X Close

STS Observatory



UK archives of post-war science – notes towards a list

By Jon Agar, on 17 December 2013

I’m working my way fairly systematically through the catalogues of UK archives relating to post-war science, and thought it would be useful to me, and perhaps others, to keep a running list of scientists’ collections. Here’s the list so far, with links via Access to Archives, Janus and other pages. Let me know, via the comments, if you know more …



Plus a few corporate or group archives:

The list was mostly generated by using a keyword ‘science’ and restricting the search to 1945-2012, and then going through the 24,480 results. That might sound a lot, but I know for a fact that it misses some collections! After seeking suggestions, I have also trawled the Churchill Archives Centre for scientists, and used National Register of Archives.

I intend to keep this list updated.

Thanks to the following for suggestions: John Forrester, Peter Collins, Stephen Boyd Davis, Richard Noakes, Christoph Laucht, Mauro Capocci, John Faithfull, Simon Chaplin, Jean-Baptiste Gouyon, Chris, Dmitry Myelnikov, Dominic Berry, Alex Hall, Nancy Anderson, Clare Button, Joanna Corden, Jacob Hamblin, Tim Powell, and Jenny Shaw.

30 Responses to “UK archives of post-war science – notes towards a list”

  • 1
    Simon Chaplin wrote on 18 December 2013:

    We will send a full list of contemporary biomedical archives at the Wellcome Library, but just to flag up that a number of these, plus some archives from partner libraries, are also digitised and online via our Codebreakers project. They include the archives of Francis Crick, CP Blacker, Honor Fell, Hans Gruneberg, Peter Medawar, AE Mourant, Robert Race and Ruth Sanger, Gerald Wyatt and the late Fred Sanger. The collection also includes the archives of JBS Haldane and Lionel Penrose from UCL; Jim Watson and Sydney Brenner from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; Rosalind Franklin from Churchill College Cambridge; Maurice Wilkins/MRC Biophysics Unit from KCL and Guido Pontecorvo, Malcolm Ferguson-Smith and James Renwick from the University of Glasgow. There are also a couple of institutional archives – the MRC Blood Group Unit and the Eugenics Society.

  • 2
    Jean-Baptiste Gouyon wrote on 18 December 2013:

    Would the papers of Solly Zuckerman at the University of East Anglia (http://www.uea.ac.uk/is/archives/zuckerman) be relevant?

  • 3
    Jon Agar wrote on 19 December 2013:

    thanks, Jean-Baptiste. Added Zuckerman

  • 4
    Chris wrote on 18 December 2013:

    Maurice Frederick Wilkins at King’s College London (170 boxes)

  • 5
    Jon Agar wrote on 19 December 2013:

    thanks Chris. Added Wilkins

  • 6
    Chris wrote on 18 December 2013:

    Also Sir John Turton Randall at Churchill Archives to go with the papers of Henry Albert Boot.

  • 7
    Jon Agar wrote on 19 December 2013:

    thanks Chris. Added Randall

  • 8
    Dmitriy Myelnikov wrote on 18 December 2013:

    Anne McLaren and Donald Michie’s archives are in the British Library, Add MS 83830-83981 and Add MS 88958, respectively

  • 9
    Jon Agar wrote on 19 December 2013:

    thanks Dmitry. Added Michie and McLaren

  • 10
    Jenny Shaw wrote on 18 December 2013:

    I’d recommend also searching the National Register of Archives as it is more up to date and covers a wider geographical area than Access to Archives: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/nra/searches/simpleSearch.asp?subjectType=P
    As Access to Archives is no longer added to it doesn’t include more recently deposited collections, whereas the National Register of Archives is updated each year through submissions from archives. Access to Archives also only covers England and Wales, whereas the National Register of Archives covers the whole UK.
    If you use the description field it’s possible to search for a wide-range of scientific epithets (chemist, geneticist, crystallographer). It isn’t possible to sort the results or to limit the search to a date range, but you do only get one record per scientist so there is a lot less to wade through.

  • 11
    Jon Agar wrote on 18 December 2013:

    Jenny – very useful thanks. It’s a shame that A2A doesn’t advertise the fact that it is not being updated. The NRA gives me several more names, including ones I was wondering why they weren’t coming up. Cheers, Jon

  • 12
    HPSGlonk wrote on 18 December 2013:

    One fairly major oversight are the archives of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany. niabarchive.org

  • 13
    Jon Agar wrote on 19 December 2013:

    thanks. Added NIAB

  • 14
    Alex Hall wrote on 19 December 2013:

    Thanks for a great list.

    Perhaps the climatologist Gordon Manley may be of interest most of his papers are at Cambridge (http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/db/node.xsp?id=EAD%2FGBR%2F0012%2FMS%20Add.8386;sib0=1305), whilst some are also held at Durham (https://www.dur.ac.uk/library/asc/collection_information/cldload/?collno=580)


  • 15
    Jon Agar wrote on 7 January 2014:

    thanks. added Manley. Jon

  • 16
    Nancy Anderson wrote on 21 December 2013:

    Hi, Jon. Jacob Bronowski’s papers were moved from Toronto to Cambridge (last year?). Jesus College just hired a cataloguer for the collection, I think.

  • 17
    Jon Agar wrote on 7 January 2014:

    thanks. added a link.

  • 18
    Clare Button wrote on 6 January 2014:

    Dear Jon,

    Many thanks for your work compiling this informative list. Here are some more collections relating to animal genetics and individual scientists currently catalogued as part of the Wellcome Trust-funded ‘Towards Dolly’ project at the University of Edinburgh Library Special Collections:

    James Henderson Sang (4 files)
    Richard Alan Beatty (9 boxes)
    Alan William Greenwood (6 boxes)
    Ian Wilmut (c.70 boxes)
    Geoffrey Beale (43 boxes)
    Roslin Institute and predecessor institutions (c.900 boxes)
    Institute of Animal Genetics (4 boxes)

    The catalogues are mounted on the website (link above) once they become available.

    Kind regards,

    Clare Button

  • 19
    Jon Agar wrote on 7 January 2014:

    thanks. added links. Jon

  • 20
    Joanna Corden wrote on 7 January 2014:

    I don’t see the papers of Max Born listed, though i understand they have been moved to Churchill College Cambridge. His Son gustav Born has deposited his papers with the Royal Society

  • 21
    Jon Agar wrote on 10 January 2014:

    thanks. I’ve added Max Born’s papers at Churchill. Can’t find the Gustav Born papers at the Royal Society

  • 22
    Tim Powell wrote on 18 March 2014:

    Joseph Black, David Edwin Coombe and Albert Freedman, at the University of Bath

  • 23
    Jon Agar wrote on 21 March 2014:

    Coombe, Freedman and Black all now added. thanks, Jon

  • 24
    Tim Powell wrote on 18 March 2014:

    In fact, looking more closely, I can see how badly the old NCUACS is missed. Here’s a link to the list of our catalogues.

  • 25
    Susan wrote on 22 May 2014:

    You can now add the link to the catalogue for the archive of Sir Walter Bodmer and Lady Julia Bodmer. See http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/online/modern/bodmer/bodmer.html . You might also find our subject guide to scientific archives at the Bodleian useful: http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/bodley/finding-resources/special/guides/scientific .

  • 26
    Jon Agar wrote on 22 May 2014:

    thanks for the Bodmer link!

  • 27
    Katrina Dean wrote on 11 March 2015:

    William Donald Hamilton and John Maynard Smith at the British Library. Both are substantial. Maynard Smith is in the online archives and manuscripts catalogue.

  • 28
    Katrina Dean wrote on 12 March 2015:

    Forgot this group of notebooks of psychologist and cybernetics pioneer William Ross Ashby. originals at the BL but digitised collection courtesy of family is here: http://www.rossashby.info/index.html

  • 29
    Whewell’s Gazette: Vol. #39 | Whewell's Ghost wrote on 16 March 2015:

    […] UCL: STS Observatory: UK archives of post-war science – notes towards a list […]

  • 30
    prof premraj pushpakaran wrote on 25 November 2017:

    prof premraj pushpakaran writes — 2017 marks the centenary year of John Cowdery Kendrew!!!

Leave a Reply