Michael Cobb (railway historian)

Michael Cobb PhD FRICS (10 September 1916 – 23 June 2010) was a British Army officer, cartographer, and railway historian who in 2003[1] published the monumental work The Railways of Great Britain: A Historical Atlas, which set out to map and record every railway station and line in existence in Britain between 1807 and 1994. In 2008, Cobb became the oldest person ever to be awarded a PhD from the University of Cambridge, for his atlas.[2]


Cobb was born in 1916 at Harrow Weald and attended Harrow School and read Mechanical Sciences at Magdalene College, Cambridge. On taking his degree in 1938, Cobb joined the Royal Engineers and in 1940 participated in the Battle of France and the Dunkirk evacuation. For the rest of the war, Cobb served with an airborne commando force, but he was never deployed in combat, his troopship being sunk in the Mediterranean Sea en route to the Far East in 1944. After the war he served in Burma and Egypt before becoming superintendent of the Royal School of Military Survey. He retired in 1965 as a colonel and spent some years as a professional cartographer before becoming fully retired in 1971.[3]

Cobb had been a lifelong railway enthusiast, and in 1978 he set about creating the most detailed study of the history and geography of British railways ever attempted. For 18 years he researched and wrote his atlas, completing it in 1996 and getting it published in 2003. The book went through two editions, and with the support of Magdalene College, Cobb submitted his research for a PhD and was accepted, receiving his doctorate in 2008. A third edition was published in 2015.[4]

His work has been highly praised, the head of Cambridge's geography faculty describing it as "a remarkable piece of scholarship . . . It's not just of interest to the enthusiast, but a vital tool for anyone seriously interested in the economy, geography and history of Great Britain. There's nothing like it."[5]

Cobb died on 23 June 2010, survived by three sons.[6]


  1. ^ Cobb, Patrick S. "Atlas Information". railwaysofgreatbritain.com. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  2. ^ "The Railways of Great Britain: A Historical Atlas". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  3. ^ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/military-obituaries/army-obituaries/7899233/Colonel-Michael-Cobb.html
  4. ^ Cobb, Patrick S. "Atlas Information". railwaysofgreatbritain.com. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  5. ^ http://www.scotsman.com/news/obituaries/obituary-colonel-michael-cobb-army-officer-and-railway-cartographer-1-821576
  6. ^ "Colonel Michael Cobb". The Daily Telegraph. 19 July 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2010.

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