Catalogue description The Pitman Collection; (1876-1975)

This record is held by Natural History Museum Library and Archives

Details of Z. MSS PIT
Reference: Z. MSS PIT
Title: The Pitman Collection; (1876-1975)

A Personal and Family Papers


B Diaries and Notebooks


C Research Files


D Publications


E Correspondence


F Organisations and Associations


G Newspaper Cuttings


H Photographs


I Maps


J Personalia


The Pitman Collection is catalogued on URICA under BRN 299618, and has the shelf mark Z MSS PIT.

Date: 1876-1975

Pitman's careful filing system lent itself to obvious collection divisions, and its integrity has been maintained wherever possible. Collection division E, correspondence, comprises the letters and some papers found in unfiled chaos once the other divisions had been isolated

Related material:

Two folders of notes and correspondence on Uganda had been deposited by Pitman himself at Rhodes House Library, Oxford in 1973. Rhodes House also holds a complete set of Annual Reports of the Game Department in Uganda which Pitman wrote from 1925 to 1951. A 12 inch LP disc, Birds of the Drakensberg by Henley and Pooley published in 1970, and a 6 inch Bird Sounds and Songs by Stannard published in 1971, as well as two unpublished acetate discs bearing recordings of Pitman talking about his conservation work, have been deposited with the National Sound Archive. A cine film dated 1956 is located at (H) 77.

Held by: Natural History Museum Library and Archives, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Pitman, Charles Robert Senhouse, 1890-1975, scientist

Physical description: The collection now comprises 55 boxes, 8 folders and 10 volumes.
Custodial history:

Charles Pitman's papers were given to the Natural History Museum in 1975 by Mrs. Marjorie Pitman shortly following her husband's death. On arrival the Pitman Collection occupied a series of document wallets, brown envelopes, cardboard boxes and a plastic bag. It was housed in the Old Zoology Library until listing began in 1996.

Selection and destruction information:

Duplicate typescripts, printers proofs and some non-scientific printed material were destroyed before listing, and unannotated offprints and maps were passed to the Museum's General and Zoology Libraries.

  • Ornythology
  • Zoology
Administrative / biographical background:

Charles Robert Senhouse Pitman was born in Bombay, 19 March 1890. When asked as a child what he would be he replied, 'A soldier and a sort of a naturalist.' He was educated in England at the Royal Naval School, Eltham, at Blundell's School in Tiverton, and at Sandhurst, which he left in 1909 having obtained a commission in the Indian Army. After a brief initial posting, Pitman joined the 27th Punjabi Regiment with which he stayed from 1910 to 1921 when he retired from the army to take up farming in Kenya. During his army career, which spanned World War I, Pitman fought in Mesopotamia, Egypt and France, and was awarded the D.S.O. and M.C. In 1924 he was offered the position of Game Warden of the Uganda Protectorate. After his marriage to Marjorie Fielding Duncan, he assumed this post which he held from 1925-1951, interrupted only by three years (1931-1933) spent in Northern Rhodesia as Acting Game Warden and undertaking a faunal survey, and by five years (1941-1946) during which he was Director, Security Intelligence (Uganda).


After leaving Uganda in 1951, Pitman and his wife moved to London, England, where they spent their remaining years. During this time Pitman was very active with conservation and preservation groups such as the Elsa Foundation, the Fauna Preservation Society, and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. He kept up an active correspondence with other naturalists such as Joy Adamson and C.J.P. Ionides particularly to confirm facts. Correspondence was one of the primary ways in which Pitman conducted his zoological, herpetological, and ornithological research, as he relied almost solely on his own observations or the first-hand observations of others for data. This is particularly apparent in his files relating to the second edition of his Guide to the Snakes of Uganda (1974). This book, which was originally published in serial form in the Uganda Journal (1936-1937), is the foundation for Pitman's reputation as a methodical and exhaustive herpetologist. He was not limited to one area of research, however, and planned to publish, and at the time of his death had completed the typescript of, a book on elephants. This was to have been illustrated with his own photographs, as were his other autobiographical books, A Game Warden Among His Charges (1931) and A Game Warden Takes Stock (1942). As well as books, Pitman's published a plethora of articles, in scientific and popular journals, magazines and newspapers.


The public was well-acquainted with Pitman's work through radio interviews and newspaper articles concerning East Africa and the pressing need for game conservation. His support of museum collections, especially the Hebrew University, Natural History Museum, Liverpool Museum, The Royal Albert Museum, Exeter, and the American Museum of Natural History, New York, was generous and long-continued. For example, Pitman donated some three thousand meticulously documented clutches of eggs, to the Natural History Museum. Pitman's interest in documenting and observing everything around him never flagged, and he tirelessly compiled notes and data until shortly before his death.


Judging by the anecdotes which are still repeated at the Natural History Museum, Pitman was respected and liked by most people he met. He died 22 September 1975 when he was 85 years old.

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