Collection UR-SF 74 - Dr Alwyn Scarth papers

Identity area

Reference code

UR-SF 74


Dr Alwyn Scarth papers


  • 1950s-c2009 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

3 boxes

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Alwyn Scarth was born 4 September 1936 at Morley Hall, Leeds, and was one of five children. He was educated at Battley Grammar School from 1947-55 and matriculated at St Catherine's College, Cambridge in 1955, where he read Geography. Alwyn specialised in Geomorphology, graduating BA in 1958 and MSc in 1962 . While there, he also won a scholarship to study in France at the University of Clermont-Ferrand between 1958-9, 1960-61. This began his lifelong love of the country.

After graduating PhD in 1963, Scarth took up a post of Lecturer in Geography at Queen's College, Dundee, specialising in Geomorphology, the geography of France and American Studies. He was the Director of American Studies at the university for 5 years and also organised the Transatlantic Student Exchange with Canadian and US universities. His own research focussed primarily on volcanoes which saw him spend many years travelling the world.

Scarth took early retirement in 1993, after which he concentrated on publishing his work, including 'Savage Earth' (1997), a work commissioned to accompany the ITV series of the same name. Scarth also contributed many papers, reviewed articles and journals and translated work from French into English.

A regular visitor before his retirement, in his later years he spent more time living in France, often returning to his home in Broughty Ferry and to visit his extended family in Leeds with whom he was very close. Scarth moved permanently to Yorkshire in 2016 when illness overtook him, where he died in April of the following year.

Obituary provided by Kevin Scarth:
ALWYN SCARTH was born on 4th September 1936, at Morley Hall, Morley, near Leeds, one of the five children of the late Kenneth and Phyllis Scarth. He was educated at Batley Grammar School from 1947-55 and then matriculated at St Catharine's College, Cambridge in 1955 to read Geography, specialising in Geomorphology in his final year. He graduated B.A. in 1958, M.A. in 1962, and Ph.D. in 1962, all at Cambridge. Outwith academic studies he was business manager for the Midnight Howlers (a revue group) and played basketball. He was awarded a David Richards Travel Scholarship from the University in 1956 and studied in France at the University of Clermont-Ferrand during 1958-9 then 1960-61. After obtaining his Ph.D. he took up his post as Lecturer in Geography at the University of St Andrews, Queen’s College, Dundee, (becoming University of Dundee in 1967), specialising in Geomorphology, the Geography of France, and American Studies. For a period he was also the Director of American Studies and Transatlantic Student Exchange with universities in Canada and U.S.A. His own research, which involved many years of world travel, focussed primarily on volcanoes. After retiring in 1993 he concentrated on publishing his own works, which included “Volcanoes” (1994), “Savage Earth” (1997) (a work commissioned to accompany the ITV series of the same name), “Vulcan’s Fury” (1999), “La Catastrophe” (2002), and “Vesuvius: A Biography” (2009). He also co-authored “Volcanoes of Europe” (2001), a second edition of which has recently been published. Apart from producing his own works, Dr Scarth contributed many papers, reviewed many articles and journals, and also translated works from French into English, including “The Geology of France” (Ed. C Pomerol), (Masson, Paris, 1981) and “The Geology of the Continental Margins” (C.Boillot), (Longman’s, Harlow,

1982). In Dundee, he was very keen on playing squash and often did so with students who became lifelong friends. Dr Scarth formed a deep love of France during his student years and continued to travel there on a regular basis, as well as paying annual visits to Venice and his favourite Greek island. Notwithstanding his extensive travels, he always made time to return to his home in Broughty Ferry, Dundee to refresh his extensive network of friends and former colleagues, who appreciated his sparkling personality, wit, and sense of humour, and to his extended family in Morley, Leeds, with whom he was very close. Dr Scarth finally returned permanently to Morley in January 2016 when illness overtook him, and he died peacefully on 25 April 2017, survived by his siblings, Barrie, Marie, Kevin, and Margaret, their spouses, and his nephews and nieces.

Archival history

Kept in Scarth's home and appraised prior to deposit.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Notebooks and other material relating to Scarth's time at St Catherine's; Correspondence, files and papers relating to Scarth's employment at University of Dundee, his teaching and research, also photographic material. Research papers and photographic material relating to Scarth's publications.


Not expected

System of arrangement

Usually chronological within series.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Open for consultation subject to preservation requirements. Access must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act (2018), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR, 2018) and any other relevant legislation or restrictions. Clinical information is closed for 100 years.

Conditions governing reproduction

Reproduction is available subject to preservation requirements. Charges may be made for this service, and copyright and other restrictions may apply; please check with the Duty Archivist.

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Description control area

Description identifier

UR-SF 74

Rules and/or conventions used

Description compiled in line with the following standards: International Council on Archives, ISAD(G) General International Standard Archival Description; International Council on Archives, ISAAR(CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families; National Council on Archives, Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997



Dates of creation revision deletion


  • English



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