Blog & News

Geotourism: The Sedgwick Museum of Geology

Wed 24 August 2016

Category: GEOTourism, Travel

Article by Stephen Pickering

As a Geology undergraduate in the early 1970’s I used to visit the architecturally magnificent Victorian Natural History Museum in London, it’s vast cabinets organised with comprehensive fossil and mineral collections in phyllogenic and taxonomic order. Organisms and rocks of every description which both amazed and inspired me by their enormous range and content. Today the Natural History Museum is to me but a sorry shadow of its former self, the beautiful fossil collections swept away, and replaced by animatronic gimmicks and inter-active experiences, even Dippy the Diplodocus has been consigned to the archives – et tu Dippy

Adam Sedgwick, Woodwardian Professor of Geology at Trinity College, Cambridge from 1818 to 1873 (, and who first recognised the rocks to define both the Cambrian and Devonian Periods, wrote to his students in 1835 “I cannot promise to teach you all geology, I can only fire your imagination”. His legacy to his successors was a collection of over half a million specimens, including ichthyosaurs specimens purchased from Mary Anning.

In 1904 Thomas Hughes persuaded Cambridge University to open the present Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences consisting of more than 2 million specimens including the collection made by Charles Darwin on his voyage on the Beagle, and “Bertie” Brighton the first curator catalogued 375, 000 specimens of the Sedgwick collection. This museum is a time capsule of the history of Geological Science which together with its patrons Sedgwick, Hughes and Brighton, is truly inspirational and certainly fires my imagination.

If you have cause to visit Cambridge University on either business or pleasure the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Science is well worth visiting.

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