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Frankland Papers

Date range: c.1830s–c.1940s

Medium: Archive

Sir Edward Frankland (1825–1899) was one of the leading scientists of the 19th century.

He was born near Garstang, Lancashire, and after an unsatisfactory schooling secured a place at the Westminster laboratory of Lyon Playfair. Frankland was the first Professor of Chemistry at Owens College (1851–7), where he established a strong tradition of applied chemistry. He advised local industries on water purity, gas making, coal analysis, and the manufacture of alkalis.

In 1857 Frankland moved to London, to take up a post at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, before transferring to the Royal Institution, and from 1865 to 1885 he held a position at the Royal College of Chemistry (later part of Imperial College). He was also one of nine scientists who founded the exclusive X Club, to promote the advancement of science and to advocate scientific naturalism.

Frankland’s contributions to chemistry were profound and far-reaching: he recognized the chemical bond and developed the idea of valency; he pioneered the new field of organometallic chemistry; he played a significant role in transforming the teaching of science; and he was instrumental in the formation of the Institute of Chemistry.

Frankland's papers are extensive, and offer considerable potential for the study of many aspects of science in 19th-century Britain. There are several thousand letters from leading scientific contemporaries including Robert Bunsen, Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, Joseph Hooker, Thomas Huxley, Hermann Kolbe, Justus von Liebig, Joseph Lister, John Lubbock, Lyon Playfair, Herbert Spencer and John Tyndall. Other material includes Frankland’s journals, lecture notes, scientific notebooks, records of water analysis, photographs, and family papers. A particularly significant item is a rare minute book of the X Club.

The Frankland Papers also include significant archival material for Edward Frankland's son, Percy Faraday Frankland (1858–1946), who was also distinguished chemist, and his wife Grace Frankland (néToynbee) (1858–1946). Percy Frankland was Professor of Chemistry at University College, Dundee, and later, at the University of Birmingham. He made important contributions to the chemistry of fermentation and optically active compounds. Like his father, he was also involved in improving the quality of the public's water supply by acting as an analyst for public authorities. Grace Frankland was a pioneering woman scientist, who made important contributions to microbiology and bacteriology, and was one of the first twelve women scientists admitted to the Linnean Society of London, in 1904.

See also:

Further information:

Uncatalogued; preliminary box-list for part of Edward Frankland's papers only is available via Special Collections reading rooms.

Colin A. Russell, Edward Frankland: Chemistry, Controversy and Conspiracy in Victorian England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).


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