History of science

On this page:

Manuscript collections

The Library houses significant scientific archive collections. They include the archives from Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope (including papers of Sir Bernard Lovell) and papers of the optical astronomer Zdenek Kopal, as well as records relating to Joseph Black, John Dalton, Sir Henry Roscoe and George Burkhardt (Chemistry); Henry Baker (Biology); Sir William Boyd Dawkins (Geology); Sir Arthur Schuster (Physics); Robert Salmon Hutton (Metallurgy); Peter Rowe (Geotechnical Science) and Arthur Marshall and Claude Wilson Wardlaw (Zoology and Botany).

The University of Manchester played a critical role in the early development of computing: the world's first stored-program computer, built by a team led by Tom Kilburn and Professor F.C. Williams, ran on 21 June 1948. Collaboration with Ferranti Ltd led to the production of the first commercially-available computer, the Ferranti Mark I, in 1951.

Manchester also pioneered the teaching of computer science in British universities. The National Archive for the History of Computing, which was established in 1987 under the auspices of the University's Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, is one of the foremost repositories in this field.

It holds archives of many companies, organizations and individuals involved in the early development of computing, such as English Electric, Ferranti, International Computers Ltd (ICL), the Meteorological Office, the National Research Development Corporation, Alan Turing and F.C. Williams.

Printed resources

There are notable printed holdings for the study of the history of science in the University of Manchester Library, from the earliest editions of Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Hippocrates and Galen, through to works of the early 20th century by such scientific luminaries as Wilhelm Roentgen, J.J. Thomson and Marie Curie.

The humanist philosophers, mathematicians, theoreticians, astronomers, natural scientists and physicians of the 16th and 17th centuries are particularly well represented, with important editions of Nicolaus Copernicus, Girolamo Cardano, Charles Estienne, Michael Servetus, Andreas Vesalius, Pierre de la Ramée (Peter Ramus), Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, Johann Kepler, René Descartes, John Wilkins, Robert Boyle, Christiaan Huygens and Robert Hooke.

The Mathematical Printed Collection contains many first and notable editions which chart the history of the discipline, from Pythagoras through to Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855), the last man to be called the Prince of Mathematics.

The Partington Collection is a major resource for the history of chemistry, while the Smith Memorial Collection and Schunck Library contain works on physics, chemistry and dyes.

There is also an important Natural History and Ornithological Collection comprising most of the great 18th and 19th-century illustrated botanical and ornithological books.

The Marie Stopes and Birth Control Collection deals extensively with issues of birth control and eugenics in the first half of the 20th century.