Ian Coates, Library Assistant in Special Collections, rediscovers Edward Tawney’s lecture notes in geology, dating from his time at University College Bristol.
One of the pleasures of working in Special Collections is the rediscovery of material that has been long forgotten. Following a refurbishment, we moved some book collections to a new set of shelves. Along with the books were fifteen manuscript volumes of lecture notes in geology with Tawney MSS. on the spine. It soon became apparent that the author was Edward Bernard Tawney (1840-1882) who, between 1876 and 1878, was the first lecturer in geology at University College, Bristol (before it became the University of Bristol). Since that time, although these volumes had been preserved, only now have they been given a catalogue listing. Tawney’s importance has been acknowledged by the School of Earth Sciences, who recently posted a blog giving details of his career, but they did not know that the University still held his original lecture notes.
Tawney was educated in Bristol before gaining Diplomas in Geology and Mining from the Royal School of Mines (Imperial College, London) in 1863, where he proved himself to be an outstanding scholar. Pursuing his interest in geology he published several papers on his investigations before being appointed Curator at Bristol Museum and Library in 1872, where he was responsible for the geology collections. He continued with his fieldwork and contributed a chapter on physical geography and geology in Bristol and its environs, produced by the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1875.
Tawney’s talents were widely recognised leading to his appointment in 1878 as Assistant to the Woodwardian Professor at the University of Cambridge which at the time had the best geological collection in Britain. He provided lecture courses on various aspects of geology, as well as being made a Fellow of Trinity College and awarded an honorary M.A. His health, which had never been robust, deteriorated and he died four years later. The main body of Tawney’s papers are held at the Sedgewick Museum of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge.