The Scott Polar Research Institute was founded in 1920, in Cambridge, as a memorial to Captain Robert Falcon Scott, RN, and his four companions, who died returning from the South Pole in 1912. When Scott's last words, "For God's sake look after our people" were made known to the British nation, the response was tremendous. Scott himself had emphasised the importance of science and from this plea, the Institute was born.
The Institute is the oldest international centre for Polar Research within a university. During the early years when it occupied one room in the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences in Cambridge, the Institute's aim was to provide a place where polar travellers and explorers could meet, and where material of polar interest might be collected and made accessible for future research.
A number of other institutes concerned with polar issues have now grown up in Cambridge around the Institute, or are based in SPRI. These are:
The inscription on the front of the building reads "Quaesivit arcana poli videt dei", which translates as "He sought the secret of the pole but found the hidden face of God". It was coined by Sir Herbert A.L. Fisher, Warden of New College, Oxford.