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Archive of Edgar Barton Worthington


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Diaries kept by Worthington whilst on expeditions and journeys (boxes 1-4); letters, mainly from Worthington whilst on expeditions and journeys (boxes 5-7); Worthington’s working papers (boxes 8-17) including a box containing the working papers of Cyril Hurcomb (box 14); photographs (box 18); sketches and paintings (box 19).


  • Creation: 1912-1984


2.09 Linear metres (19 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Material of a sensitive personal nature is closed. Restrictions are indicated in the catalogue as (=Res.).

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction or publication without permission. Contact the Library in the first instance.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 582 / 1 / 1, fols. 1-2].

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Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 582 /1-19

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 5942


Papers of Edgar Barton Worthington (1905-2001), biologist, mainly relating to his work on fish in East Africa. With working papers of Cyril Hurcomb (1883-1975).

Biographical / Historical

Biographical history written by J. M. Cokayne (August 1971).

Edgar Barton Worthington, son of Edgar and Amy Worthington, was born on 13 January 1905, and educated at Rugby School and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he took a First in Zoology. Two months later he was in Africa conducting research on the fisheries of the Victoria Nyanza. In 1930 he married Stella Desmond Johnson, who shared his research interests and was a member of his early expeditions. Jointly they published in 1933 a book entitled Inland Waters of Africa. Their three daughters all followed in their parents' scientific footsteps, after receiving most of their education in Kenya.

From 1930-1933 Worthington was Balfour Student at Cambridge and, from 1933-1937, Demonstrator in Zoology. He was leader of the 1930 Cambridge expedition to the East African Lakes, and was later Scientist to Lord Hailey’s African Research Survey, 1934-1937. Appointed Director of Laboratories and Secretary of the Freshwater Biological Association, Wray Castle, Ambleside in 1937 (a post he held until 1946) it was not long before he returned to Africa and also visited the Middle East to carry out a war-time survey of scientific resources.

After the war he spent nine years in East Africa and the Belgian Congo: in 1946 he prepared a Development Plan for Uganda, and was appointed Scientific Secretary to the Colonial Research Council (1946-1949), "with the object of assessing the part which research could and should play in connection with colonial developments in his part of the world, and generally keeping contacts going between scientists in East Africa and the Colonial Office etc." (letter from Worthington to Sir Herbert Howard, 24 January 1947). He was also Scientific Secretary to the East African High Commission (1950-1951).

A new appointment, as Secretary-General to the Scientific Council for Africa South of the Sahara, followed in 1951; this post he held until the Council merged with the Commission for Technical Co-operation in Africa South of the Sahara in January 1955. The new Joint Secretariat sponsored the writing during 1955-1956 of his book Science in the Development of Africa (1958).

In 1957, being convinced that future human needs depended on the conservation of natural resources, he accepted the post of Deputy Director-General (Scientific) Nature Conservancy; this he held until 1965, while his wife ran their farm in Sussex. In 1967 he was awarded the CBE.

After working as Scientific Director of the International Biological Programme from 1964-1974, he was President of the Committee on Water Resources until 1977. Having retired, he was still member of various organisations (for example the Commonwealth Human Ecology Council), and became Member of Honour of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in 1978.

Two years after the death of his first wife, he married Harriett Stockton in 1980, and he died on 14 December 2001.


The original order was maintained for most files. This is chronological expect for the correspondence where letters and their answers are combined.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Mrs. Harriet Worthington (widow) via Dr. Ro McConnell in July 2002.

Related Materials

MSS. Afr. s. 1425. Papers relating to Worthington's work in East Africa, including material for a book on science in the development of Africa and files on East African agricultural affairs, 1946-1957. 18 boxes. A handlist is available in the reading room.

Catalogue of the archive of Edgar Barton Worthington, 1912-1984
Finding aid prepared by Katja Ganzenmüller, Marion Lowman and Lucy McCann
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom