MS 1003
Papers of Thomas Griffith Taylor (1880-1963)



Scope and content note

  • Date range:1800-1963
  • Quantity:9.52m (56 boxes)
  • Accession number:MS 1003
  • Access conditions: Available for reference

The collection consists of correspondence, diaries, photographs, maps, manuscripts, publications etc. Relating to the life and career of the geographer Thomas Griffith Taylor. The body of the correspondence consists of letters between Taylor and his family and close friends. Throughout his life Taylor kept copies of his letters and these form a journal-like account of his life and career on which he based his autobiography, Journeyman Taylor. The rest of the correspondence is mainly with other scientists and scientific organisations and with various publishers. Books and articles written by Taylor, together with a good many manuscript and typescript drafts, form a considerable part of the collection.

The papers are sorted into a basically chronological sequence following the main events in Taylor's career. The manuscripts and publications have been extracted from this sequence and made into separate series.

Biographical note

Thomas Griffith Taylor was born at Walthamstow, Essex, England on 1st December 1880, and came to Australia with his family in 1893. He attended Sydney Grammar School and later King's School. In 1904 he graduated Bachelor of Science from Sydney University and in 1905 he accepted a position as a Demonstrator in Geology under Edgeworth David who was to have a profound effect on his career. In 1905 he was awarded a Bachelor of Engineering and in 1907 he won the 1851 Travelling Scholarship to Cambridge where he conducted the research on Archaeocyathinae, gaining his B.A. in 1909. From 1911 to 1912 he was in Antarctica as Senior Geologist with the British (Terra Nova) Antarctic Expedition 1910-13. Here he led the two western expeditions and made extensive studies of the processes of glaciation.

From 1910 to 1920 he was a Physiographer with the Commonwealth Weather Service and from 1912 to 1913 he helped complete a survey of the Federal Capital Site. In 1914, after again visiting England, he married Doris Priestley, sister of (Sir) Raymond Priestley who was also a geologist with the Scott Expedition. In 1916 he was awarded a Doctor of Science from Sydney University and in 1920 he became Associate Professor of Geography.

From 1929 to 1935 he was Senior Professor of Geography at the University of Chicago and from 1935 to 1951 he was head of the Department of Geography at the University of Toronto. After his retirement in 1951, where he helped found the Australian Institute of Geographers, and was also active as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and of A.N.Z.A.A.S. Throughout his life he travelled extensively in most parts of the world. He died in Sydney in 1963.


Series List

Series 1      Early Years, 1880-1910                                     
Series 2      Antarctica, 1910-1912                                      
Series 3      Canberra and surrounding districts, 1910, 1912-13          
Series 4      Commonwealth Weather Service and Sydney University,        
              1913-1928                                                  
Series 5      Chicago University, 1929-1935                              
Series 6      Toronto University, 1935-1951                              
Series 7      Australian Institute of Geographers, Australian Academy    
              of Science, and A.N.Z.A.A.S.                               
Series 8      Retirement, 1951-1963                                      
Series 9      Scrapbooks, 1880-1963                                      
Series 10     Wanderyears, 1907-1915                                     
Series 11     Manuscripts & proof copies                                 
Series 12     Publications                                               
Series 13     Miscellaneous                                              

Series description

Series 1 - early years, 1880-1910

Correspondence, field notebooks, press clippings, photographs, maps, sketches etc. relating to Taylor's early years, first as a schoolboy and later as a student at Sydney University and at Cambridge. The series includes extensive correspondence between Taylor and the various members of his family which contain a detailed account of his travels in the Pacific, North America and Europe as well as in Australia. Further material from this period may be found in Series 9 and 10.

Series 2 - Antarctica, 1910-1912

Correspondence, diaries, notebooks, press clippings, photographs, maps, sketches etc. relating to Taylor's work as Senior Geologist with the British (Terra Nova) Antarctic Expedition. He also held the position of Phisiographer with the Federal Meteorological Service during this period. The series includes a diary of day to day events, sledging diaries and other material giving details of the two sledging journeys of the Western Party of which Taylor was the leader, and extensive correspondence between Taylor and his family and friends giving detailed descriptions of conditions in Antarctica and comments on the various members of the expedition. There are also manuscripts of articles by Taylor for the South Polar Times and the manuscript of With Scott, the silver lining, four original drawings by David Low for the book With Scott , the silver lining. The series also contains material relating to glacial studies in Europe and New Zealand in preparation for the expedition. Further material relating to Taylor's work in the Antarctic may be found in Series 9 and 10.

Series 3 - Canberra and the surrounding district, 1910, 1912-1913

From 1912 to 1913, Taylor, as Phisiographer with the Federal Meteorological Service, participated in a survey of the Federal Capital Site. The Series includes a Report of the geology along the proposed railway to Jervis Bay, 13.12.12 and material relating to the opening of Canberra on 13 March 1913. There is also a field notebook of a phisiographic survey of the capital site made by Taylor in 1910, photographs of early Canberra, and correspondence between Taylor and his family and friends. Further material may be found in Series 9 and 10.

Series 4 - Commonwealth weather service and Sydney University, 1913-1928

Correspondence, maps, field notebooks, newspaper articles and clippings,. sketches, photographs, reviews etc. relating to Taylor's career in the Commonwealth Weather Service till 1920 and at Sydney University from 1920 to 1928. During this period he travelled widely in Europe, South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and the Pacific as well as in Australia. There is extensive correspondence between Taylor and the various members of his family giving detailed accounts of his travels and including much scientific observation. The material reflects Taylor's special interest in the problems of settlement in tropical and in arid areas in Australia. It also illustrates Professor David's influence on the development of Taylor's career. Further material from this period may be found in Series 9 and 10.

Series 5 - Chicago University, 1929-1935

This series is mainly correspondence, much of which is between Taylor and his family containing detailed accounts of his work as Senior Professor of Geography at Chicago University, and of his travels in North America, the Pacific, Australia and Great Britain. There is also correspondence of a more general nature including material relating to the publication of various books and articles. As well as the correspondence, there are lecture notes, field notebooks, press cuttings, maps, photographs etc. Further material covering this period may be found in Series 9.

Series 6 - Toronto University, 1935-1951

Correspondence, press clippings, photographs, maps, field notebooks etc. relating to Taylor's work as head of the new Department of Geography at Toronto University. During this period he maintained his usual extensive correspondence with his family and friends giving detailed accounts of his work and his travels in North America, Europe and Australia. The correspondence also relates to numerous articles and books written by Taylor during his period. Further material may be found in Series 9.

Series 7 - Australian Institute of Geographers, Australian Academy of Science and ANZAAS

After his retirement in 1951, Taylor returned to Australia where he was instrumental in the establishment of the Institute of Australian Geographers. In 1961 he became its first President. Most of the correspondence relates to his work for this organisation, and to his work for the Australian Academy of Science. There is also material relating to his interest in ANZAAS.

Series 8 - Retirement, 1951-1963

Correspondence, press cuttings, articles, maps, photographs etc. relating to Taylor's life in Sydney after his retirement. The series consists largely of correspondence relating to various publications, particularly to his autobiography Journeyman Taylor. Further material may be found in Series 9.

Series 9 - Scrapbooks, 1880-1963

Scrapbooks containing correspondence, press cuttings, photographs, pamphlets, notes, manuscripts of articles and reviews, field notebooks, diagrams, sketches, etc. covering the period from 1880 to 1963. Much of the correspondence is personal and includes many letters between Taylor and his family while on various journeys and field trips to many parts of the world. The correspondence also reflects the development of Taylor's career, his interest in various geographical and scientific societies, and the publication of his many books and articles.

All loose items have been removed from the scrapbooks and placed in other series.

Series 10 - Wanderyears, 1907-1915

A series of letterbooks containing carbon copies of letters written by Taylor and bound together to form 6 volumes which he has called Wanderyears. It was Taylor's practice to keep a record of his travels in the form of copies of letters sent mainly to his family giving detailed descriptions (often containing geographical and geological data) of places he had visited. The series covers the years 1907 to 1915 when Taylor travelled extensively in Europe, South Africa, North America, Antarctica and the Pacific. Although most letters are to his family, they frequently contain a record of observations of a scientific nature. Also included are copies of some more general correspondence and a few press cuttings, pamphlets etc.

Series 11 - Manuscripts & proof copies

Manuscripts and proofs of many of the books and articles written by Taylor, some of which are unpublished. Many of them are incomplete.

Series 12 - Publications

Some of the many books, articles, reviews etc. written, edited, or contributed to by Taylor, most of which are autographed or annotated. There are also some books and articles by other authors. Most of the reprints of Taylor's own articles have been collected together and bound.

Series 13 - Miscellaneous

Various unidentified photographs, maps, sketches, press clippings etc.