Catalogue description Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of JOHN WILLIAM SUTTON PRINGLE FRS (1912 - 1982)

This record is held by Oxford University: Bodleian Library, Special Collections

Details of CSAC 117.8.86
Reference: CSAC 117.8.86
Title: Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of JOHN WILLIAM SUTTON PRINGLE FRS (1912 - 1982)







C.1 -C.26 Lectures & teaching material


C.27-C.50 ARC Unit of Muscle Biophysics and Insect Physiology


C.51-C.184 New Zoology Laboratory






E.1 -E.97 Lectures


E.98-E.127 Publications


E.128-E.131 Book reviews


E.132-E.144 Correspondence with publishers and editors




F.1 -F.239A International Centre for Insect Physiology & Ecology (ICIPE)


F.240-F.262 Serengeti Research Institute (SRI)








The material is presented in the order shown in the List of Contents. Additional explanatory notes accompany many of the Sections, sub-sections and individual entries in the body of the catalogue. The following paragraphs aim only to draw attention to matters of particular substance or interest.


The surviving collection is almost exclusively concerned with Pringle's scientific career, and includes almost no documentation for his unusually wide range of outside interests. His university teaching and administration at Cambridge and Oxford are well documented in Sections B and C respectively. Section C is particularly rich in its full account of the protracted struggles over the siting and design of the new Zoology department; many of the files were prepared by Pringle himself and reflect his own awareness of the historical interest of the documents. There is also material here relating to the ARC unit of which Pringle was Honorary Director and which was the focus of his principal research interest on insect flight muscle, including research notes, ideas for seminars, and the 'internal memoranda' circulated by the team. Regrettably, there is no surviving material here for Pringle's active contribution to the establishment of the multi-disciplinary Honour School of Human Sciences at Oxford.


The development of Pringle's research is well illustrated by the notebooks, notes and correspondence assembled in Section D, covering the long span 1934-82 (as well as an even earlier school exercise-book of 1928). They include his early 1934 expedition to the Atlas Mountains, his important 1953 expedition to Ceylon to study cicada song, drafts for lectures and publications, notes of discussions with colleagues, talks at conferences and the like.


Section E brings together drafts and scripts for lectures and publications covering a period of over thirty years, 1949-82, and also including a talk given as an undergraduate to the Cambridge University Natural Science Club.


Section F, Science in the Third World, is of interest for its full record of Pringle's involvement with the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) at Nairobi, especially as a member of the Governing Board from 1972 (Chairman 1973) to 1978, and a director of research on a major project from 1973. Here too Pringle's sense of history prompted him to assemble his own file of 'early history' as well as a full general record.


Sections G and H are relatively slight and probably do not reflect Pringle's participation in learned societies or symposia. Similarly, Section J, Correspondence, is chiefly of interest for its documentation of the careers of many of the members of the ARC unit at Oxford.


Drafts for published work found in all Sections of the collection have been linked wherever possible to the Bibliography compiled for the Royal Society Memoir and appear in the form (Bibliog. ...). A copy of the Bibliography is reproduced with permission on pp.119-121.


Items at E.101, E.110, E.111 represent material published or intended for publication which is not listed in the Bibliography.


Compiled by: Jeannine Alton


Peter Harper


Margaret Erskine


The work of the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre, and the production of this catalogue, are made possible by the support of the following societies and institutions:


The Biochemical Society


The Charles Babbage Foundation for the History of Information Processing


The Institute of Physics


The Institution of Electrical Engineers


The Institution of Mechanical Engineers


The Nuffield Foundation


The Rhodes Trustees


The Royal Society of London


The Wolfson Foundation




We are grateful to all those who helped to assemble material for the collection, and especially to Dr. Belinda Bullard for advice, information and encouragement over. a period of several years.


We are grateful to Dr. C.E. Phelps and Dr. R.H. Abbott for help in identifying some of the material.

Date: 1928-1983
Held by: Oxford University: Bodleian Library, Special Collections, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Sutton, John William, 1912-1982, scientist and zoologist

Physical description: 90 boxes
Access conditions:








Immediate source of acquisition:

Most of the material was received from the Department of Zoology, Oxford, by courtesy of Professor Sir Richard Southwood and Mr. K. Marsland.


The obituary by Nigel Pringle (nephew) from Sailplane and Gliding included in A.1 was received from Mrs. Beatrice Pringle. Published papers relating to Pringle's work included at C.43 were made available by Dr. R.H. Abbott. The correspondence on research specimens at C.45-C.47 was given by Dr. Belinda Bullard.


The material relating to the Oxford Department of Zoology referred to in the Memoir of Pringle by V.B. Wigglesworth (Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 29, 1983, 532) as 'deposited in the University Archives' was withdrawn and is now incorporated in the present collection at C.51-C.184.

Publication note:



Reproduced with permission from Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 29, 1983, 549-551.


1938a Proprioception in insects, I. A new type of mechanical receptor from the pulps of the cockroach. J. exp. Biol. 15, 101-113.


1938b Proprioception in insects, II. The action of the campaniferm sensilla on the legs. J. exp. Biol. 15, 114-131.


1938c Proprioception in insects, III. The function of the best sensilla at the joints. J. exp. Biol. 15, 467-473.


1938d (With G. FRAENKEL) Halteres of flies as gyroscopic organs of equilibrium. Nature, Lond. 141, 919-921.


1939 The motor mechanism of the insect leg. J. exp. Biol. 16, 220-231.


1940 The reflex mechanism of the insect leg. J. exp. Biol. 13, 8-17.


1948 The Myroscopic mechanism of the haltrfes of Diptera. Phd. Trans, R. Soc. Lond. B.233, 347-384.


1949 The excitation and contraction of the flight muscles of insects. J. Physiol., Lond. 108, 226-232.


1950a The flight of insects. Sch. Sci. Rev. 31, 364-369.


1950b The instrumentation of the living body, Penguin Sci. News 17, 100-114.


1951 On the parallel between learning and evolution. Behaviour 3, 174-215.


1952 (With V.J. WILSON) The response of a sense organ to a harmonic stimulus. J. exp. Biol. 29, 220-234.


1953a The origin of life. Symp. Soc. exp. Biol. 7, 1-21.


1953b Physiology of song in cieadas. Nature, Lond. 172, 248-249.


1954a The evolution of living matter. New Biol 16, 34-67.


1954b The mechanism of the myogenic rhythm of certain insect striated muscles. J. Physiol., Lond. 124, 269-291.


1954c A physiological analysis of cicada song. J. exp. Biol. 31, 523-560.


1955a The function of the lyriform organs of Arachnids. J. exp. Biol. 32, 270-278.


1955b The songs and habits of Ceylon cicadas, with a description of two new species. Spolia zeylan. 27, 229-238.


1955c L'evolution de la matiere vivante. In Car discussion sur l'origine de la vie. Paris: L'Union Rationaliste.


1956a Insect song. Endeavour 15. 68-72.


1956b The physiology of insect song. Acta physiol. pharmac. neerl. 5. 88-97.


1956c Proprioception in Limulus. J. exp. Biol. 33, 658-667.


1956d The origin of life. Eauropean Service Broadcast, B.B.C., 14 August.


1957a Myogenic rhythms. In Recent advances in invertebrate physiology (ed. B. T. Scheer), pp. 99-115. University of Oregon Publications.


1957b The structure and evolution of the organs of sound production in cicadas. Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. 167, 144-159.


1957c Insect flight. Cambridge University Press.


1958 Static sense of Calliphere and the physical stabilizing effect of the halteres. Nature, Lond. 181, 1353-1356. (Answer to Dr G. Schneider.)


1959a (With F.W. DARWIN) The physiology of insect fibrillar muscle, I. Anatomy and innervation of the basalar muscle of lamellicorn beetles. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 151, 194-203.


1959b (With K. E. MACHIN) The physiology of insect fibrillar muscle, II. Mechanical properties of a beetle flight muscle. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 151, 204-225.


1960a (With K. E. MACHIN) The physiology of insect fibrillar muscle, III. The effect of sinusoidal change of length on a beetle flight muscle. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 152, 311-330.


1960b Models of muscle. Symp. Soc. exp. Biol. 14, 41-68.


1961a Proprioception in arthropods. In The cell and the organism (ed. J. A. Ramsay & V. B. Wigglesworth), pp. 236-282, Cambridge University Press.


1961b The function of the direct flight muscles in the bee. In XI Int. Congr. Ent., Vienna, 1960, vol. 1, p. 660 (with 16 mm film).


1961c The evolution of muscle. In Problems of the evolution of function and enzymochemistry of excitation processes, pp. 270-280. Moscow: Publ. U.S.S.R. Acad. Sci. [In Russian.]


1961d The flight of the bumblebee. Nat. Hist., N Y., August-September, pp. 21-29.


1962a (With K. E. MACHIN & M. TAMASIGE) The physiology of insect fibrillar muscle. IV. The effect of temperature on a beetle flight muscle. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 155, 493-499.


1962b A preliminary classification of cicada songs. In XI Int. Congr. Ent., Vienna, 1960, vol. 2 (with tape).


1962c Prologue: the input element. Symp. Soc. exp. Biol. 16, 1-11.


1962d Possible changes in the teaching of zoology at universities. J. Inst. Biol. 9, 77-78.


1963a Proprioceptive background to mechanisms of orientation. Ergebn. Biol. 26, 1-10.


1963b The two biologies. Inaugural lecture, 24 October. Oxford.


1963c Biology at Oxford. Sch. Sci. Rev. 154, 1-2.


1963d Physiologie du muscle de vol chez les insectes. Actualités neurophysiol. (5th series), pp. 123-136.


1964a (With D. LESTON) Acoustical behaviour of Hemiptera. In Acoustic behaviour of animals (ed. R.-G. Busnel), pp. 391-411. Elsevier.


1964b (With D. LESTON) Addendum of chapter 14 [1964a]. In Acoustic behaviour of animals (ed. R.-G. Busnel). pp. 798-799. Elsevier.


1964c Input and output elements of behavioral models. In Neural theory and modelling (ed. R. F. Reiss), pp. 31-42. Stanford University Press.


1964d (With B. R. JEWELL & J. C. RÜEGG) Oscillatory contraction of insect fibrillar muscle after glycerol extraction. J. Physiol., Lond. 173, 6-8.


1964e (With B. R. JEWELL & J. C. RÜEGG) Langdaurernde Oscillation der fibrillären Flugmuskeln von Insekten nach Extraction mit Wasser-Glycerin. Pfiügers Arch. ges. Physiol. 281, 47-48.


1964f The evolution of muscle. In Essays on physiological evolution (ed. J. W. S. Pringle), pp. 243-252. Pergamon Press. [Translation from Russian of 1961c.]


1964g Can there be a scientific study of man and society? Special Lecture, Oxford, 13 October.


1965a (With S. B. BARBER) The functional organisation of the flight system in Belostomatid bugs (Heteroptera). In Proc. XII Int. Congr. Ent., 1964, pp. 185-186.


1965b Locomotion: flight. In The physiology of insects (ed. M. Rockstein), vol. 2, pp. 283-329. Academic Press.


1965c (With D. LESTON & D. C. S. WHITE) Muscular activity during preparation for flight in a beetle. J. exp. Biol. 42, 409-414.


1965d Biological responsibility in a technological society. Biology hum. Affairs 30, no. 3.


1965e Research on muscular contraction at the Department of Zoology, Oxford. (Scientific Memo no. 34 of Information Exchange Group no. 4.)


1965f (editor) Essays on physiological evolution. Pergamon Press. (Based on a book published in Moscow in 1961 in memory of K. S. Koshtoyants.)


1966a (With S. B. BARBER) Functional aspects of flight in belostomatid bugs (Heteroptera). Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 164, 21-39.


1966b The treasure-house of nature. Adv. Sci. 23, 297-304. (Presidential address to section D of the British Association, Nottingham, September.)


1967a The contractile mechanism of insect fibrillar muscle. In Progress in biophysics and molecular biology (ed. J. A. V. Butler & H. E. Huxley), vol. 17, pp. 3-60. Pergamon Press.


1967b (With K. MARUYAMA) The effect of ADP on the ATPase activity of insect actomyosin at low ionic strength. Archs Biochem. Biophys. 120, 225-226.


1967c Evidence from insect fibrillar muscle about the elementary contractile process. J. gen. Physiol. 50, 139-156.


1968a Richard Julius Pumphrey. Biogr. Mem. Fell. R. Soc. Lond. 14, 435-442.


1968b (With K. MARUYAMA & R. T. TREGEAR) The calcium sensitivity of ATPase activity of myofibrils and actomyosins from insect flight and leg muscles. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 169, 229-240.


1968c Comparative physiology of the flight motor. Adv. Insect Physiol. 5, 163-227.


1968d Mechano-chemical transformation in striated muscle. Symp. Soc. exp. Biol. 22, 67-78.


1969 (With R. T. TREGEAR) Mechanical properties of insect fibrillar muscle at large amplitudes of oscillation. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 174, 33-50.


1970 Biology as a human science. Biologist 17, 204-207.


1972a A vision of man (12th Darwin Lecture), Biologist 19, 223-237.


1972b Arthropod muscle. In The structure and function of muscle (ed. G. H. Bourne), pp. 491-541. Academic Press.


1972c (editor) Biology and the human sciences (The Herbert Spencer Lectures, 1970). Oxford: Clarendon Press.


1972d 3rd Session of Oxford discussions on higher education. Minerva 10, 303-308.


1974a Locomotion: flight. In The physiology of insects, 2nd ed. (ed. M. Rockstein), vol. 3, pp. 433-476. Academic Press.


1974b The resting elasticity of insect flight muscle. Symp. biol. hung. 17, 67-78.


1974c Singing muscles in a katydid. Nature, Lond. 250, 442.


1975a Insect flight. Oxford Biology Reader no. 52. Oxford University Press.


1975b Insect fibrillar muscle and the problem of contractility. In Comparative physiology-functional aspects of structural materials (ed. L. Bolis, H. P. Maddrell & K. Schmidt-Nielsen), pp. 139-152. North-Holland.


1975c Effects of World War II on the development of knowledge in the biological sciences. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A 342, 537-548.


1976a Obituary. The research work of Torkel Weiss-Fogh. Trends Biochem. Sci. 1, 38-39.


1976b The muscles and sense organs involved in insect flight. Symp. R. Ent. Soc. 7, 3-15.


1976c The flight of the bee. Central Association of Beekeepers, & Gloucester Gardens, Ilford, Essex, England. (Gooding Lecture.)


1976d The mechanism of knowledge: limits to prediction. In Proc. 5th Int. Conf. Unity Sci., Washington, D.C., vol. 2, pp. 961-980. New York International Cultural Foundation.


1977a The mechanical characteristics of insect fibrillar muscle. In Insect flight muscle (ed. R. T. Tregear), pp. 177-196, North-Holland.


1977b The availability of insect fibrillar muscle. In Insect flight muscle (ed. R. T. Tregear), pp. 337-344. North Holland.


1977c Hard reason and deep humanity. Nature, Lond. 265, 477. (Review of book by V. B. Wigglesworth.)


1978 Croonian Lecture, 1977. Stretch activation of muscle: function and mechanism. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 201, 107-130.


1979 Le vol des insectes. Probio-Revne, vol. 2, pp. 283-298. Association Francophone des Professeurs de Biologie de Belgique.


1980 Science of a pest: research on the African armyworm at the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Nairobi. In Insect biology in the future (ed. M. Locke & D. S. Smith), pp. 925-943. Academic Press.


1981a A review of arthropod muscle. In Development and specialisation of muscle (ed. D. F. Goldspink), pp. 91-105. Cambridge University Press.


1981b (With B. BULLARD & G. SAINSBURY) Localization of a new protein in the Z-discs of insect flight and vertebrate striated muscle. J. Physiol., Lond. 317, 19-20.


1981c Review of Reflections on muscle by Sir Andrew Huxley. J. Muscle Res. Cell Motil, 2, 469-470.


1981d The evolution of fibrillar muscle in insects. (Bidder Lecture, 1980.) J. exp. Biol. 94, 1-44.


1982a Le vol des insectes. La Recherche, no. 130. Fevrier, pp. 158-168.


1982b Chairman of symposium Population and values. International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences, Miami Beech, November 1980.

Administrative / biographical background:



Pringle was a scholar of Winchester and later of King's College, Cambridge, where he took first-class degrees in both parts of the Natural Sciences Tripos. His research career began in Cambridge in 1934 and he was University Demonstrator in Zoology 1937-38 and Fellow of King's 1938-44. After war service on airborne radar with the Telecommunications Research Establishment (T.R.E.) and later with the Ministry of Transport, Pringle returned to Cambridge as lecturer in the Department of Zoology and Fellow of Peterhouse. Much of his most important research, on the physiology of cicada song, proprioception in insects, and insect flight muscle was conducted in the Cambridge years to 1961. To this period also belong Pringle's marriage (1946), his many college duties at Peterhouse, his election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society (1954) and his appointment as Reader in Experimental Cytology (1959).


In June 1961 Pringle accepted the Linacre Chair of Zoology which had been offered to him in December 1960, and moved to Oxford where he remained for the rest of his life. His period at Oxford, though not always smooth, was marked by notable achievements such as the building of a large new laboratory housing the Departments of Zoology and Experimental Psychology and the subdepartment of Molecular Biophysics, a major contribution to the founding in 1970 of the new Honour School of Human Sciences and the establishment of his own ARC unit for research in muscle biophysics and insect physiology. From the late 1960s he also developed on active interest in the problems of science in developing countries, and he was especially involved with various research institutes and universities in East Africa.


Pringle retired as Linacre Professor in 1979 and died in 1982.


A fuller account of Pringle's career and research can be found in the Memoir by V.B. Wigglesworth in the Royal Society series, 1983, which has been drawn upon in compiling some of the entries and is referred to in the form (Memoir, p...).

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