Our scientific collections are a rich resource for researchers from a variety of scientific disciplines. Using the collections, which date from the 16th to the 20th century, you can explore the history of science through printed books, periodicals, notebooks, diaries, drawings, photographs, personal and society papers, as well as correspondence.
The Brotherton Collection
The Brotherton Collection contains some 480 printed books, dating from 1600 to 1750.
Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy are strongly represented, but the collection also contains works on magnetism, monsters and melancholy.
- Newton's Principia (1687) and a collection of his other works including the first edition of his Opticks (1704)
- William Gilbert's De Magnete, Magneticisque Corporibus (1600), which was the first work to demonstate a scientific understanding of magnetism and electricity
- a copy of Robert Boyle's Works (1744) formerly owned by Edmund Burke.
All Souls Science
The All Souls Science Collection contains around 500 books and journals, principally from the 17th century, covering many different aspects of science. The main subjects include astronomy, botany, geometry, mathematics, medicine, chemistry and physiology.
There are also early works on types of medical therapy, such as hydrotherapy and wine therapy, and works on poisons and anatomy.
The Early Science Collection contains around 2000 books dating from the 16th century onwards, ranging from general works to occultism, inventions, beer and horses. The periodicals held within this collection include copies of Memoirs of Science and the Arts, Scientific Memoirs and Communications to the Board of Agriculture, all dating from the late 18th century.
The Chaston Chapman Collection consists mainly of sets of the Royal Society of London's Philosophical Transactions, from the founding of the Society in the 1660s onwards, along with some later histories and memoirs of the Society. There are also early texts on alchemy such as Roger Bacon's The Mirror of Alchimy (1597) and Dutch and German works on chemical lore, hermetic philosophy, astrology and religion.
You may also be interested in Alfred Chaston Chapman's collection of books on the history of brewing and fermentation.
The work of a number of individuals at the University of Leeds has led to significant developments in scientific research. Special Collections holds the archives of several of these scientists.
William Bragg’s papers
William Henry Bragg was Cavendish Professor of Physics at the University of Leeds from 1909 to1915. His main research was in the fields of X-ray spectra and the structure of crystals. Much of his research was in collaboration with his son, William Lawrence Bragg, with whom he shared the Nobel prize for physics in 1915. One of his laboratory notebooks contains the results of research carried out in the old Physical Laboratory of the University, on the site of the Brotherton Library.
Arthur Smithells’ papers
The papers of Arthur Smithells relate to his work as Professor of Chemistry at Leeds. They include a vast amount of correspondence with scientific colleagues between 1875 and 1939, as well as personal correspondence and papers, research papers, pamphlets and press cuttings.
William Astbury’s papers
William Astbury was Professor of Biomolecular Structure at Leeds from 1945 to1961. His papers reflect his research interests in textile physics and x-ray diffraction photography. Documents include biographical and personal materials, notebooks and slides, lectures and publications, scientific correspondence, and his work for conferences, committees and societies.
Edmund Stoner’s papers
The papers of Edmund Stoner, a former Professor of Physics at Leeds, cover his early and personal life and scientific career.
The biographical materials include notebooks from his days at Cambridge, various diaries and personal notebooks, non-scientific writings and a collection of photographs.
These are complemented by a large amount of correspondence, both scientific and personal, dating from the 1920s up to 1968. There are also later papers relating to his scientific publications, work on committees, and his time at the University of Leeds.
Other notable collections
Special Collections also holds the papers of the physicist Richard Whiddington, the crystallographer Sir Ernest Cox, and the chemist Robert Spence.