Skip to main content

Papers of William Speirs Bruce

 Fonds
Identifier: Coll-72

Scope and Contents

The Papers of William Speirs Bruce consist of a substantial number of manuscripts and ephemera including pamphlets; notes and notebooks; annotated typescripts; annotated offprints; picture postcards; photographs; examination papers; sketch maps; diaries; press cuttings; correspondence; lists of specimens; book catalogues; soundings; lecture engagements; lectures; and, maps. The Papers handle a wide variety of subjects including the 'Balaena', fish and fisheries, Franz Josef Land, the Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition, meteorology, oceanography, Repulse Bay, the Seychelles, soundings, South Georgia, Spitzbergen, and whaling.

Dates

  • 1892-1923

Language of Materials

English

Conditions Governing Access

Mostly open. Please contact the repository in advance.

Extent

2 linear metres

Physical Location

Gen. 1646-1669

Other Finding Aids

A handlist (H72) is available in the CRC reading room.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Bruce manuscript collection was donated in 1921, alongside the library of the Scottish Oceanographical Laboratory.

Related Materials

There is a volume of newspaper cuttings relating to the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition at Coll-282.

Bibliography

William Speirs Bruce, explorer and geographer, was born on 1 August 1867 in London, the son of a doctor. Bruce studied at Edinburgh University between 1887 and 1892 but did not graduate. Before completing his course he sailed for Antarctica with the 'Balaena' expedition of Dundee whalers, signing on as a surgeon and naturalist. Meteorological observations taken during the expedition provided the first clear evidence in favour of an Antarctic anticyclone. The 'Balaena' expedition re-awakened interest in the region and paved the way for greater efforts there in the early years of the 20th century. In 1895, Bruce was working at the meteorological observatory on Ben Nevis in Scotland. Plans for a Repulse Bay Expedition in 1897 and an expedition to the Antarctic late in 1896 never materialised, but during 1896 and 1897 he was in Franz-Josef Land with the Jackson-Harmsworth expedition. His work there was mainly zoological but he took part in the survey of the western part of the archipelago.
Before completing his course he sailed for Antarctica with the 'Balaena' expedition of Dundee whalers, signing on as a surgeon and naturalist. Meteorological observations taken during the expedition provided the first clear evidence in favour of an Antarctic anticyclone. The 'Balaena' expedition re-awakened interest in the region and paved the way for greater efforts there in the early years of the 20th century. In 1895, Bruce was working at the meteorological observatory on Ben Nevis in Scotland. Plans for a Repulse Bay Expedition in 1897 and an expedition to the Antarctic late in 1896 never materialised, but during 1896 and 1897 he was in Franz-Josef Land with the Jackson-Harmsworth expedition. His work there was mainly zoological but he took part in the survey of the western part of the archipelago.
In 1898 he sailed to Novaya Zemlya and the Barents Sea with Major Andrew Coats, and in the same year accompanied the Prince of Monaco to Spitzbergen (Svalbard). Between 1899 and 1901 Bruce was a Lecturer in Geography at the then Heriot-Watt College in Edinburgh (now Heriot-Watt University) and at the Church of Scotland Training College in the city. In 1902, Bruce organised and led the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition to the Weddell Sea, returning home in 1904. This expedition took some of the earliest cine film of Antarctica and may also have pioneered sound recording there. Other expeditions to Spitzbergen occurred in 1906, 1907, 1909, 1912, 1914, and 1919. During the visits to Spitzbergen deep soundings were taken and the island was surveyed and explored. Bruce took a leading part in economic developments there, and brought back samples of coal for analysis before any claims to mining estates had been made by Norwegian and Russian interests. His plan for a second Scottish Antarctic Expedition was announced in 1910 but this was abandoned due to insufficient funds.
Between 1914 and 1915, he was in the Seychelles in charge of a sperm-whaling venture. Bruce equipped and maintained the Scottish Oceanographical Laboratory as a centre for Polar research and was Director of the Laboratory, but his failing health compelled him to disband it. His voyages added materially to knowledge about the mammal and bird life of the islands of the Arctic region, and about both the northern and southern Polar seas. Bruce died in Edinburgh on 28 October 1921.

Bibliography

G. N. Swinney, 'Some new perspectives on the life of William Speirs Bruce (1867-1921), with a preliminary catalogue of the Bruce colleciton of manuscripts in the University of Edinburgh', Archives of Natural History, 28.3, (2001), pp. 285-311.

Processing Information

Description imported from ArchivesHub in September 2019.
Title
Papers of William Speirs Bruce, 1892-1923
Description rules
ISAD(G)2
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Edinburgh University Library Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379