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Henry Roscoe Papers

Date range: 1857–1906.

Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe (1833–1915) studied chemistry at University College London, and at Heidelberg under Robert Bunsen.

In 1857 he succeeded Edward Frankland as professor of chemistry at Owens College, Manchester, at a time when the College’s fortunes were at a low ebb.

Under Roscoe’s direction Manchester became the leading centre for the study chemistry in Britain, and in 1875 he oversaw the construction of the first practical chemistry laboratories in any British university, modelled on those of Bunsen and designed by Alfred Waterhouse.

His own research centred on inorganic chemistry, and particularly on the laws of photochemical actions and the metal vanadium.

Roscoe played an active role in the scientific, cultural and political life of Manchester. He gave up his chair in 1885, when he was elected Liberal MP for South Manchester.

The collection comprises letter-books containing drafts of Roscoe’s publications and copies of letters and reports concerning Roscoe’s work as a consultant for local authorities in the analysis of industrial pollution. There are also newspaper cuttings, lecture notes and offprints of Roscoe’s publications.

In addition to the collection above, English mss 963–964 comprise two volumes containing a collection of letters to Roscoe, and miscellaneous papers, printed cuttings and photographs relating to Roscoe, to his fields of activity and to other eminent scientists. Correspondents include Leo Königsberger, Richard Meyer, Louis Pasteur, Lyon Playfair, Georg Quincke and Sir Ronald Ross

Finding aids

  • Catalogue of English MSS available online via ELGAR (English MSS 963-964).
  • H.R. Roscoe, The Life and Experiences of Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe, Written by Himself (1906); T.E. Thorpe, The Right Honourable Sir Henry Roscoe: A Biographical Sketch (London, 1916).


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