Robert Oliver Cunningham

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Robert Oliver Cunningham (27 March 1841 – 1918) was a Scottish naturalist.

He was born on 27 March 1841, in Prestonpans, the second son of the Rev. William Bruce Cunningham (1806–78) and Cecilia Margaret Douglas (1813–98), daughter of David Douglas, Lord Reston (1769–1819), the heir of Adam Smith. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy (1851–54), and graduated in medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1864. In January 1866 he was appointed Professor of Natural History in the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, but resigned in June in consequence of being appointed by the Admiralty upon the recommendation of Joseph Dalton Hooker, to collect plants as Naturalist on board HMS Nassau under the command of Richard Charles Mayne,[1] then commissioned for the survey of the Straits of Magellan and the west coast of Patagonia. This voyage started on the 24th of August 1866 and he returned on 30 July 1869. He was then appointed by Queen Victoria as Professor of Natural History in Queen's College, Belfast. Had various degrees and a fellowship conferred upon him. Retired 1902.

In 1885 he married his sister-in-law Mary Jane Davey Luke. They had no children.

On his mother's death he inherited what remained of her half of the library of Adam Smith. Much of this was sold but part is still in the Queen's University library.


  • Cunningham, Robert Oliver (1871). Notes on the natural history of the Strait of Magellan and west coast of Patagonia made during the voyage of H.M.S. ʻNassau ̓in the years 1866, 67, 68, & 69. Edmonston and Douglas.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. "Letter 4996 — Hooker, J. D. to Darwin, C. R., 4 Feb 1866". Darwin Correspondence Project, University of Cambridge. Retrieved 8 March 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Author Query for 'R.O.Cunn.', International Plant Names Index Invalid |mode=CS1 (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Baker, R.A.; Bayliss, R.A. (2002). "The Nineteenth Century Professors of Natural History at Queen's College, Belfast". The Irish Naturalists' Journal. Irish Naturalists' Journal Ltd. 27 (4): 146–158. JSTOR 25536436.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>