Helen Wallis

Helen Margaret Wallis OBE (17 August 1924-7 February 1995) Was the Map Curator at the British Museum (Afterwards the British Library ) from 1967 to 1987.


Born at Dunkery, Park Road, Barnet on 17 August 1924, Wallis was the daughter of Leonard Francis Wallis (1880-1965) and Mary McCulloch Jones (1884-1957). She attended St Paul ‘s Girls’ School (1934-43) and studied geography at St Hugh’ s College, Oxford , where she completed her D.Phil degree in 1954.

In 1951 she was appointed assistant to RA Skelton , superintendent of the Map Room at the British Museum , succeeding him in 1967. She was the first woman to hold the post. In 1968 she was responsible for the acquisition of the Royal United Services . She also discovered the earliest version of England’s first globe, by Emery Molyneux and thought to date from 1592, at Petworth House .

She was the chairman of the standing commission on the history of cartography of the International Cartographic Association . In 1986, she became President of the International Map Collectors’ Society and was a founder of the Geography and Map Section of the International Federation of Library Associations . She served as President of the Society for Nautical Research , 1972-1988, and President of the British Cartographic Society . She was appointed OBE in the 1986 Birthday Honors .

Key publications include Carteret’s travel round the world, 1766-1769 , [1] Cartographical innovations , [2] and the Historians’ guide to early British maps [3]

She died of cancer on February 7, 1995 at the St John’s Hospital and St Elizabeth in St John’s Wood, London.

Honors and awards

  • Order of the British Empire , 1986
  • Hon. D.Litt. Davidson College , North Carolina
  • Honorary Fellow of Portsmouth Polytechnic
  • Society Medal of the British Cartographic Society [4]
  • Caird Medal of the National Maritime Museum
  • Victoria Medal of the Royal Geographical Society [5]
  • Honorary Fellow of the International Cartographic Association [6]
  • Honorary Fellow of the Library Association


  • The Independent 14 February 1995, by WR Mead


  1. Jump up^ Wallis, Helen (1965). Carteret’s voyage round the world, 1766-1769 . Cambridge: Published for the Hakluyt Society at the University Press. pp. 2 v.
  2. Jump up^ Cartographical innovations: an international handbook of mapping terms to 1900 . [Tring, Herts]: Published by Map Collector Publications in association with the International Cartographic Association. 1987. pp. Xx, 353. ISBN  0906430046 .
  3. Jump up^ Historians’ guide to early British maps: a guide to the location of pre-1900 maps of the British Isles preserved in the United Kingdom and Ireland . London: Royal Historical Society. 1994. pp. Ix, 465. ISBN  0861931416.
  4. Jump up^ “The British Cartographic Society: The Awards> The Society Medal” . Retrieved 15 October 2013 .
  5. Jump up^ “Medals and Awards Recipients 1970-2007” (PDF) . Royal Geographical Society . Retrieved 2009-06-26 .
  6. Jump up^ Wallis, Helen Margaret. “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography” . Retrieved 15 October 2013 .

Start a Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *