The Harrison Institute was founded by Dr James Harrison in 1930 as the Harrison Zoological Museum. It was based at the family house, Bowerwood House, in Sevenoaks, Kent, where it remains today.


Originally, through the work of James and his elder son Dr Jeffery Harrison, the Museum focused on the study of Palaearctic birds. Together, James and Jeffery also founded an innovative and successful bird reserve, which was imaginatively developed from a series of former industrial gravel pits. Jeffery's wife, Pamela is an award winning wildlife photographer.


Subsequently, under the leadership of Dr David Harrison (James's younger son), the Institute increasingly focused on the study and conservation of mammals. David initially specialised  on the Arabian mammal fauna, becoming the world authority on the subject, writing a three volume monograph The Mammals of Arabia, and promoting the conservation of the Arabian Tahr. He also had great interest in African small mammals/bats and over the years undertook numerous field surveys and studied the taxonomy of mammals in both the Old and New World (find out more). In his later years, he worked on the fossil mammal faunas of the UK, Poland and Thailand (find out more). All four Harrisons - James, Jeffery, Pamela and David -were medical practitioners by profession.


Today, the Institute runs a diverse range of international projects in biodiversity research, capacity  building and community-based conservation.



In 1971, the Institute’s zoological collections of over 60,000 scientific specimens (42,000 recent and fossil mammals, 19,000 birds, and a specialist collection of butterflies) were recognised as being of national and international importance and it became a Charitable Trust (No 268830). 

In 1986, it was further recognised as a Registered Scientific Institution by the UK’s Department of the Environment and was listed under CITES as GB010.


The library is extensive and includes thousands of reprints relating to mammal and bird taxonomy. There is also a specialist digital library of reprints focusing on bat research in Southeast Asia.