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History of Science

History of Science is one of the greatest subject strengths of our collections. Relevant material dates from the 14th century onwards, with particular focus on the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

An image from Campi Phlegraei by Sir William Hamilton

How to use this guide

This guide is intended as a starting point to help you find resources for your studies or research and is arranged in alphabetical order by collection name.

The collections described below are either Printed Collections or Archives and Records.

To find items from the printed collections, search the library catalogue. Follow the links in the collection descriptions below for advice on how to search and browse particular printed collections.

To find archive and record collections, search for the reference on the online catalogue for UCL’s archives and manuscripts.

Accessing these collections

Please see our website for further information and to make an appointment to view any of these collections in one of our reading rooms.

The collections

Baldwin, Ernest Hubert (Archive)

Papers and correspondence of Ernest Hubert Francis Baldwin, 1930-1970, Professor of Biochemistry at UCL, 1950-1969. The main deposit includes biographical papers, personal correspondence and exchanges with scientific colleagues, research notes and notebooks, and research material documenting Baldwin's work at Cambridge with Dorothy Mary Moyle Needham, Joseph Needham and John Yudkin (1934-1948).

Bayliss, Sir William Maddock (Archive)

Papers of Sir William Maddock Bayliss (1860-1924), Professor of General Physiology at UCL 1912-1924. Consists mostly of notes and notebooks of Bayliss' experiments. There is also correspondence, press cuttings and photographs, a great part referring to the 'Brown Dog Affair' of 1903 and to other disputes between anti-vivisectionists and University College London.

Black, Joseph (Archive)

Anonymous student's notes on chemistry lectures given by Joseph Black (1728-1799) when Professor of Medicine and Chemistry, University of Edinburgh, on subjects including chemicals and heat.

Burdon-Sanderson, Sir John Scott (Archive)

Correspondence, diaries, lectures and biographical material of Sir John Scott Burdon-Sanderson (1828-1905), Professor of Practical Physiology & Histology at UCL (1870-1874) and Jodrell Professor of Human Physiology (1874-1883). Also includes papers of his wife, the author and philanthropist Lady Ghetal Burdon-Sanderson.

Cameron, Sir Gordon Roy (Archive)

Papers and correspondence of the pathologist Sir Gordon Roy Cameron, Professor of Morbid Anatomy at UCHMS 1937-1964 and Director of the Graham Department of Pathology, 1946-1964. Includes biographical material, notebooks and working papers, lectures and publications and his work on the history of pathology.

Carswell Drawings and Case Notes (Archive)

Drawings of pathological conditions, chiefly by Sir Robert Carswell (1793-1857), Professor of Pathological Anatomy, UCL Medical School 1831-1840), with manuscript notes describing the cases illustrated, 1827-1838. The collection contains many items of historical significance, notably the first illustrations of the pathology in Hodgkin's disease, the first portrayal of the lesions on the spinal cord in multiple sclerosis and the first depictions of iron deficiency anaemia. It comprises around a thousand detailed watercolour and ink drawings depicting diseased structures divided into groups by subject.

Clarke, Patricia Hannah (Archive)

Papers of Patricia Clarke (1919-2010, biochemist). Contains biographical information, publications and lectures, correspondence, and papers relating to the many organisations with which Clarke was involved. Also includes a large amount of material relating to Clarke's interest in the history of women in science, her efforts to encourage women in the field and her concern for equality with male colleagues.

Clinton, Wellesley Curran (Archive)

Small collection of notebooks of Wellesley Curran Clinton (1871-1934), Professor of Electrical Engineering at UCL, containing his notes on physics and mathematics.

Comfort, Alexander (Archive)

Papers of Alex Comfort (1920-2000, physician and writer; Director of research in Gerontology, UCL Department of Zoology 1966-1973). Comfort specialised in the science of ageing but he was a prolific author best remembered for his books on sexual behaviour including the bestselling “The Joy of Sex” (1972). He also published works on anarchy, pacifism and was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. His archive reflects his work and his many diverse interests and includes correspondence, research papers, drafts of publications and personal ephemera.

De Beer, Sir Gavin Rylands (Archive)

Archive of the embryologist Gavin De Beer (1899-1972), Professor of Embryology at UCL 1946-1950 and Director of the British Museum (Natural History) 1950-1960. The majority of the papers date from c1939-1972 and consist of: notes and drafts for publications and lectures on the history of science and literary topics; correspondence concerning literature and De Beer's scientific work; papers from his work during the First and Second World Wars; financial and legal papers; and some personal correspondence.

Donnan, Frederick George (Archive)

Papers of chemist F G Donnan (1870-1956) who in 1913 succeeded Ramsay as Professor of General Chemistry at UCL, where he remained until 1937. Primarily comprised of correspondence (incoming, with some copies of replies sent), the collection also includes various biographical and business papers.

Fleming Book Collection (Printed Collection)

A collection of ca. 950 works on electrical engineering and telegraphy from the personal library of Sir Ambrose Fleming (1849-1945), an electrical engineer and physicist who was the first Professor of Electrical Technology at UCL (1885-1926). The material ranges from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, and includes first editions of works by prominent scientists and engineers such as James Clerk Maxwell, Oliver Lodge, James Dewar and Shelford Bidwell.  

Galton, Sir Francis (Archive)

Consists of papers relating to the personal history of Francis Galton (1822-1911) and his family, papers relating to Galton's work, and his extensive correspondence. Now known primarily for his work on eugenics, selection and inheritance, and for the legacy of these ideas, Galton’s archive also contains material relating to his interests in data collection, criminology, health and statistics.

Galton Laboratory (Records)

Records of the Galton Laboratory accumulated since its creation in 1904 to the late 20th Century. Comprises business papers, research papers, data for studies, records relating to 'Annals of Human Genetics' (formerly 'Annals of Eugenics'), 'Treasury of Human Inheritance', visual and audio-visual material, material relating to the history of the Laboratory and its staff, and printed material and ephemera.

Galton Laboratory Collection (Printed Collection)

The core of the collection is Francis Galton’s personal library, which was bequeathed to UCL along with his papers in 1911. The collection grew through the addition of the working library of the Galton Laboratory. It comprises of books, periodicals and pamphlets with a focus on statistics, genetics and the pseudoscience of eugenics, but also covering natural history, anatomy, mathematics, and anthropology. Many books contain letters, including from and to Francis Galton. The material ranges in date from 1705 to the mid-1900s.

Gosset, William Sealy (Archive)

There are several small collections of material by William Sealy Gosset ((1876-1937); statistician and industrial research scientist known by the pen-name “Student”). MS ADD 274 is a set of letters between Gosset and Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher (1890-1962) with letters from other scientists interleaved where they bear on the correspondence. There are also research papers and notes by Gosset in the E S Pearson Papers (E S PEARSON/10) and Karl Pearson papers (PEARSON/6/4). Search for these references in the Archives catalogue.

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Grant, Robert Edmond (Archive)

Various collections of notes and other papers by Robert Grant (1793-1874); comparative anatomist and transmutationist. Notes on Grant’s lectures by some of his students can be found under MS ADD 1, MS ADD 38 and MS ADD 39. There are also lists of specimens, equipment, drawings, etc under MS ADD 59 and Grant’s own essays and notes from lectures are MS ADD 28.

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Graves Library (Printed Collection)

The largest collection dedicated to the history of mathematics in the country. It contains around 9,000 manuscripts, rare books, pamphlets and runs of academic journals, covering the middle ages up to the late nineteenth century. Around half of the Graves Library is dedicated to applied mathematics. Well-represented branches include surveying, building, astronomy and astrology, and physics.

Greenough, George Bellas (Archive)

Papers of the geologist George Bellas Greenough (1778-1855) including published works, notebooks, material from Greenough’s travels, papers of the organisations with which he was associated, and correspondence. Includes papers reflecting Greenough’s related interests including geography, geology and map-making. The collection was received from two sources many years apart which have been designated GREENOUGH/A and GREENOUGH/B, but researchers will find related material in both sections.

Hacker, Helga Sharpe (Archive)

Helga Hacker was the youngest daughter of the statistician Karl Pearson and her papers contain many notes and transcripts of material found in the Pearson papers, particularly relating to the Men & Women’s Club and Olive Schreiner. Also some original notes, press cuttings etc from Hacker’s research into the Galton papers and biographical notes about her father.

Haldane, John Burdon Sanderson (Archive)

JBS Haldane (1892-1964) Professor of Biometry at UCL 1937-1957 is best known for his work on genetics, underwater physiology, inheritance, and his writings on popular science and politics. His archive comprises scientific research papers, copies of his publications and drafts, correspondence, papers relating to his department at UCL, papers of various committees and societies and personal papers.

Human Biochemical Genetics Unit (Archive)

The HBGU was established by Professor Harry Harris at King’s College London in 1962 to investigate the extent of genetic variation in healthy humans using family and population studies and simple screening techniques.  It was one in a network of Medical Research Council genetic research units in the UK.  In 1965, on Harris’s appointment as Galton Professor at University College London, he moved the unit to UCL. The unit was operational until 2000 and during that time, with samples from tens of thousands of individuals, staff of the HBGU made important contributions to linkage studies. The bulk of the material in the archive is the family files relating to genetic conditions, compiled from 1963 to 2000, with full indexes. Much of the collection is currently closed because it contains medical data, please contact us to discuss access to the open sections of the archive.

  • Search Archive ref: HBGU.
Heathcote, Niels Hugh de Vaudrey (Archive)

Heathcote was Reader in the History of Science at UCL from 1946 to 1973. This small collection contains handwritten notebooks and loose typescript papers. Some of the notebooks are entitled 'Electricitat' or 'J.H.Waitz' and are often in German; most are concerned with the history of the study of electricity. The folders contain loose papers, often correspondence, about student work and exams and societies, in the history of science.

The Hertfordshire Natural History Society (Printed Collection)

This collection of ca. 1,300 items is devoted to natural history, primarily focusing on the British Isles. Disciplines such as geology, meteorology and palaeontology also feature. The collection spans the fifteenth century to the present day, and it includes seven incunables. The records of local natural history societies from the 17th century to the present day are a particular strength.

History of Science Sources (Printed Collection)

This collection of ca. 1,700 books is dedicated to the History of Science. It is especially strong on the physical sciences, including chemistry and physics, mineralogy, astronomy and mathematics, but it also contains works on such diverse subjects as cartography and navigation, the early history of aeronautics, and wireless telegraphy and submarine cables. It includes many first and early editions of major works by prominent scientists. The publication dates range from 1630 to 1982.

Horsley, Sir Victor (Archive)

Papers of physiologist and neurosurgeon Sir Victor Horsley (1857-1916) and his family. Victor Horsley's papers include large sections on his medical career, his service in the army during the Great War, and his political and social interests. These include his involvement in the temperance movement and the Medical Defence Union, support for the suffragettes and for Home Rule for Ireland, and his role in the reform of the bodies representing the medical profession.

Isaacs, Nathan (Archive)

Nathan Isaacs (1895-1966) was a metallurgist who was particularly interested in theories of child development and of the teaching of science to children. He lectured and wrote widely on these topics and his collection contains lectures, unpublished writings and notes, publications and correspondence concerning his work.

  • Search Archive ref: NI.
Isaacs, Susan (Archive)

Susan Isaacs (1885-1948) ran Malting House School, Cambridge, an experimental school which fostered the individual development of children, before setting up the Department for Child Development at the IOE. She was also a trained psychoanalyst and worked as an 'agony aunt' replying to readers' problems in child care journals. These letters form a major part of her archive.

  • Search Archive ref: SI.
Johnston Lavis Collection (Printed Collection)

 A collection of just over 2,000 works from the library of Henry James Johnston Lavis (1856-1914) on volcanology, spanning the early sixteenth century to the early twentieth century. It is one of the largest collections dedicated to this topic in the United Kingdom. Italian volcanoes are a particular strength, especially Vesuvius and Etna.

Katz, Bernard (Archive)

Bernard Katz (1911-2003) was an experimental physiologist who spent much of his academic career at UCL, becoming Professor and Head of the Biophysics Department from 1952-1978. This collection includes papers relating to his research and publications, lecture notes, departmental papers, material relating to the ‘Journal of Physiology’, correspondence and biographical material. 

  • Search Archive ref: KATZ.
Lilly, Malcolm Douglas (Archive)

 Research papers, publications, lectures notes and departmental papers of Malcolm Lilly (1936-1938), Professor of Biochemical Engineering at UCL from 1979. He had spent the earlier part of his career at UCL and was heavily involved in the establishment of biochemical engineering as a discipline in its own right; his professorship was the first such in the UK. Includes papers of the many national and international organisations with which Lilly was involved, as well as his correspondence and biographical papers.

  • Search Archive ref: LILLY.
Lighthill, Sir [Michael] James (Archive)

James Lighthill (1924-1998) was a pioneer in the fields of hydrodynamics, wave mechanics, aerodynamics, biomechanics, and aeroacoustics. Although he spent much of his career at Cambridge and Manchester, in 1979 he was elected as the Provost of UCL and remained here until his retirement in 1989. This large collection includes working papers, lecture notes, publications, correspondence and personal papers dating from the 1970s-1990s.

Lodge, Sir Oliver (Archive)

Small collection of correspondence of the physicist Sir Oliver Lodge (1851-1940). Lodge studied at UCL from 1874 to 1881 and during this time he assisted George Carey Foster in the teaching of physics. He later became Principal of Birmingham University.

Lonsdale, Dame Kathleen (Archive)

Papers of Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, pioneer in the field of X-ray crystallography who became the first female professor at UCL when she was appointed Professor of Chemistry in 1949. She was one of the first two women elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society (with Marjory Stephenson) in 1945. This extensive collection includes biographical material, research papers, teaching material and publications.

The Malacological Society Library (Printed Collection)

Ca. 500 titles on molluscs and conchology, with some older books on general natural history and travel. Over 200 of the works date from the 16th and the 17th centuries.

Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts (Archive)

We hold several collections of medieval and early modern manuscripts which cover a variety of subjects. Those items of particular interest to the history of science are: MS LAT/11, a dictionary of medical terms and other treatises, including medicinal recipes; MS LAT/12 containing a collection of medical treatises by various authors including prescriptions and treatises on medicinal herbs; and MS OGDEN/36, a 17th century manuscript containing medicinal recipes. Full descriptions can be found on the UCL Archives catalogue.

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Napier, John Russell (Archive)

John Napier (1917-1987), primatologist and physician, was associated with the University of London for many years. His papers include personal and biographical material, research papers, publications and photographs.

Pearson, Egon Sharpe (Archive)

 E S Pearson, son of Karl Pearson and Maria Sharpe, was Professor of Statistics at UCL from 1935. The collection includes professional and personal papers and correspondence, records of the Department of Statistics; papers relating to the journal ‘Biometrika’; and papers relating to E S Pearson's collaborative work with Jerzy Neyman, Walter Shewhart, Florence Nightingale David and Herman Otto Hartley. Also includes material used in preparation for a biography of William Sealy Gosset.

Pearson, Karl (Archive)

This extensive archive covers all aspects of Pearson’s life and career and includes material relating to several generations of the Pearson and Sharpe families as well as Karl Pearson’s research and publications. He was a statistician and a proponent of eugenics, being encouraged in both fields by Francis Galton, and with W F R Weldon co-founded the discipline of biometry. In 1884 he was appointed Goldsmid professor of applied mathematics and mechanics at UCL and in 1911 became the first Galton Professor of Eugenics. The collection also includes some records of the Department of Applied Statistics and the journal Biometrika.

Penrose, Lionel Sharples (Archive)

 L S Penrose (1898-1972) was appointed to the Galton Chair of Eugenics at UCL in 1945, a post he held until his retirement in 1965 although he successfully lobbied to change the name to the Galton Chair of Human Genetics in 1963. He oversaw a post-war era of change at the Galton Laboratory, bringing his particular interests in genetic diseases and congenital illness to the work of the department. He is best known for his research into the causes of Down’s syndrome and was the first to demonstrate a link between increased likelihood of the condition and maternal age. His papers include extensive family material, personal and business correspondence, and his research work spanning the whole of his career.

Ramsay, Sir William (Archive)

Papers of Sir William Ramsay, including lecture notes, bound volumes of correspondence, and laboratory notebooks detailing the experiments done by him and under his supervision. Ramsay was Chair of General Chemistry at UCL from 1887 until 1912 and during this time he discovered argon (with John William Strutt), shortly followed by helium, neon, krypton and xenon. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1904 for his discovery of helium, and his lab notebooks describe the experiments the lead to these discoveries. His papers were collated in the 1950s by his biographer, Morris W Travers.

Rare Periodicals (Printed Collection)

This collection comprises of runs of over 300 influential international scientific journals, including Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (1667-75), Journal des sçavans (1655-1740), Hamburgisches Magazin (1748-1767), Nouveaux Mémoires de l'Académie Royale des Sciences et Belles-Lettres (1772-1788) and Commentarii Academiae Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitana (1728-1751).

Ray Society (Printed Collection)

An almost complete set of the publications by the Ray Society from 1844 (no. 1) up to 1996 (no. 164). The Society publishes books on natural history with a particular focus on British flora and fauna. The collection includes works by prominent naturalists, such as Charles Darwin, James Scott Bowerbank, Thomas Henry Huxley, and Albert Günther.  

Odo Russell Collection (Archive)

Collection of autograph letters, 1756-1849, brought together by Lord Odo Russell. The correspondents are mainly European scientists, including Nikolaus Joseph and his son Joseph Franz Freiherr von Jacquin, both Professor of Chemistry and Botany at Vienna University; the zoologist Leopold Joseph Franz Johann Fitzinger; and the botanist István Laszló Endlicher. The letters concern the natural sciences, the medical sciences, the physical sciences, the arts, theology, and more.

Sharpey Correspondence (Archive)

The physiologist William Sharpey was appointed to the Chair of Anatomy and Physiology at UCL in 1836. He was actively involved in the Royal Society and was appointed Secretary in 1853. This is a small collection of letters, most of which are addressed to Sharpey in his position as Secretary of the Royal Society. The main correspondents are Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie (President of the Royal Society, 1858-1861); Sir Edward Sabine (President of the Royal Society, 1861-1871); and George Gabriel Stokes (one of the Secretaries, 1854-1884). The numerous other correspondents include many people active in the scientific world.

Smith, Cedric Austen Bardell (Archive)

Papers of C A B Smith, (1917-2002) geneticist and mathematician, consisting of personal papers, drafts, publications, lectures, correspondence and articles on colour vision. Smith joined the Galton Laboratory in 1946, succeeding J B S Haldane as Weldon Professor of Biometry in 1964. He is remembered for his various contributions to the study of genetics, particularly his work on mimic loci, recombination and genetic mapping.

Smith Woodward Collection (Printed Collection)

The palaeontological library of Arthur Smith Woodward (1864-1944). The collection comprises of ca. 2,500 titles, dating from the 18th to the 20th century. Palaeontology and geology are the main subjects represented but works on anthropology, evolution, the origin of man, classification of species, zoology, palaeobotany and natural history also feature. 

Strong Room Rare Books (Printed Collection)

This collection, which comprises of books printed before 1640 as well as rare works published later, is particularly rich in early medical works. Some of the most notable are three copies of Vesalius's De fabrica (1555), Hans Gersdorff's Feldtbuch der Wundartzney (1530) and De motu cordis by William Harvey (1628). Other branches of science are also represented. The collection includes first editions of Newton's Principia (1687) and Darwin's Origin of Species (1859), and illustrated works on botany and zoology, such as Sir James Smith's Natural history of the rarer lepidopterous insects of Georgia (1797) and several of John Gould's bird books.

Stopes, Marie Carmichael (Archive)

Manuscript and typescript research papers of Marie Stopes (1880-1958), including journal articles on botany, and photographs.

Teaching of Science (Archive)

The IOE Archives hold a number of collections that contain papers about the teaching of science. The archive of the Schools’ Curriculum Council (ref SCC) would be of particular relevance; the Architect & Buildings Branch (ref ABB), David and Mary Medd (ref ME) and Tony Branton (ref TBR) collections are all architectural archives containing papers on school design and many photographs capturing the teaching of science from primary to higher education; the IOE’s institutional archive (ref IE) can be used to research the teaching of science at all levels of the curriculum; the archives of Brenda Francis (ref BF), the Girls’ Day School Trust (ref GDS), and Cynthia Reynolds (ref CR) cover gender and science education; and the Plowden Committee (ref PL) and National Commission on Education (ref NCE) archives cover educational reviews, including science.

Young, John Zachary (Archive)

Papers of the zoologist J Z Young who was Chair of Human Anatomy at University College, London, 1945-1974. Contains material relating to Young's research on nerves and nervous systems, the flying spot microscope, cephalopods, memory and learning, evolution, the structures and functions of brains; philosophy of science, and papers relating to field research in Naples Zoological Station, 1928-1981, and Duke University, North Carolina, 1970-1983. Also includes publications, personal papers and extensive correspondence.

Watson, David Meredith Seares (Archive)

Two collections of papers and correspondence of palaeontologist D M S Watson, who held various positions at UCL from 1912 until his retirement in 1951. Includes biographical and personal material of Watson and his family; scientific correspondence; photographs of fossil specimens; sketches and drawings, and newspaper cuttings.

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Woodger, Joseph Henry (Archive)

Papers, 1922-1980, of biologist Joseph Henry Woodger, consisting of research and personal notebooks, research files, manuscript and typescript drafts of works, correspondence, photographs and printed material.