Collection of Correspondence of John Scott Haldane (1860-1936)

Scope and Content

The collection consists of over two dozen letters from Haldane to James Thomas Wilson (1861-1945), Professor of Anatomy at Cambridge University.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Scott Haldane was born in Edinburgh in 1860. He was the brother of statesman Richard Burdon Haldane (1856-1928), Viscount Haldane, and the father of both geneticist John Burdon Sanderson Haldane (1892-1964) and writer Naomi Mitchison (1897-1999). Haldane was educated at Edinburgh Academy and then studied medicine at Edinburgh University and in Jena, Germany. He graduated in 1884 and took up a position at Queen's College, Dundee, before becoming a Demonstrator in Physiology at Oxford University in 1887. There he lectured and researched in medicine, and became Reader in 1907. In 1905 he established that it was the high concentration of carbon dioxide in blood, not low concentrations of oxygen, which regulated the breathing rate, and in 1907 he developed stage decompression for bringing deep-divers to the surface, thus avoiding 'the bends'. During the First World War he worked on the identification of war-gases, and when he was Director of the Mining Research Laboratory in Doncaster (1912-1936) he improved mine-safety. He demonstrated the toxic effects of carbon monoxide and the use of rescue equipment, including the development of the Haldane Equaliser Device. John Scott Haldane died in March 1936 after research in Iran (then Persia) into heat stroke among oil workers.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Letters acquired from Dr. J. M. G. Wilson, April 1998, Accession no. E98.21.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) The dictionary of national biography. The concise dictionary. Part 2. 1901-1970. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982. (2) Who was who 1929-1940. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1941.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: papers, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD433 NRA 10026 Balfour; miscellaneous correspondence, Medical Research Council; letters to Lord Haldane, 1877-1923, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. MSS 5901-6078, and correspondence and papers, 1878-1936, Ref. MSS 20231-39, 20510-33, 20656-60; Ch 15513-21; correspondence with A. V. Hill, 1912-1930, Cambridge University, Churchill Archives Centre, Ref. AVHL NRA 28116 Hill; and, correspondence and papers, circa 1879-1935, University of British Columbia, Woodward, Biomedical Library, NRA 14062 Sinclair.