heatley Traquair, James Cossar Ewart (from 1882), James Hartley Ashworth (from 1901), Sir Maurice Yonge.
OriginAfrica; Antarctica; Asia; Australia; Edinburgh; Europe; Great Barrier Reef; North and Central America; Oceania; Queensland; Scotland; South America; United Kingdom
Parent Collection University of Edinburgh Collections