Alfred Nicholson Leeds

Alfred Nicholson Leeds (9 March 1847 – 25 August 1917) was an English amateur palaeontologist.


Leeds was born at Eyebury, Peterborough, the youngest of the eight children of Edward Thurlow Leeds (1802–51) and Eliza Mary Leeds (née Nicholson). He was educated at Warwick School. He had wanted to become a doctor, but circumstances meant that from 1868 he had to take on the management of Eyebury Farm (in The Fens, and historically attached to Peterborough Abbey) as a gentleman farmer.

His elder brother Charles, a student at the University of Oxford, had been encouraged by Professor John Phillips to persevere in collecting fossils from near his home. Alfred joined him in these searches, and between them they developed better methods of disinterring, and of scientifically recording, fossils in soft clay than had been used before. (They rewarded the workmen at the clay pits (which served a brickworks in Fletton, Peterborough) for not doing so themselves, but instead sending notice to Eyebury.)

In 1887, Charles emigrated to New Zealand; but Alfred continued to search for fossils, assisted by his wife and by their second son, Edward Thurlow Leeds (1877–1955, Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum 1928–45).

He amassed one of the largest collections of fossil vertebrates in the world. In 1889, his portrait was painted by the 17-year-old William Nicholson. From 1890 onwards, he began to present his most important specimens of Jurassic fossils from the Oxford Clay near Peterborough to the British Museum. He was a Fellow of the Geological Society; in 1893, he was awarded part of its Lyell Fund.[1]

Other museums in the UK and elsewhere hold items from his collection; including the National Museum of Ireland.[2]

An extinct genus of fish, Leedsichthys, and several extinct species have been named in his honour.

Discoveries and honoursEdit

See alsoEdit

  • Andrews, C. W. (1910). A Descriptive Catalogue of the Marine Reptiles of the Oxford Clay, Based on the Leeds Collection in the British Museum (Natural History), Part I. London: British Museum.
  • Andrews, C. W. (1913). A Descriptive Catalogue of the Marine Reptiles of the Oxford Clay, Part II. London: British Museum.
  • Leeds, E. T. (1956). The Leeds Collection of Fossil Reptiles from the Oxford Clay of Peterborough. Oxford: Blackwell Ltd.


  1. ^ A. S. W. (1917). "Obituary - Alfred Nicholson Leeds". Geological Magazine. 4 (10): 478. doi:10.1017/s0016756800136507.
  2. ^ Araújo, Ricardo; Smith, Adam S.; Liston, Jeff (2008). "The Alfred Leeds Fossil Vertebrate Collection of the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History" (PDF). Irish Journal of Earth Sciences. 26: 17–32. CiteSeerX doi:10.3318/ijes.2008.26.17. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  3. ^ "A SIXTY-FOOT REPTILE". Sunday Times (Perth) (28[?]). Western Australia. 7 June 1903. p. 9. Retrieved 23 December 2018 – via National Library of Australia.