The Western Manuscript collections document all aspects of the history of western science as well as much of the history of science and indigenous knowledge around the world
About the collection
The Royal Society is represented in papers collected by Thomas Birch and Sir Joseph Banks.
Natural history and anthropology are represented in the archives of, amongst others, Linnaeus, James Cook, Joseph Banks, Charles Darwin, Alfred Russell Wallace, and Charles Lubbock.
Mathematics is represented in the papers of Charles Babbage and Eva Germaine Rimington Taylor.
The collections are particularly strong for biology, chemistry, medicine, nursing and public health, as represented in collections for Florence Nightingale, Messenger Monsey, Almroth Wright, Alexander Fleming, and Marie Stopes.
Industrial technology features in the Prosser Papers, J Nasmyth's technical drawing of his own machine tool inventions in the Smiles Papers, and in the records of Power Jets Ltd. Further correspondence on aviation may be found in a number of collections, including the papers of Lord Northcliffe, Lord Sydenham and the files of the Society of Authors.
The Library also holds the main tranche of the archive of William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of the positive / negative method of photography.
19th and 20th century scientists such as Wallace, Huxley, Galton and Lankester, as well as writers on technology and historians of science, are represented in the archives of the publishing firm Macmillan, and the Society of Authors.
What is available online?
The Explore Archives and Manuscripts catalogue contains catalogue entries for modern historical papers and manuscripts. Some manuscripts have been digitised in full on Digitised Manuscripts and selected images are available in the Online Gallery. Papers relating to botany and medicine in the India Office Records have been digitised and are available via Digitised Manuscripts.
The UK Medical Heritage Library provides access to over 66,000 digitised European medical publications from the 19th century.
What is available in our Reading Rooms?
Manuscripts and archives, including digital and microfilm surrogates, can be consulted in the Reading Rooms. The majority of archives and manuscripts relevant to British History, including personal, family and estate papers, are available to view in the Manuscripts Reading Room. India Office Records and Private Papers are consulted in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.
We also provide onsite access to a wide range of relevant subscription resources, including the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, the British Newspaper Archive, UK Parliamentary Papers, Nineteenth-Century Collections Online, and Find My Past.
What is available in other organisations?
The Wellcome Library holds a world-renowned collection for the study of the history of medicine and related sciences, and provides access to a wealth of digitised archive and published material.
Public and military health is well documented at both policy and practical levels in the holdings of the National Archives.
The papers of prominent medical professionals can be found in the holdings of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons.