• Title
    Papers of William Charles Osman Hill
  • Reference
  • Level of description
  • Date
  • Creator
  • Scope and Content
    Contains personal papers and memorabilia, ethnological research on the indigenous Veddah people of Sri Lanka, papers relating to Osman Hill's zoological research and his 'Comparative Anatomy in Primates' series, and film stock and photographs documenting zoological specimens and Osman Hill's travels.
  • Extent
    46 boxes
  • System of arrangement
    This collection has been arranged into four broad groups representing the different areas of Osman Hill's life and work. The four series are 1) personal papers; 2) Ethnological research on the Veddah people of Sri Lanka; 3) Comparative anatomy research papers; and 4) photographs and film stock.
  • Conditions governing access
    Access to this collection is available by prior appointment with the Archivist.
  • Conditions governing reproduction
    No photocopying permitted
  • Related objects
    The catalogues were originally kept with the Deposited archive collection, but have been catalogued as Museum papers because they document the cataloguing of the pathological specimens donated by Osman Hill to the RCS.
  • Admin./ biographical history
    William Charles Osman Hill was born on 13 July 1901. He was educated first at King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys in Birmingham, and later obtained his degrees from the University of Birmingham. During medical school, also at the University of Birmingham, he won three junior student prizes and the Ingleby Scholarship in Midwifery. He obtained his primary medical degrees in 1924, and the same year took on the role of lecturer in zoology. Osman Hill earned his M.D. with honors in 1925. Upon graduation, Osman Hill remained at the University of Birmingham as an anatomy lecturer until 1930. He then moved to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to become both Chair of Anatomy and Professor of Anatomy at the Ceylon Medical College (more recently named Faculty of Medicine of the University of Colombo or Colombo Medical School). His position allowed him to pursue anthropological studies of the indigenous Veddah people and comparative anatomy of primates. During this time, he began developing a private menagerie of exotic and native species. Osman Hill held this position in Ceylon for 14 years. He returned to the UK to take up an appointment as Reader in Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh in 1945. Upon his departure from Ceylon, his menagerie was divided between the London Zoo and the National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka. In 1950, he became Prosector for the Zoological Society of London and remained there for twelve years. Between 1957 and 1958, Osman Hill also acted as a visiting scholar at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1962, he was hired as the Assistant Director of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center (YNPRC) in Atlanta after being turned down for the position of Director. The Royal Society of Edinburgh honored him as a fellow in 1955 and for his contributions to science awarded him both its Gold Medal and the Macdougal-Brisbane Prize. Upon his retiring from YNPRC in 1969, the Royal College of Surgeons of England made him a Hunterian Trustee. Following retirement, Osman Hill divided his time between his home at Folkestone and his continued work at the University of Turin. He continued his anatomical studies until a few years before his death in 1975. During his career, Osman Hill published 248 academic articles or chapters in books. He is best known for his work Primates: Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy, a series that aimed to include all living and extinct primates. Published by Edinburgh University between 1953 and 1974, the series was the culmination of 50 years of his scientific research and thought. Each volume covered its subjects exhaustively, including native and scientific nomenclature, anatomical structure, genetics, behavior and paleontology. The books were illustrated with photographs and drawings, most of which were made by his wife. This was supposed to be a nine volume series, but Osman Hill died before he could complete the ninth volume. In his honor, two species have been named after him: Osman Hill's mangabey (Lophocebus osmani) and the Colombo wolf snake (Lycodon osmanhilli). The Primate Society of Great Britain named their Osman Hill Medal award after him. The award is given every two years for distinguished contributions to primatology. Osman Hill is responsible for describing one subspecies of black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata), the southern black-and-white ruffed lemur (V. v. editorum) in 1952; one subspecies of toque macaque (Macaca sinica), the highland toque macaque (M. s. opisthomelas) in 1942; one subspecies of red slender loris (Loris tardigradus), the Horton Plains slender loris (L. t. nycticeboides) in 1942; and two subspecies of gray slender loris (Loris lydekkerianus), the highland slender loris (L. l. grandis) in 1932 and the dry zone slender loris (L. l. nordicus) in 1933. His extensive collection of biological primate specimens, which included tissues and skeletons, is preserved at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Osman Hill married Yvonne Stranger the only daughter of Harold Stranger K.C., M.P., in 1947. She collaborated with her husband and was an illustrator of his works. Osman Hill died on 25th January 1975. Selected publications: Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy (1953–1974) Osman Hill, W. C. (1953). Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy I—Strepsirhini. Edinburgh Univ Pubs Science & Maths, No 3. Edinburgh University Press. Osman Hill, W. C. (1955). Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy II—Haplorhini: Tarsioidea. Edinburgh Univ Pubs Science & Maths, No 3b. Edinburgh University Press. Osman Hill, W. C. (1957). Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy III—Pithecoidea Platyrrhini. Edinburgh Univ Pubs Science & Maths, No 3c. Osman Hill, W. C. (1960). Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy IV—Cebidae, Part A. Edinburgh Univ Pubs Science & Maths, No 3d. Osman Hill, W. C. (1962). Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy IV—Cebidae, Part B. Edinburgh Univ Pubs Science & Maths, No 3e. Osman Hill, W. C. (1966). Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy VI—Catarrhini Cercopithecoidea: Cercopithecinae. Edinburgh Univ Pubs Science & Maths, No 3f. Osman Hill, W. C. (1974). Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy VII—Cynopithecinae (Cercocebus, Macaca, Cynopithecus). Edinburgh Univ Pubs Science & Maths, No 3g. Osman Hill, W. C. (1970). Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy VIII—Cynopithecinae (Papio, Mandrillus, Theropithecus). Edinburgh Univ Pubs Science & Maths, No 3h. [Source: Wikipedia]
  • Notes
    This catalogue was created by Kate Tyte, January 2014, and completed by David Ogden, August 2014. The box list created by Barbara Rocci-Gatenby and Kate Tyte in September 2013 has been superceded and deleted.
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