University of Manchester, Department of Physiology Archive

  • Reference
      GB 133 DPS
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      0.5 li.m.
  • Location
      Collection available at University Archive and Records Centre, main University Library.

Scope and Content

Fragmentary archive of the Department of Physiology. The archive does not contain copies of the minutes of the departmental board, 1973-1986, and it is not known whether this record is still extant. There is also no evidence that the files of successive heads of department have survived. In this case, information on the activities of the department might be traced through the records of the Faculty of Medicine and the Medical Section of Senate.

The archive does contain a complete set of the departmental bulletin (DPS/1) which was issued from 1980 to 1986, miscellaneous reports and accounts (DPS/2) and various routine financial records concerning the purchase of laboratory goods and equipment by the Department from the 1920s to the 1960s (DPS/3).

Administrative / Biographical History

The department of physiology was one of the largest and most important departments in the University's Faculty of Medicine, responsible for key parts of pre-clinical medical teaching. With precursors in the former Manchester Royal School of Medicine, the department was part of the original Owens College medical school, created from the amalgamation with the School in 1872-3.

The department was the beneficiary of the Brackenbury endowment, given by Miss Hannah Brackenbury, which supported the Brackenbury Chair of Physiology and Histology (the senior professorial chair in the department). Most, if not all, holders of the chair were medically qualified. Arthur Gamgee (1841-1909) was appointed as the first professor of physiology in 1875 [he had been lecturer between 1873-1875, in tandem with William Smith, who also taught physiology). Physiology was seen as important to the Medical School's research credentials, but in the event it proved difficult to build an effective research programme. Gamgee resigned his professorship in 1885, and was succeeded by William Stirling, who came from the University of Aberdeen. Stirling (1851-1932) proved an effective teacher and administrator, but published little and did little to advance the cause of research in the department. The Cambridge physiologist A V Hill (1886-1977) succeeded Stirling in 1920. Hill had a strong reputation for research in Cambridge, where he had specialised in biophysics, then a novel subject area. His tenure of the chair coincided with he award of the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1922 for his work of the production of heat and mechanical work in muscles. He left Manchester in 1923 for a post at UCL. Herbert Raper, professor from 1923 to 1946,was a leading biochemist, and developed the clinical research laboratory at the Manchester Royal Infirmary. In the psot-war period, the department was at the centre of efforts to build up the Medical School's research reputation. The professor during this period (1946-1965) was Walter Schlapp, noted for his work in cardiovascular and neuro-physiology, but who spent much of the later part of his career involved in administration.

John Mills, Brackenbury professor from 1966 until his death in 1977 was a noted researcher into human circadian rhythms. He was succeeded by Stanley Thomas, who had previously occupied the junior physiology chair. After Thomas retired, Maynard Case became head of department, and oversaw the department's incorporation into the School of Biological Sciences.

Physiology was taught not only to medical and dental students, but to those studying biochemistry, ophthalmics, pharmacy, psychology, speech therapy and nursing. The department also taught an honours degree in physiology. There was, in addition, a large postgraduate school In 1986, the department of physiology became part of a new department of physiological sciences within the School of Biological Sciences; this new department also included staff from pharmacology and zoology.

  • Arthur Gamgee, 1875-1885
  • William Stirling, 1886-1919
  • A V Hill, 1920-1923
  • Harry Raper, 1923-1946
  • Walter Schlapp, 1946-1965
  • John Mills, 1965-1977
  • Stanley Thomas, 1978-1981
  • Maynard Case, 1982-1986
. Professor Case then became head of department for physiological sciences in the new School of Biological Sciences.


Arranged into series: 

  • DPS/1 - Departmental Bulletins
  • DPS/2 - Annual reports and accounts
  • DPS/3 - Financial records
  • DPS/4 - Departmental brochures

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the UML to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Acquisition Information

The series DPS/2 and DPS/3 were formerly part of the Museum of Medicine and Health Collections, and were transferred to the Library in June 2016. These records had originally been transferred to the Museum in 1980 (Acc.1980.1-9). DPS/1 had been transferred to the University Archives with School of Biological Sciences records in September 2006.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.


Accruals possible, but not likely.

Related Material

Annual reports of the Department (to 1996) can be found in the Reports of Council to Court (UOP/2). The Faculty of Medicine archive (FME) has information on the development of the curriculum and syllabus from 1903 to 1986, and for the earlier period in the records of the Medical Section of Senate (OCA/12)

The Vice-Chancellor's files for the department: VCA/7/107/6, VCA/7/393 and VCA/7/932.

Geographical Names