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.

While not on public display, the archives can be viewed by prior arrangement with the Cambridge Philosophical Society.

The Cambridge Philosophical Society Archives catalogue is available as a PDF download.

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)
A copy of Biological Reviews, issue 37, 1962.

Photo: A copy of Biological Reviews, issue 37, 1962.

CPS 10/3/3. Hand-coloured illustration of Rhombus Maderensis from ‘On the fishes of Madeira’ by Richard Thomas Lowe and published in ‘Transactions’ of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, Vol 6. in 1838.

Photo: CPS 10/3/3. Hand-coloured illustration of Rhombus Maderensis from ‘On the fishes of Madeira’ by Richard Thomas Lowe and published in ‘Transactions’ of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, Vol 6. in 1838.

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

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The quest for the first stars and first black holes with the James Webb Space Telescope

Professor Roberto Maiolino

  • 18:00 - 19:00 Bristol-Myers Squibb Lecture Theatre

Finding and understanding the nature of the first stars at cosmic dawn is one of the most important and most ambitious goals for modern astrophysics. The first populations of stars produced the first chemical elements heavier than helium and formed the first, small protogalaxies, which then evolved, across the cosmic epoch, into the large and mature galaxies, such as the Milky Way and those in our local neighbour. Equally important and equally challenging is the search, in the early Universe, of the seeds of the first population of black holes, which later evolved in the supermassive black holes at the centre of galaxies, with masses even exceeding a billion times the mass of the Sun. When matter accretes on such supermassive black holes it can become so luminous to vastly outshine the light emitted by all stars in their host galaxy.

Since its launch, about two years ago, the James Webb Space Telescope has been revolutionizing this area of research. Its sensitivity in detecting infrared light from the remotest parts of the Universe is orders of magnitude higher than any previous observatory, an historical leap in astronomy and, more broadly, in science. I will presents some of the first, extraordinary discoveries from the Webb telescope, which have resulted in several unexpected findings. I will also discuss the new puzzles and areas of investigation that have been opened by Webb’s observations, how these challenge theoretical models, and the prospects of further progress in the coming years.

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Every breath you take and every move you make - understanding cellular oxygen sensing mechanisms

Professor Sir Peter Ratcliffe FRS

  • 18:00 - 19:00 Bristol-Myers Squibb Lecture Theatre

The maintenance of oxygen homeostasis is a key physiological challenge, inadequate oxygen (hypoxia) being a major component of most human diseases. The lecture will trace insights into human oxygen homeostasis from the founding work of William Harvey on the circulation of the blood to the molecular elucidation of a system of oxygen sensing that functions to measure oxygen levels in cells and control adaptive responses to hypoxia. The lecture will outline how the oxygen sensitive signal is generated by a set of ‘oxygen splitting’ enzymes that modify a transcription factor (HIF) to signal for its degradation (and hence inactivation).  It will attempt to illustrate and rationalise the unexpected in biological discovery and discuss the interface of discovery science with the development of medical therapeutics.

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