Fonds F1902 - Vero C. Wynne-Edwards fonds

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Vero C. Wynne-Edwards fonds

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  • 1918-1995 (Creation)
    Wynne-Edwards, Vero C.

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Physical description

2.92 m of textual records and other material

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Vero Copner Wynne-Edwards (July 4,1906-January 5,1997) C.B.E., F.R.S., Regis Professor of Natural History, University of Aberdeen, 1946-1974 was a British ethnologist who's writings on group selection became the focus of often acrimonious debate among theorists in the 1960's and 1970's. He was born in England. In 1924, he went up to New College, Oxford where, in 1927, he took a first in Zoology studying under such men as Julian Huxley, E.S. Goodrich, E.B. Ford, John R. Baker and Charles Elton who became his tutor after Huxley left Oxford. In 1929 he received an invitation to go to McGill University in Montreal and so Wynne-Edwards emigrated to Canada. During his years at McGill, the flora of Canada and the arctic became a part of his interest. This interest led to election to the Royal Society of Canada, (1940). He transferred his interest in fishes to the freshwater fauna of the St. Lawrence and its tributaries. This resulted in a faunal survey for the Quebec Provincial Government, from the South West corner of the Province to the Gaspé peninsula which was still in progress when he left Canada. In 1937 he was the Canadian `official' on board the Gloucester schooner "Gertrude Thebauld" the "Bluenose's" great American racing rival when Commander Donald B. MacMillan took her on his cruise to Labrador and Southern Baffin Island that year. Among other things, he managed to make the most detailed sketch map of the mountainous south coast of Frobisher Bay that had been made to that time. When, in 1945, the first area survey maps of the region appeared a small bay was named after Wynne-Edwards. In 1946 Wynne-Edwards accepted the chair of Natural History at the University of Aberdeen and the family emigrated to Scotland. Wynne-Edwards held the Regius Chair of Natural History at Aberdeen University from 1946 until his retirement in 1974. In 1956 he initiated an important research project on the population ecology and behaviour of red grouse which was still active at his death. He established the Culterty Field Station as a centre for post-graduate training and research in ecology and was instrumental in re-housing his department in a new building in 1970. He also served as Vice-Principal of Aberdeen University between 1970 and 1974.

The book for which Wynne-Edwards will be most remembered is Animal Dispersion in Relation to Social Behaviour, (1962). It is the scholarly result of a lifelong consideration of the process of limiting animal numbers and became, probably the most controversial book of its kind in the nineteen sixties and seventies.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The fonds consists of correspondence, writings, manuscripts, diaries, notebooks, sketchbooks, photographs, charts, drawings, and maps. It is a record of Wynne-Edwards' professional life as an biologist and academic from his school days in Leeds to his death in Aberdeen. The greatest amount of this material reflects Wynne-Edwards professional life, however, there is some personal material in this fonds. The correspondence covers a wide variety of topics including views on Wynne-Edwards thesis about animal dispersion. The subject files include material on the Nature Conservancy, the Red Grouse Project, research topics and the like. There is also a large collection of 35mm slides that cover the Wynne-Edwards post Second World War journeys, in particular his two trips to Baffin Island in the 1950's.

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

First accession donated by Hugh Wynne-Edwards - 1997. Second accession donated by Dr. Katherine Wynne-Edwards - 2000. Third accession donated by Janet Sorbie - 2005.


The papers had been moved about a good deal over the years, as Mr. Wynne-Edwards moved about, and were in no overall order. Some records, correspondence files from his years at The University of Aberdeen for example, were carefully kept and have been left in their original order. Other papers, such as the correspondence that went on after his retirement, were in no particular order. A former student, Sandy Anderson, went through the material and removed much of what he felt was extraneous before he packed and shipped it to Canada. Mr. Wynne-Edwards' family have taken careful account of all that is in the fonds before sending it on to Queen's. For example, it was his family's decision to include the artifacts, the Kayak and the like that were always displayed on his desk, with the papers.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Location of originals

F3 D8
MI 140

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

Specific files in the File series are restricted.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Some copyright provisions apply, please consult archivist.

Associated materials

A wood carving from the Kenyahs of Sarawak of the hornbill, an Inuit sculpture of a kayak with hunter, and a harpoon head were deaccessioned in June of 2006 and donated to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

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Further accruals are not expected

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Location (use this to request the file)

  • Shelf: 5137.1
  • Shelf: 2287.9
  • Shelf: F3 D8
  • Shelf: 2303.50
  • Shelf: MI 140