Archives from the pioneers of modern genetics to be brought together for the first time
16 May 2012
The Wellcome Library is to bring the papers of the pioneers of
modern genetics together in one place for the first time as part of
a ground-breaking digitisation project, 'Modern Genetics and its
Foundations'. Tens of thousands of first-hand notes, letters,
sketches, lectures, photographs and essays, produced by all the key
players in the discovery of the structure of DNA and the
development of genetics, including Francis Crick, James D Watson,
Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins, will be freely available
online. These vast collections contain both iconic documents and
everyday exchanges, complex research notes and personal ephemera
and highlight the extraordinarily enmeshed networks of insight and
inspiration lying behind pivotal moments of scientific discovery.
The material will be released in phases from Autumn 2012.
Working in partnership with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory,
USA, The Churchill Archives Centre, University of Glasgow,
King’s College London and UCL (University College London), the
archival papers of James D Watson, Rosalind Franklin, Sydney
Brenner, Lionel Penrose, J B S Haldane, Guido
Pontecorvo, James Harrison Renwick, Malcolm Ferguson-Smith and
Maurice Wilkins will be digitised. They will join material from the
Wellcome Library’s own holdings including the papers of Francis
Crick, Fred Sanger, Arthur Ernest Mourant, the MRC blood group,
Hans Gruenberg and Gerard Wyatt.
The material will offer a comprehensive picture of the complex
relationships between the scientists unlocking the secrets of the
structure of DNA, in their own words, and give researchers and
curious minds access to the personal and professional thoughts,
blind alleys and breakthroughs of the circle of brilliant minds
whose ideas transformed our understanding of the matter of
The Wellcome Library’s 'Modern Genetics and its Foundations'
project is the first phase of a major digitisation programme which
will create an integrated online research resource, featuring
digitised books, archives, films, photographs and audio covering
every aspect of the history of medicine and biomedical science.
Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library, says: "We are
thrilled to be working with five world class libraries and archives
to make these outstanding collections freely available alongside
our own holdings. Together, they will offer an unparalleled
research resource that documents one of the most significant
periods of scientific innovation in human history."
Digitisation of material from the Wellcome Library's collection,
including the Francis Crick papers, is underway. New external
material to be digitised includes:
From Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, USA:
- The James D Watson Collection, featuring biographical papers,
correspondence, notebooks, and photographs and video, covering the
period 1897 to 2010.
- The Sydney Brenner Collection, featuring correspondence with
Francis Crick between 1945 and 1979 and archival material,
including notebooks, photographs and writings between 1948 and
From the Churchill Archives Centre,
- The papers of Rosalind Franklin, including posthumously
collected material about Franklin, covering the period 1937 to
From King’s College London:
- Large scale selection from the MRC Biophysics Unit, focused on
the early history of X-ray crystallographic diffraction, including
research and papers notes and correspondence by and related to
From the University of Glasgow Archives
- The Guido Pontecorvo Collection, including research material,
correspondence, lecture notes and slides, from the 1940s to the
- The James Harrison Renwick Collection, dating chiefly from the
period of Renwick’s human genetics research from the mid-1950s to
the early 1970s.
- The Malcolm Ferguson-Smith Collection, dominated by very
substantial correspondence covering the period 1957 to 2008.
- The Lionel Penrose Collection, including his professional and
personal papers, essays, correspondence and photographs from 1915
to his death in 1972.
- The J B S Haldane Collection, including notes, papers and
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Notes to editors
About Wellcome Library
Wellcome Library is
one of the world's major resources for the study of medical history
and provides access to a growing collection of contemporary
biomedical information resources relating to consumer health,
popular science, biomedical ethics and the public understanding of
science. The Library is situated within Wellcome Collection,
a free visitor destination for the incurably
curious. Located at 183 Euston Road, London, Wellcome
Collection explores the connections between medicine, life and art
in the past, present and future.
Wellcome Library is part of the Wellcome Trust, a global
charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary
improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest
minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The
Trust's breadth of support includes public engagement, education
and the application of research to improve health. It is
independent of both political and commercial interests.
About Cold Spring Harbor
Cold Spring Harbor
Laboratory, USA (CSHL) is a private, not-for-profit research
and education institution located on Long Island, east of New York,
USA. Founded in 1890, CSHL has shaped contemporary biomedical
research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant
biology, and quantitative biology. CSHL is ranked number one in the
world by Thomson Reuters for impact of its research in molecular
biology and genetics. The Laboratory's education arm also includes
a graduate school and programs for undergraduates as well as middle
and high school students and teachers.
The CSHL Archives houses a rich repository of books,
manuscripts, correspondence, and photographs documenting genetics
research, the work of the faculty of CSHL and its predecessor
institutions dating back to 1890.
About the Churchill Archives Centre
Centre is best known for its political collections, including
the archives of Sir Winston Churchill and Baroness (Margaret)
Thatcher. Yet the Centre has always collected the personal papers
of prominent scientists and technologists. In recent years, it has
acquired strong collections of scientists working in the field of
Churchill Archives Centre is part of Churchill College,
Cambridge. The Centre is open Monday to Friday, 09.00 to 17.00, and
anyone can consult the collections by appointment. The Centre was
awarded 'Designated Status' by the former Museums, Libraries and
Archives Council for the quality and breadth of its collections.
For further details of the Centre's work see its website.
About Kings College London
London is one of the top 30 universities in the world (2011/12
QS World University Rankings) and the fourth oldest in England. A
research-led university based in the heart of London, King's has an
outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and
King's has played a major role in many of the advances that have
shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA
and research that led to the development of radio, television,
mobile phones and radar. It is the largest centre for the education
of healthcare professionals in Europe; no university has more
Medical Research Council Centres.
About University of Glasgow
1451, the University of
Glasgow is the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking
world and ranked in the world’s top 100. Today it is a broad-based,
research intensive institution with a global reach.
Glasgow is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of leading
research universities. With annual grants and contracts income
totalling more than £128m, the institution is in the UK's top ten
earners for research. World-leading expertise spans a range of
subject areas - history of art, veterinary medicine, cancer studies
and accounting and finance are all rated in the UK's top five for
Each year, the University welcomes around 23 000 undergraduate
and postgraduate scholars from 120 countries around the world. The
2011 International Student Barometer ranks Glasgow 1st in the UK
for student satisfaction, and 90 per cent of final year
undergraduates report satisfaction with their experiences. Students
graduate equipped with the skills they need to compete in a global
environment and with friendships and networks that last a
About UCL (University College
Founded in 1826, UCL was the
first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge,
the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or
gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law,
architecture and medicine. We are among the world's top
universities, as reflected by performance in a range of
international rankings and tables. UCL currently has 24 000
students from almost 140 countries and more than 9500 employees.
Our annual income is over £800 million. Follow UCL on Twitter