Ref NoLDGSL/39
TitleMACFADYEN, William Archibald (1893-1985)
Extent29 files, 6 vols + 4 small boxes
DescriptionFieldbooks, datacards and administration files of William Archibald Macfadyen, principally relating to his work for the Nature Conservancy, 1948-1971.
Administrative HistoryWilliam Archibald Macfadyen was born on 5 November 1893 in Manchester, England. He and his widowed mother moved to Penyffordd, Flintshire, Wales in 1901. He attended Rydal School, Colwyn Bay from around 1907, then proceeded to St John's College, Cambridge in 1912 to study Chemistry.

On 7 August 1914 he enlisted in the army, and as 2nd Lieutenant in the Buffs, (his mother having moved to Folkestone, Kent), went to Bombay and then Iraq where he was wounded by machine-gun fire at Kut-el-Amara in 1916. His wrist was badly damaged and one knee permanently stiffened. He was awarded the Military Cross. Unfit for further active service, he returned to Cambridge, where he graduated in 1917 and was subsequently sent as a chemist to Sheffield to help in re-lining artillery barrels.

He returned to Cambridge after the war in 1918, and studied geology. In 1920 he joined Anglo Egyptian Oilfields Ltd and worked in Egypt, Sinai and the Red Sea (Farsa Islands). He gained his PhD in 1928. From 1928 to 1930 he worked in British Somaliland with the government survey and from 1931 to 1939 he was employed as a geologist by the Iraq Government in Baghdad, mostly in connection with water. In 1939 he rejoined the Army as a Royal Engineers' water geologist in England, and then in North Africa and the Mediterranean. From 1946 to 1948 he was water geologist for the General Survey of the Somaliland Protectorate.

Following the passing of the ‘National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act’ (1949), the first conservation legislation to include provision for geological and geomorphological features, the Nature Conservancy (NC) was established in 1949. Macfadyen officially took up the role of its Chief (and at first only) Geologist in July 1950, effectively becoming the first professional geoconservationist in Britain. The legislation allowed him two options. Areas could be declared Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), where the features would be protected but the land still remain under private ownership. Alternatively an area could be deemed a National Nature Reserve (NNR), that is acquired by the NC or other body and managed as conservation site.

Using as a basis sites which had been previously highlighted by others such as Sir Lawrence Chubb [see: ‘National Geological Reserves in England and Wales’, Report by the Geological Reserves Sub-Committee of the Nature Reserves Investigation Committee (1945)] and Julian S Huxley [see: ‘Conservation of Nature in England and Wales. Report of the Wildlife Conservation Special Committee for England and Wales, HMSO (1948)], as well as new sites suggested by the geological community, Macfadyen deemed it necessary to visit each area in turn to judge for himself. Travelling by car and working alone, by 1955 he had assessed and photographed 558 sites in total all of which were to be designated SSSIs.

By 1960, Macfadyen had retired from the Nature Conservancy but was still employed on a part-time basis to complete the first (and only) of a projected series of handbooks on the protected geological and geomorphological sites in Britain. It was published as ‘Geological Highlights of the West Country’ (1970).

Much of Macfadyen’s earlier geological research was published, most notably ‘The Geology of British Somaliland’ (1933) and ‘The Mesozoic Palaeontology of British Somaliland’ (1950). Between 1931 and 1966 he published more than 25 papers on Jurassic to Recent foraminifera, two of the best known, and most frequently cited, being “Mesozoic Foraminifera from the Clysmic area of Egypt” (1931) and “Foraminifera from the Green Ammonite Beds of Dorset” (1941). Others included several nomenclatural bibliographical articles together with a number of short contributions reflecting his long-standing interest in the Quaternary.

In 1933 he married Margaret Mayson but she died in 1974 having been paralysed by a stroke some 18 months earlier. Meanwhile, Macfadyen's sight had been steadily deteriorating, despite several operations, and after the end of 1975 he was unable to read or write letters. He died peacefully at his home on 6 June 1985.
CustodialHistoryThe papers were held by the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), but were no longer of any use to the department. The National Archives declined the files for its collection.
ProvenanceTransferred from DEFRA, April 2018
ArrangementWhere possible, the integrity of individual files has been retained although rearranged into chronological order. The legacy titles have been changed to more accurately reflect the contents.

However there are a number of folders pertaining to England and Scotland which were problematic as there was no order and the distinctions between each file unclear. Much of the reply correspondence and reports appear to have been produced in triplicate and designated under 'Day book', 'File' and 'Circulation', but none of the series were complete and over the records' lifespan the remains of these files have become intermixed making retrieving information difficult. Therefore the files have been fully merged together, the duplicates removed and then rearranged into chronological order to give a fuller picture of Macfadyen's working methodology and the timeline for the designation of sites.
Access ConditionsAccess is by appointment only. Please contact the Archivist for further information.
Related MaterialThe Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge, holds a large collection of William Archibald Macfadyen material, comprising: reports for the Discovery Investigations scientific cruises in the Southern Ocean, 1926-1932; papers, reports and notes relating to fossil localities and specimens in Somaliland in Africa during the 1930s as well as reports on the country's geology; notes on lectures on Iraq and its water supply during the 1930s; field slips; sketches of fossils; geological maps; papers relating to Foram research in England; and 20 notebooks relating to work for the Nature Conservancy from 1950-1968.

Another accession is held by the Royal Geographical Society, deposited by Macfayden in 1982. It comprises: geological and route notebooks, 1920-1948, including pre war notebooks in Egypt, Farsan Island, Romania, British Somaliland; Iraq and Syria, notebooks made during World War Two in North Africa, Sicily, Corsica and Italy and notebooks made in post war British Somaliland for the General Survey.
Publication NoteProsser, Colin D, "William Archibald Macfadyen (1893–1985): the ‘father of geoconservation’?", Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, Volume 123, Issue 1, January 2012, Pages 182-188. This collection is mentioned as then being in the possession of Natural England.
ArchNoteSource: obituary published in the 'Annual Report of the Geological Society' (1985); Prosser, Colin D "The history of geoconservation in England: legislative and policy milestones", in Burek, C V & C D Prosser (eds), 'The History of Geoconservation', Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 300 (2008), pp113-122; Prosser, Colin D, "William Archibald Macfadyen (1893–1985): the ‘father of geoconservation’?", Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, Volume 123, Issue 1, January 2012, Pages 182-188. Description by Caroline Lam
CreatorNameMACFADYEN | William Archibald | 1893-1985 | geologist and geoconservationist
DS/UK/2065MACFADYEN; William Archibald (1893-1985); geologist and geoconservationist1893-1985
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