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Papers of Ken E.L. Simmons


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Papers of Kenneth Edwin Laurence Ryder Simmons, consisting of biographical notes by Marion Simmons; certificates and photographs; British Ornithologists' Union medal, 1979; reprints of published papers, 1951-2003; unpublished manuscripts for a proposed biography of Edmund Selous; correspondence of Edmund Selous, copies (made 4 Jan 1936) and originals; field notebooks, 1948-1997.


  • Creation: 1904-2003


3.28 Linear metres (19 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. 15479/1].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 15479/1-19

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 15479


Papers of Ken E.L. Simmons, 1904-2003.

Biographical / Historical

Ken Simmons was born in Kenton, Middlesex on 29 March 1929. He spent his early childhood in China and went to school in London, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. He completed professional training for a Teachers' Certificate in 1946-1947 and then took up a teaching post in Reading. It was at this time that he took up serious birdwatching and joined the British Ornithologists' Union, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and a year later, the British Trust for Ornithology. During a period of National Service from 1948-1950 Simmons was posted to the Suez-Canal Zone, Eygpt where his observations of birds provided material for later published work. From 1947 onwards he published many notes and papers on birds. He became particularly interested in the taxonomic implications of certain simple behaviour patterns and in bird taxonomy generally and was listed in the 1961 Directory of Zoological Taxonomists. He was also a committee member, joint recorder and Chairman of the Reading Ornithological Club.

In February 1962 he moved to Ascension Island, as the island School Master, with his wife Marion as his assistant. Although he had intended to spend his spare time on the island writing, he spent most of it observing and studying the brown booby Sula leucogaster. Upon their return to England in 1964 both Ken and Marion decided to give up teaching and Ken succeeded in obtaining a Leverhulme Fellowship enabling him to register, in 1965, as a postgraduate student at the Department of Psychology, University of Bristol. In 1967 he was awarded an MSc for his Ascension Island booby studies and in 1970 a PhD for work on the great crested grebe. While in Bristol he was a founding committee member of the Bristol Ornithological Club.

Following his PhD Simmons moved to Leicester to work with Uli Weidmann at the Department of Psychology, University of Leicester on duck courtship. He was also asked to join the Editorial Board of the . He started work on the Social Pattern and Behaviour section in late 1971, in 1973 he became editor, reducing the hours worked at the University of Leicester, then in 1975 he began to work full time on . He was responsible for the Voice section, the Family Summaries and general trouble shooting. He also spent time writing papers and books and a biographical study of Edmund Selous.


These papers were catalogued by the Alexander Library of Ornithology. The item and box numbers have been retained, which can be found in the square brackets after each listed item in the Scope and Content. The original reference has been shown in the General Note section for each shelfmark. The Bodleian shelfmarks have been added as the main reference number. The latter should be used to order manuscripts and to quote from them.

Two boxes, 3.1 and 4.1, listed on the guide were not included during the accession of the collection to the Bodleian.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from the Alexander Library of Ornithology, 2018.

Related Materials

The Alexander Library also holds two of Simmons' theses: 'The role of food supply in the biology of the Brown Booby at Ascension Island' [THESIS:SIM] and 'The biology of the parent-chick stage in the Great Crested Grebe' [THESIS:SIM]. Available on SOLO.

Catalogue of the papers of Ken E.L. Simmons
EAD version 2019 by 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