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Samuel Alexander Papers

This bronze bust of Samuel Alexander, by Jacob Epstein, stands in the Arts Building of the University of Manchester.

Date range: 1877–1938.

Papers of Samuel Alexander (1859–1938), Professor of Philosophy at Owens College and later Manchester University, 1893–1924. 

Manchester’s most distinguished philosopher, he was a pioneer in modernizing the discipline by recognizing the philosophical significance of contemporary developments in psychology, biology and evolutionary theory.

Alexander is best known for his theory of ‘emergent evolution’, expounded in his major work, Space, Time and Deity (1920), in which he argued that existence is hierarchically ordered, and that through a process of evolution ever higher levels of existence emerge.

In later life Alexander broadened his interests to include aesthetics and literature. He was active in the life and politics of the University, and was a keen advocate of women’s suffrage.

Alexander’s papers include large numbers of letters, numerous accounts, receipts and business letters from publishers, research notebooks, pamphlets and offprints, and biographical and obituary material.

Correspondents include:

  • the philosophers F.H. Bradley, H. Wildon Carr, John MacCunn, J.S. Mackenzie, C. Lloyd Morgan, J.H. Muirhead, David Ritchie, Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead
  • the newspaper editor C.P. Scott and Manchester Guardian writers A.N. Monkhouse and C.E. Montague
  • figures from the world of literature and letters, including A.C. Bradley, Lascelles Abercrombie and Leslie Stephen
  • individuals involved in the theatre such as Annie Horniman and Sybil Thorndike
  • the physicist Ernest Rutherford
  • politicians and those involved in social reform and public life, such as Beatrice Webb, former Prime Minister A.J. Balfour, and the Zionist pioneer Chaim Weizmann (Alexander supported the campaign for a Jewish homeland in Palestine).

Finding aids

  • Catalogue available online via ELGAR.
  • Partial unpublished catalogue. See also B.D. Brettschneider, The Philosophy of Samuel Alexander: Idealism in 'Space, Time and Deity' (New York, 1964).
  • M.R. Konvitz, On the Nature of Value: The Philosophy of Samuel Alexander (New York, 1967).
  • J.W. McCarthy, The Naturalism of Samuel Alexander (New York, 1948).
  • A.P. Stiernotte, God and Space-time: Deity in the Philosophy of Samuel Alexander (New York, 1954).


The John Rylands Library

Using the reading rooms in the John Rylands Library

Further information

For further information on Samuel Alexander and transcripts of selected letters, see the Samuel Alexander pages on the School of Social Science's website.