SECTION A BIOGRAPHICAL AND AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL, CSAC94.5.83/A.1-CSAC94.5.83/A.69
CSAC94.5.83/A.1 -CSAC94.5.83/A.7 BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL
CSAC94.5.83/A.8 -CSAC94.5.83/A.12 CAREER, HONOURS AND AWARDS
CSAC94.5.83/A.13-CSAC94.5.83/A.24, CSAC94.5.83/A.62-CSAC94.5.83/A.69 PERSONAL MATERIAL
SECTION B SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH, CSAC94.5.83/B.1-CSAC94.5.83/B.349
CSAC94.5.83/B.1 -CSAC94.5.83/B.211 NOTES, DRAFTS, CORRESPONDENCE BY TOPIC
CSAC94.5.83/B.212-CSAC94.5.83/B.248 MISCELLANEOUS NOTES AND NOTEBOOKS
CSAC94.5.83/B.249-CSAC94.5.83/B.349 THESES AND REPORTS
SECTION C LECTURES AND PUBLICATIONS, CSAC94.5.83/C.1-CSAC94.5.83/C.38
CSAC94.5.83/C.1 -CSAC94.5.83/C.24 LECTURES AND PAPERS
SECTION D CORRESPONDENCE, CSAC94.5.83/D.1-CSAC94.5.83/D.72
SECTION E NON-PRINT MATERIAL, CSAC94.5.83/E.1-CSAC94.5.83/E.51
CSAC94.5.83/E.1 -CSAC94.5.83/E.4 GRAMOPHONE RECORDS
CSAC94.5.83/E.5 -CSAC94.5.83/E.11 TAPE RECORDINGS
In addition to the note of awe discernible in The Times obituary quoted above and echoed in other accounts, most of those who worked with, or for, or after Robinson also unite in bemoaning the restless volatility, impatience with administration, disdain for memoranda or the routine taking of carbon copies which were the price paid (usually by others) for his dazzling qualities of memory and insight. G.N. Burkhardt writes (op. cit. p.455): 'the backs of old envelopes covered with pluses, minuses and partial valencies and, later, arrows of all shapes became an important part of [Robinson's and Lapworth's] equipment'. J.C. Smith (op. cit. p.16) paints a similar picture: 'Around 1923-25 it was fascinating to listen to Robinson and Lapworth, in Manchester, instructing each other while scribbling formulae on cigarette papers'. A.C. Chibnall has recalled how Robinson solved a research problem for him over lunch by sketching a chemical structure on the restaurant tablecloth. For the later period of work at Oxford, Todd and Cornforth (Memoir, p.424) and J.C. Smith provide similar testimony to Robinson's volatile temperament and his sporadic bursts of research or instruction for his students.
These recollected incidents go some way to explain the haphazard nature of the surviving documents and the difficulty in interpreting and presenting them, most particularly the scientific research material which makes up Section B. While the cigarette papers and the tablecloth have disappeared, many loose jottings of ideas and structures remain without dates or references. Every effort has been made to assign this material to some identified field of study or period of time. In this regard, Sir John Cornforth has been exceptionally generous of his time and expertise and, by bringing his own skill and his long association with Robinson to bear on the most unpromising scraps of paper, he has often achieved remarkable feats of divination. As a result, the unattributed miscellaneous material still remaining at CSAC94.5.83/B.212-CSAC94.5.83/B.248 is surprisingly small.
Section B also preserves a number of theses and reports by others, mainly members of Robinson's research teams whose work is often annotated (however cryptically) by him. One of the most interesting items is CSAC94.5.83/B.34, a sequence of ideas on the possible structure of strychnine, tentatively dated 1945-47 by Sir John Cornforth, who describes it as 'the nearest you will get to Robert thinking'. To a later period belong two relatively extensive sequences of research and correspondence, on the origins of petroleum CSAC94.5.83/B.95-CSAC94.5.83/B.139) and on drug research (CSAC94.5.83/B. 170-CSAC94.5.83/B. 181) which indicate the energy Robinson could bring to bear on research problems even at an advanced age. For his dynamic early years, only the tantalisingly incomplete series of letters from Lapworth remains (CSAC94.5.83/D.38-CSAC94.5.83/D.43).
Another regretted lacuna is adequate documentation of Robinson's public life, service on committees, advisory councils, learned societies, and in the launching of new journals. Fortunately, some of his own assessment of his work in these and other fields can be gleaned from the autobiographical material in Sections A and E. This includes not only the background material and corrected proofs of the first, and only published, volume of his memoirs (CSAC94.5.83/A.25-CSAC94.5.83/A.28) but substantial typescript drafts of the second volume which was unfinished at his death together with narratives, correspondence and photographs sent to him by colleagues. Section E also includes tape-recordings of conversations with colleagues covering similar types of recollections.
It is well known that Robinson retained his activity of mind throughout his long life and despite the onset of blindness. As well as the memoirs, on which he was working to the day of his death, he was engaged in various other late writing projects, on chemistry and on chess. Some drafts for these can be found in Section C.