Diatom collections

Arranged fossil diatoms

Arranged fossil diatoms (Specimen BM Adams TS 558) from Bory-Slovakia

The Museum's diatom collection is one of the largest in the world, containing over 300,000 specimens accumulated from the early nineteenth century to the present day.


The collections are a crucial resource for modern research, diatom specimens are used to answer scientific questions about areas as diverse as climate change and phylogenetic relationships.

The collections are extremely geographically and taxonomically diverse. They are an internationally recognised type specimen repository, containing representatives from freshwater, brackish and marine environments.

All major diatom groups, both fossil and recent, are represented.

The comprehensive assortment of fossil specimens, includes one of the best representations of Cretaceous diatoms.

Looking for a specimen?

The diatom collection is being digitised


Edgley Cesar

Any questions ?

If you would like to use any specimens for research, please get in touch

Collections on the move

We have set out on an ambitious programme to develop a new science and digitisation centre. As we prepare for the move, access to some collections will be affected. 

Find out more and sign up to our newsletter to receive updates on changes to collections access, relevant news and opportunities to get involved.

Major collections

The Museum's diatom collection has a large number of historical and recent specimens and accompanying materials amassed by British and foreign diatomists as well as a variety of published diatoms exsiccate sets. 

Important collectors

  • Robert K.aye Greville (1794-1866)
  • William Gregory (1803-1858)
  • Friedrich T.raugott Kützing (1807-1893)
  • William Smith (1853-1856)
  • Edmund Grove (1823-1911)
  • Gerald Sturt (1860-1947)
  • Frederic Kitton (1827-18951885)
  • John Ralfs (1807-1890)
  • Julien Marc Deby (1826-1895
  • Eugene O’Meara (1815-1880)
  • Freeman C. S. Roper (1819-1896)
  • Bernard Hartley (1917-2007)
  • William A. Firth (1853-1923)
  • George H. K. Thwaites (1812-1882)
  • John R. Carter (1908-1993)
  • Norman I. Hendey (1903-2004)
  • Robert Ross (1912-2005)
  • Eileen J. Cox
  • Thomas B. B. Paddock
  • David M. Williams
  • Patricia A. Sims

Other important collections 

  • Tempére & Peragallo: (Diatomeés du Monde Entier, 1st and 2nd editions).
  • Cleve & Möller: (Diatoms, 1877-1882).
  • H. L. Smith: (Diatomacearum Species Typicae, 1876-1888).
  • G. L. Rabenhorst: (Die Algen Sachsens, 1848-1860; Die Bacillarien Sachsens. Ein Beitrag zur Fauna von Sachsen, 1849-1852).
  • Hamilton, Poulin, Charles & Angell: (Americanarum Diatomarum Exsiccate, 1992-1994).
  • A. Tuji: (Algae Aquae Dulcis Japonicae Exsiccatae, 2007-2016).

Country of origin

Collections are geographically diverse. Parts of the slide collection are assembled from particular geographic localities or expeditions:

  • Russia (Lake Baikal in Siberia)
  • Indonesia (Lake Toba, Sumatra)
  • Jamaica
  • Philippines

Accessing the collections

Scientists and collections management specialists can visit the collections and borrow specimens for research.

Collections management

Our duty is to provide a safe and secure environment for all of our collections.