Archives and Special Collections

History of medicine and science

The Library has extensive and substantial collections for researching the history of science and medicine. Our scientific collections chart the development of scientific thought and debate from the 16th century onwards. In the library and archives of the Leicester Medical Society, we preserve books and records that document the history of the medical profession in Leicester over two centuries.

Leicester Medical Society Library and Archives

The University of Leicester has enjoyed a close relationship with the Leicester Medical Society (LMS) throughout our first century. Originally founded as the Leicester Medical Book Society, the LMS began in 1800 as a circulating library for the local medical profession. Many of the books that make up the LMS collection today were originally purchased to ensure that local physicians and surgeons had access to the latest medical texts. The book collection is complemented by the Society's archives, which contain its administrative and financial records. On behalf of the Society, we also hold papers and photographs of C. J. Bond, surgeon and advocate of voluntary euthanasia, and Ernest Frizelle, general surgeon and historian of the Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Physical Society Library

Established in 1874, the Physical Society of London began as a group of 29 schoolteachers, amateur scientists and professors. In 1960 the Society merged with the Institute of Physics to form the The Institute of Physics and the Physical Society (now just the Institute of Physics). Shortly after the merger, the University purchased approximate 400 items from the Society's library. These included many rare 17th and 18th century printed books relating to the history of physics. Among the oldest items in the collection are the 1572 edition of Opticae thesaurus by the medieval Islamic scholar Ḥasan Ibn al-Haytham's and a 1613 work by Galileo. 

Scientific archives

The Library holds several other collections relating to the history of science, including: 

  • Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys papers, University of Leicester geneticist who discovered the technique of genetic fingerprinting (uncatalogued collection).
  • Joan Walker papers (1902-1995), Physician in Charge of the Diabetic Unit at Leicester Royal Infirmary. Dr Walker was responsible for establishing the first Diabetic Service in Leicestershire.
  • Letters to Sir Benjamin Brodie (1817-1880), Waynflete Professor of Chemistry, Oxford.
  • Edward Neville da Costa Andrade papers
  • Normal Lockyer Observatory Papers
  • Peter Sneath papers, University of Leicester pioneer of bacterial taxonomy (uncatalogued collection).

How to search

This is just a selection of the material we hold that covers this subject. You can find these items and many more by using the following search tools:

  • Library Search for published sources. To limit your search to rare books, including those published before 1850 filter your results to Special Collections.
  • Our archive collections can be searched via our archives catalogue.

Many of our scientific collections are uncatalogued. Contact us for further information about these holdings.

How to access

Our rare books and archives are open to all and can be consulted in the Special Collections reading room. 

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