The material in this collection covers the period 1938-1999. It is presented in six sections in the order given in the list of contents.
Section A, Biographical, presents documentation of Porter's career, honours and awards from 1955 to 1992 including his appointment as Director of the Royal Institution in 1966 and the award of the Nobel Prize in 1967. Presented here are papers relating to his Nobel Lecture and the 1986 meeting held in Porter's honour at the Royal Institution: 'Flash Photolysis and its Applications'.
Section B, Research, documents Porter's research from his return to academic life at Cambridge after the Second World War. There are notes, drafts and data which are particularly useful for the periods at Cambridge and Sheffield, a good record of the funding of Porter's research arranged alphabetically by funding body which covers the period, 1955-1987 and correspondence with suppliers of research equipment, 1955-1979. A miscellaneous group of papers is presented under the subheading 'Davy Faraday Research Laboratory' including papers relating to the Laboratory's collaboration with the University of London. The section also includes records of the Photochemistry Discussion Group whose meetings were held at the Royal Institution and of patents which arose from research at the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory.
Section C, Royal Institution, is by far the most substantial in the collection. A major component of the section documents the Director's involvement in the administration of the Royal Institution including questions of organisation, finance and funding, membership, and building and maintenance. Likewise, there is a significant record of the organisation of the events for which the Royal Institution is famous, most notably the Discourses and the Christmas Lectures. There is, for example, the Director's correspondence with Discourse Lectures arranged alphabetically by lecturer, 'Discourse invitations declined', 'Discourses: suggested lecturers and topics', 'Discourse statistics' and Discourse dinner party records, and a chronological sequence of correspondence with lecturers about their Christmas Lectures. The controversy surrounding the Discourse and Christmas Lectures of E.R. Laithwaite, 1974-1975 is well documented. Another interesting component of the section relates to the history of the Royal Institution, its library and archives and the development of the academic study of the history of science there.
Section D, Lectures, broadcasts and publications, documents Porter's role as a scientific communicator. The bulk of the papers are Porter's drafts presented in two sequences, chronological, 1955-1988 and an alphabetical sequence by folder title or topic which covers a similar time span. There are drafts of lectures Porter gave at a variety of Royal Institution occasions such as Schools Lectures, Discourses and Christmas Lectures and research lectures in the area of photochemistry. There is correspondence relating to lectures, broadcasts and publications including invitations to lecture, correspondence on BBC radio and television programmes and correspondence with journals reflecting Porter's editorial or advisory role. Also presented in this section are records of Porter's university teaching at Cambridge and Sheffield and his work with the Open University. For convenience notes taken by Porter as a student at Leeds and Cambridge are included here.
Section E, Societies, organisations and consultancies, presents records of Porter's association with eighty-one British and international organisations. In some cases documentation is slight, relating only to membership of foreign academies but in other cases where Porter held positions of leadership, for example, the Chemical Society, there is a fuller record. A particular feature of the section is the number of organisations related to some aspect of science education and popularisation including the Association for Science Education, the Bristol Exploratory and the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The Royal Society is principally represented by discussion meetings of which Porter was an organiser on a number of occasions and the Paul Instrument Fund. Commercial organisations with which he had consultancy arrangements include, in the USA, the General Electric Research and Development Center and Energy Conversion Devices Inc.
Section F, Correspondence, presents a number of sequences of Porter's correspondence of which the most substantial is the contents of Porter's 'Miscellaneous Correspondence' files. These were arranged alphabetically by correspondent and almost all date from the period of Porter's Directorship of the Royal Institution. In addition there are sequences of 'Early Scientific Correspondence'. 'Miscellaneous Correspondence' presented chronologically, 1966-1987 and groups of correspondence kept together by Porter relating to 'Soviet Scientists', 1970-1987 and 'Japanese Scientists', 1973-1985. The 'Soviet Scientists' sequence concerns the efforts by Western scientists to help dissident scientists in the Soviet Union.