History

The Alfred Denny Museum was established in 1905 and named in 1950, after the university’s first professor of biology.

A black and white photograph of the Alfred Denny Museum
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Our history

At the museum’s peak, the collection spanned three floors in Firth Court. Unfortunately much of the information about the origins of the collection was lost in bombings during WWII.

Alfred Denny came to Firth College - the predecessor of the University of Sheffield - as a biology lecturer in 1884 and stayed for 41 years. He became professor in 1888 and in 1905, when the university was granted its charter as an independent university, became the new University of Sheffield’s first professor of biology.

Alfred Denny was an excellent teacher and public speaker - described by one of his undergraduate students as “the best teacher in the college”. His course of public lectures on “Evolution and Adaptation in the Animal World”, drew an audience of over 600 people each night. He created this significant zoology collection to aid in his teaching.

In 2012 the Alfred Denny Museum was rejuvenated in preparation for the museum's first opening to public which took place as part of the Festival of the Mind.

It was achieved through the efforts of a team of student volunteers led by then post-graduate student Louise Heaton, Dr Lynne Fox, the University Heritage Officer, and Professor Tim Birkhead, who was the museum's curator until 2018.

A brand new glass foyer ensures all displays and exhibits are now always visible to the student body.

Today the museum has been reduced in size and relocated to a room in the modern Alfred Denny Building which houses the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences.

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