Skip to main content

Archive of David Lambert Lack


  • How to

David Lack kept his papers in used quarto envelopes with a manuscript indication of the contents; these in turn were kept in cardboard filing-boxes whose labels were often defaced or faded. These have been rehoused in archival folders and boxes. The papers have been grouped by subject matter into a roughly chronological sequence. Almost all the notes were made on the back of typescript drafts (themselves often bearing manuscript corrections) of earlier articles, books or letters. The catalogue items refer to the manuscript notes; no attempt has been made to identify or collate the originals of the typescripts.

Correspondence referring to specific investigations was always kept with the relevant data. Many collaborators, including amateur ornithologists and members of the general public as well as professional colleagues, contributed data, observations and amendments to Lack's research and published work. Except for some items in shelfmarks MSS. 14992/27-28, all correspondents are indexed; where information of special value occurs in the correspondence, an indication is given in the appropriate entry in the catalogue.

Shelfmarks MSS. 14992/65-66 include 34 notebooks of observations made by Lack and his collaborators of migration movements monitored by radar at various R.A.F. stations. These notebooks have been cleared as unclassified material by the Ministry of Defence.

Titles and descriptions in inverted commas are those which appear on the manuscripts or related published work.

Unless otherwise stated, all work is in Lack's manuscript or typescript.


  • Creation: 1925-1999, n.d.


10.4 Linear metres (429 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. 14992/1].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 14992/1-429

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 14992


Archive of David Lambert Lack (1910-1973), ornithologist.

Biographical / Historical

Dr. David Lambert Lack (1910-1973) was a British ornithologist. He was engaged in radar research during the Second World War, using this to make important contributions to the study of bird migration, and served as director of the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology in Oxford. Details are given in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


The papers were catalogued by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre (CSAC), with the catalogue reference CSAC 20.14.74. Their reference numbers have been retained as 'Former reference', but Bodleian shelfmarks have been added as the main reference number and the latter should be used to order the papers and to quote from them.

The twenty one series in the CSAC catalogue have been preserved, and consist of:

  1. Biographical
  2. Diaries, albums and journals
  3. Work on Galapagos (Darwin's) finches
  4. Work on speciation
  5. Work on clutch size
  6. Work on titmice
  7. Work on swifts
  8. Work on robins
  9. Work on migration
  10. Work for The Natural Regulation of Animal Numbers, Population Studies of Birds and Enjoying Ornithology
  11. Work for Ecological Adaptations for Breeding in Birds
  12. Work on island birds
  13. Work for Ecological Isolation in Birds
  14. Work on Jamaican birds
  15. Work for Evolution Illustrated by Wildfowl
  16. Work on various ornithological subjects
  17. Work on evolution and religion
  18. Conferences and committees
  19. Correspondence
  20. Radar work
  21. Publications and broadcasts

CSAC 20.14.74/52-54 = Vacant

CSAC 20.14.74/338 (Diary of observations on Jamaica, 1970-1971) = Not found when the Archive was transferred from the Alexander Library of Ornithology. A note on the original box reads '(# 338, 339 to be inserted later)'

CSAC 20.14.74/339 (Diary of observations on Domenica, 1971-1972) = Not found when the Archive was transferred from the Alexander Library of Ornithology. A note on the original box reads '(# 338, 339 to be inserted later)'

Custodial History

The papers were collected from David Lack's study at the Edward Grey Institute, Oxford, and from Mrs. Elizabeth Lack and deposited in the Alexander Library of Ornithology, the library of the Edward Grey Institute.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from the Alexander Library of Ornithology, 2018.

Related Materials

See also additional papers of David Lambert Lack (MSS. 15665/1-8).

Archive of David Lambert Lack
Finding aid prepared by Original catalogue by Jeannine Alton and Harriet Weiskittel. EAD version by Meg Woodward, Marion Lowman and Jen Patterson
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom