Catalogue description Papers of William Thomas Astbury (1898 - 1961)

This record is held by Leeds University Library, Special Collections

Details of MS 419
Reference: MS 419
Title: Papers of William Thomas Astbury (1898 - 1961)

The collection illustrates all aspects of Astbury's activities, with the exception of his work at the Royal Institution and earliest work at Leeds. The bulk of the documents represent the extensive scientific correspondence which he conducted with individual colleagues and learned societies, especially 1940-1957. This was often single-handed in the absence of secretarial help, as the letters themselves make clear. No records can be traced for the following periods: 1947 (all); 1949 (January-July), but the surviving letters, research plans and progress reports help to document the rapid progress of research in protein structure and nucleic acids during and after the 1939-45 War.




A. Biographical & Personal Files 1 - 18


B. University of Leeds & Department Files 1 - 42


C. Notebooks & Slides Files 1 - 6


D. Lectures & Publications Files 1 - 58


E. Scientific Correspondence Files 1-212


F. Conferences Files 1- 15


G. Committees & Societies Files 1- 27

Date: 1914 - 1957

Astbury kept his correspondence in large 'A.B.C.' files each covering roughly one year. The letters were usually arranged in alphabetical order by name of correspondent, but there were no personal or subject files, or cross-references, and the system itself was far from consistent and proved impossible to retain. All the documents have been re-sorted and assigned either to categories (e.g. Section B. Leeds University, Section D. Publications, Section F. Conferences), industrial firms, or individual correspondent. The scientific correspondence in Section E is presented in alphabetical order, with dates: see note on p.16.

Related material:

Some scientific correspondence exchanged with Astbury 1933-40 remains in the personal papers of Professor C.D. Darlington FRS.

Held by: Leeds University Library, Special Collections, not available at The National Archives
Legal status: Not Public Record(s)
Language: English

Astbury, William Thomas, 1898-1961, scientist and molecular biologist

Physical description: 7 series, 378 files
Physical condition: All items are manuscript unless otherwise indicated.
Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were received from Mr. W.F. Astbury (son), Fru M.M. Persson (daughter), and the Astbury Department of Biophysics, University of Leeds. Dr. Thomas Lonsdale has also contributed his recollections of Astbury's early work, and a photograph (Item A.6).

Publication note:

A full list of Astbury's honours and awards may be found in the Memoir by J.D. Bernal, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, Vol.9, 1963, p.26.

  • Molecular biology
Administrative / biographical background:

b.1898 Longton, Stoke-on-Trent


educ. Longton High School


1917, 1919-21 Jesus College, Cambridge


1921-23 Demonstrator in Physics, University College, London, and Assistant to Sir William Bragg


1922 married Frances Gould


1923-28 Assistant to Sir William Bragg, Davy-Faraday Laboratory, Royal Institution, London


1928-37 Lecturer in Textile Physics, University of Leeds


1937-45 Reader in Textile Physics, University of Leeds


1940 Elected to Royal Society


1945-61 Professor of Biomolecular Structure and Hon. Reader in Textile Physics, University of Leeds

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