Ramsay Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

On the death of Lady Ramsay in 1937, Ramsay's daughter, Lady Tidy, asked Professor M W Travers to sort out the large collection of papers relating to her father which her mother had left. Travers added to these papers others which he had collected himself, and had them all bound up into 24 volumes, adding introductions and explanatory notes. The collection therefore contains correspondence and papers of Sir William Ramsay and of Morris W. Travers. The bound volumes contain letters to Ramsay, chronologically arranged by Travers, and copies of related printed papers. The remaining Ramsay papers are grouped according to their contents: laboratory notebooks, lecture notes, miscellaneous papers and published works. Professor Travers grouped Ramsay's published scientific papers into ten 'volumes'.

Travers's own papers are divided into two main sections: firstly papers relating to his work on Ramsay including various papers having some bearing on Ramsay's work. There is also material concerning his arrangement of the Ramsay papers. Secondly there are papers relating to Travers' own career, including papers on awards and distinctions; scrapbooks and miscellaneous material.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Ramsay studied at Glasgow University from 1866 to 1869. In 1870 he went to Heidelberg intending to study under RW von Bunsen, but early in 1871 moved to Rudolf Fittig's laboratory in Tubingen, where he was awarded a PhD for research on Toluic and nitro-toluic acids. In 1872 Ramsay returned to Glasgow as an Assistant in Young's laboratory of technical chemistry. In 1880 he became Professor of Chemistry at University College Bristol and in the following year he was made Principal of the University. He married Margaret Buchanan in 1881. In 1887 Ramsay succeeded Alexander William Williamson in the Chair of General Chemistry, University College London, which he held until his retirement in 1912. Ramsay discovered argon in 1894, helium in 1895 and krypton, neon and xenon (with Morris W. Travers) in 1898. In 1900 he visited India to report on the proposed Indian University of Research . He worked with Dr Frederick Soddy on radium in 1903 and with Robert Whytlaw-Gray on radon 1909-1912.

Morris W. Travers was a demonstrator at University College London from 1894 (Assistant Professor from 1898). He assisted Ramsay in experiments on argon, and collaborated with him in work on krypton, neon and xenon. In 1904 Travers was appointed Professor of Chemistry at University College Bristol. From 1907 to 1914 he was Director of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. In 1927 he became Honorary Professor, Fellow and Nash lecturer in chemistry at Bristol. He became President of the Faraday Society in 1936, and in 1937 he retired from Bristol University. Morris W. Travers was Ramsay's biographer who wrote Life of Sir William Ramsay which was published in London in 1956.

Conditions Governing Access

Accessible to all registered researchers

Acquisition Information

Presented to University College London by Lady Tidy and Professor M W Travers 1957 and by Mrs Travers in 1964.

Other Finding Aids

Handlist and name index