Society Archive

In over 200 years from foundation to the present day, the Society has built up a wealth of comprehensive and continuous archive material.

The archives were catalogued professionally in 2015 and the catalogue is available to view on ArchiveSearch.

Access to all these records is welcomed for the purpose of any bona fide research. If you would like to access the archives please follow the link above to the ArchiveSearch site.

Arrangement of the archives: The archives have been arranged largely by their function; constitutional records, Council records, financial records, membership records etc. Each section and sub-section is arranged broadly chronologically.

Covering dates: 1799-2014. As you can see, some papers, for example, personal papers of members, predate the foundation of the Society.

CPS 12/1 Anthropometric Committee record cards. The beginnings of ‘big data’, can be found in a project sponsored by the Philosophical Society. In 1886 the Cambridge Anthropometric Committee began recording anthropometric data for university students, a project which ran for two decades and produced around 9,000 personalised cards.

Photo: CPS 12/1 Anthropometric Committee record cards. The beginnings of ‘big data’, can be found in a project sponsored by the Philosophical Society. In 1886 the Cambridge Anthropometric Committee began recording anthropometric data for university students, a project which ran for two decades and produced around 9,000 personalised cards.

CPS 10/3/1 Copper plate engravings.
One of 26 copper plates in our archive which date from around 1826-1833. These plates were used to produce illustrations in the early publications of Cambridge Philosophical Society.

Photo: CPS 10/3/1 Copper plate engravings. One of 26 copper plates in our archive which date from around 1826-1833. These plates were used to produce illustrations in the early publications of Cambridge Philosophical Society.

The Society archives include the following:

  • Minutes of Council and of General Meetings
  • Membership and subscription records
  • Archives relating to the various premises occupied by the Society
  • Archives relating to the Society’s publications
  • Archives of the Library and Reading Room predating 1976 (the date at which the Library, by then known as the Scientific Periodicals Library and later as the Central Science Library, became a dependent library of Cambridge University Library)
  • Archives relating to events and activities
  • Some archives of individual members, such as Sir Joseph Larmor (1857-1942, physicist and mathematician)
The Cambridge Philosophical Society Archives catalogue is available as a PDF download.

Society Timeline

  1. 1819

    Cambridge Philosophical Society Founded

  2. 1846

    New Botanic Garden opens

  3. 1848

    New Fitzwilliam Museum building opens

  4. 1851

    Natural Sciences Tripos starts

  5. 1874

    Cavendish laboratory opens

  6. 1884

    Balfour laboratory for women opens

  7. 1914

    Women first eligible as honorary fellows of CPS

    Marie Curie
    Marie Curie
  8. 1929

    Women eligible to be full fellows of CPS

  9. 1948

    Women first awarded degrees

  10. 1967

    Philosophical Library becomes Scientific Periodicals Library

  11. 2010

    Henslow Fellowship scheme launched

  12. 2019

    Society’s Bicentenary

    Blue Plaque, Saints Passage, Cambridge
    Blue Plaque, Saints Passage, Cambridge

Publications

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From Darwin’s paper on evolution to the development of stem cell research, publications from the Society continue to shape the scientific landscape.

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