Palaeontological Collection


The palaeontological collection contains over 1 million fossils, collected from all over the world, tracing the history of life on Earth from over 3000 million years ago to the present day.

When Adam Sedgwick became Woodwardian Professor in 1818 the Museum held around 10,000 fossils. Sedgwick was responsible for greatly expanding the fossil collection through donations and purchases. He 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 Museum. By the time of his death in 1873 the collection had grown to nearly half a million specimens.

The collections contains over 7,000 British type specimens (specimens used to describe a new species) and over 21,000 specimens illustrated in the scientific literature. The collection is still growing, mainly as a result of the research activities of the Department of Earth Sciences. Material is also acquired from other scientific institutions and members of the public.

The Museum holds a large collection of fossils reflecting the geology of Cambridgeshire and its region. Many of these are related to the local exploitation of mineral resources in the area for example brick making (Oxford and Kimmeridge Clay fossils) and phosphate mineral extraction and cement manufacture (Neolithic - Bronze Age peat, River Cam gravels and Cambridge Greensand fossils).


                       

 

Monday to Friday
10:00 to 13:00 & 14:00 to 17:00

Saturday
10:00 to 16:00 

Sunday
Closed



Fifty years ago, Cambridge mineralogist, Dr Stuart Agrell was given VIP treatment and a police escort after flying into Heathrow from the USA because he was carrying a bag full of very precious rock material. The samples were amongst the most expensive ever collected as they had been retrieved from the moon by two of the American Apollo 11 mission astronauts. The programme of their investigation was a remarkable and unprecedented example of international scientific collaboration, which still continues.

Stuart Agrell on the underground with a carpet bag of rocks from the Apollo 11 missionGuess what I’ve got in my bag? 50 years ago, Cambridge mineralogist, Stuart Agrell nonchalantly carried some of the most valuable rocks ever collected back to Cambridge in his holdall. (© Mirrorpix, reproduced with permission)




Two of the University of Cambridge’s museums, the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences and Museum of Zoology have been shortlisted for the prestigious Family Friendly Museum Award, it was announced today.