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History of Science Sources

This collection of more than 1500 rare books, published between 1630 and 1982, contains works with inscriptions of eminent figures including Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, Ernest Rutherford and Jeremy Bentham. It is based on the libraries of two former Professors of Chemistry: George Fownes (1815-49), who bequeathed his works, and Thomas Graham (1805-69), whose library was donated by his nephew J. C. Graham in 1879. There are contributions from other former UCL Professors including Nobel Prize Winner William Ramsay, Robert Edmund Grant, Augustus de Morgan, Karl and Egon S. Pearson, G. C. Foster, Charles Brooke, M. J. M. Hill and William Sharpey. It also includes titles donated by The Francis Galton Laboratory of National Eugenics which, in 1963, became The Galton Laboratory of the Department of Human Genetics & Biometry.

The collection is especially strong on the physical sciences, including chemistry and physics (formerly known as ‘natural philosophy’), mineralogy, astronomy and mathematics, but it also contains works on such diverse subjects as cartography and navigation, the early history of aeronautics, wireless telegraphy and submarine cables, the history of cacao and chocolate, the properties of mineral water, and the game of chess. Academic staples such as manuals, textbooks and dictionaries are present, as are the major works of some of the most distinguished scientists in history.

The earliest work in the Collection is Jacques Rohault’s ‘Oeuvres posthumes’, published in 1630, but early editions of Newton’s works and the first edition of Joseph Priestly’s ‘The History and Present State of Electricity’, published in 1767, can also be found. There are mathematical works by Gravesande, George Boole and Lacriox, works on chemistry by Berzelius, Lavoisier, Sir Humphrey Davy and his protegé Michael Faraday, and works by the physicists J. Clark Maxwell, Max Planck and Ernest Rutherford. Charles Babbage, who designed the first computer, is represented, as is Marie Curie and A. H. Becquerel with whom she and her husband shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics. Francis Galton’s seminal work, ‘Fingerprints’, published in 1892, is in the collection together with works by former UCL professors Karl Pearson, Augustus De Morgan and Dionysius Lardner.

The complete range of illustrations from woodcuts and copper engravings to lithographs and photographs can be found here including early colour illustrations from 1785 in ‘Reise durch Sachsen in Rüksicht der Naturgeschichte und Ökonomie’. Those in the 1821 edition of Buffon’s ‘A natural history’ are hand coloured. The ‘Livre du Centenaire1794-1894’ of the École Polytechnique contains many portraits of French scientists of the time.

Most of the books are in English but there are also titles in French, German, Dutch, Latin, Italian, Russian, Swedish and Gujarati.