MacAndrew Collection

Robert MacAndrew (1802-1873) was a Liverpool fruit merchant who developed a scientific interest in mollusca and became one of the pioneers of deep sea dredging, in the pre-Challenger era (Rozwadowski 2005,MacAndrew 2008). He was encouraged by Edward Forbes, and his collecting was in part made to test Forbes' azoic theory, that there was a maximum limit to the depth at which life occurred in the deep sea.

The Robert MacAndrew Collection was acquired by the University of Cambridge in 1873. It forms a core part of the dry invertebrate collection at the Zoology Museum.


Organisms included:


Number of specimens:

100,000 lots

Timespan covered:

The collection dates to between 1844 and 1869. Dredging dates are available.

Geographical location covered:
  • Madeira
  • Mediterranean
  • Red Sea (before the Suez Canal)
  • Norway
  • North Atlantic

Locality data is sometimes rather imprecise, such as ‘off the coast of Norway’.

Collection location:

Dry Invertebrate Store in the Zoology Museum, University of Cambridge.

Some MacAndrew material is also in Edinburgh and in London at the Natural History Museum.

Curation and collection management

The collection often includes growth series.


Past storage methods could be a significant problem for the collection:

  • Some specimens were kept in oak cabinets for a number of years. This may not be good for calcified collections due to acids.
  • A proportion of specimens were apparently kept in soda glass. This also affects the chemistry of the shells.

Supporting information

MacAndrew’s handwritten catalogue is in the collection. It runs to several volumes.

The collection also contains a copy of a biography of MacAndrew, written by his great-great-grandson Richard MacAndrew. This includes a list of all the research trips with dates.

Results of the dredging were published in the Reports of the British Association. The reports were made by a Dredging Committee consisting of MacAndrew and Forbes. A detailed history is given by Rehbock (1979).

A point of note:

J Gwyn Jefreys - who wrote the 5 volume British Conchology - worked on the MacAndrew Collection. The Jefreys collections are in the Smithsonian and include British and North Atlantic material with many type specimens.

Contact information

Zoology Museum personnel interviewed:

Richard Preece
Senior Assistant Curator in Malacology

Matt Lowe
Collections Manager


  • MacAndrew, R (2008) Robert McAndrew FRS (1802-1873) - a family perspective. Archives of Natural History, 35(1): 71-75.
  • Rehbock, P F (1979) The early dredgers 'naturalizing' in British seas, 1830–1850. Journal of the History of Biology, 12: 293-368.
  • Rozwadowski, H M (2005) Fathoming the ocean. The discovery and exploration of the deep sea. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 276 pp.