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Hugh S. Torrens Archive

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: HOS-2021-001

Scope and Contents

Hugh S. Torrens, professor emeritus of Keele University, has received three coveted prizes in recognition of a lifetime of achievement: the Sue Tyler Friedman Medal of the Geological Society of London; the Mary C. Rabbitt History of Geology Award of the Geological Society of America; and the Tikhomirov Medal of the International Union of Geological Sciences.

Torrens’ nearly 400 publications (listed at and still growing) cluster around a common theme of the historical relations between industrialization and geology. Torrens’ passion has been to recover the voices of invisible and forgotten figures who may have left no books but whose labors led to major discoveries and achievements in geology, whether an iron worker in the English Industrial Revolution or a British mining engineer whose expertise was coveted around the world. Torrens reconstructs their lives and contributions from a signature on a machine, a debtor’s note, a travel log, or a bill of sale.

Torrens has devoted considerable scholarly attention to William Smith and Mary Anning. William Smith, creator of the single most renowned geological map, was a working-class canal surveyor by trade, whose famous map led not to honor but to confinement in debtor’s prison. Mary Anning, a working-class discoverer of dinosaur fossils near Lyme Regis, in Dorset, made a lot of gentlemen geologists famous. The Torrens archive is rich in materials related to these figures and their associates and contemporaries.

A total of 105 large boxes of papers and books were collected at the Torrens home in Staffordshire on three occasions in 2018, 2019, and 2021.

The Torrens Collection is part of the History of Science Collections’ collecting initiative in the History of Geology. To launch this initiative, the Collections has acquired the papers of eminent historians of geology including Martin J. S. Rudwick, Hugh S. Torrens, and Kenneth L. Taylor.

For more information, please inquire at the History of Science Collections.


  • circa 1600 - 2020

Conditions Governing Access

The Hugh S. Torrens Archive is an open collection, with processing ongoing. Processed portions of the archive are open to researchers.


80 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



The organization of papers by Hugh Torrens has been preserved as they were transfered from his binders to archival quality folders and boxes. While the original binders could not be preserved for conservation reasons, a photograph of each binder is included along with its materials.

Binders were named after people, places, events, topics, or specific publications. These names are now the series (or sub-series) names.

The organization within each binder was retained. Distinct items in the original binders occur in the original sequence and are now separated by colored paper.

Most binders were self-contained. Others occurred in sets, such as a number of binders related to Mary Anning or William Smith. In this case, the names indicate which binders were related.

Related Materials

The Hugh S. Torrens Geology Archive is comprised of Torrens' papers.

Torrens' donated books to the History of Science Collections are part of the Hugh S. Torrens Collection and are accessed by searching the Libraries online catalog. Those books are appearing in an ongoing basis.

In Progress
Aja Tolman, Kristin Raffa, Chinomso Ibe, and Jillienne Kirkpatrick
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the History of Science Collections Repository

401 West Brooks Street, Room 521NW
Norman OK 73019 United States