Opened in 1904, the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences has its origins in the early 18th century, and includes specimens donated from important figures such as Charles Darwin and Mary Anning.
Architects of the present Sedgwick Museum
Dr John Woodward, 1665 - 1728
John Woodward was a Professor of Physic (Medicine) and a collector of rock, mineral, fossil and archaeological specimens from around the world. When he died, he bequeathed half of his collection to the University of Cambridge, who later bought the two remaining cases. In his Will, Woodward stipulated that his collection should always be available "to all such curious and intelligent persons as shall desire a view of [it] for their information and instruction".
During his lifetime Woodward paid various people to collect on his behalf and as a result, amassed more than 9000 specimens, all of which were catalogued. He developed a classification system for his collection which was published after his death in three languages, including Latin.
>> Find out more about Woodward's collection
Professor Adam Sedgwick, 1785 - 1873
Sedgwick was the first to begin serious acquisition of specimens for the Museum. He had a passion for education and gave popular public lectures. Sedgwick was well acquainted with a number of collectors of the period, including Mary Anning, from whom he purchased several ichthyosaur specimens, now on display in the gallery.
Sedgwick persuaded the University to set aside space in the Cockerill Building (interior pictured right) for use as a museum for his collections, which opened in 1840. By the time Sedgwick died in the late 1800s, the collection had outgrown the Cockerill Building and it was decided a suitable memorial to Sedgwick would be a new Museum.
Professor Tom McKenny Hughes, 1832 - 1917
The building of the present Sedgwick Museum on Downing Street was supervised by McKenny Hughes. McKenny Hughes was particularly skilled in the art of persuasion and had no trouble negotiating and cajoling the University to consider erecting a new museum, as a permanent memorial to Adam Sedgwick. He raised over £95,000 through public subscription towards the construction of the new Museum. The doors were opened for the first time on 1st March 1904, in a ceremony attended by King Edward VII. The public could once more enjoy Sedgwick's fine geological collection.
Mr Albert George ("Bertie") Brighton, 1901 - 1988
Brighton became the Museum's first professional curator of the Museum in 1931, and worked until 1968. Many of the labels that you see on specimens displayed in the Museum today were handwritten by Bertie Brighton. During his lifetime he catalogued around 350,000 specimens and devised a complex taxonomic card index (ie by genus and species) and printed shelf catalogue.
The Sedgwick Museum continues to play an active part in the research and teaching activities of the Department of Earth Sciences.
One of our recent activities concerned enhancing our public displays to offer more information and improved interpretation of our collections. The renovation of our gallery displays and our educational resources will be a continuing theme for our work for the immediate future.