Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company: Records and Papers

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 12 MS.CSIC
  • Dates of Creation
      c. 1873-1971
  • Name of Creator
  • Physical Description
      248 boxes, 104 photograph albums, 70 envelopes of negatives, 54 volumes, 44 photograph enlargements, 23 pamphlets, 9 files, 2 envelopes and 1 framed photograph

Scope and Content

The collection contains a wide range of material relating to the development and work of the company. The papers include bound volumes of the company's catalogues and early price lists, 1882-1953; a large number of manufacturing drawings, with many assembly drawings, for the company's products, c. 1890-1970; a notebook of Horace Darwin, with entries for 1873-1890; two press-copy letter-books of Horace Darwin, c. 1877-1883, and four of the company's press-copy letter-books of the 1880s; one sales order book and two cash books of the 1880s; the 1895 articles of association and directors' agenda books of 1895-1906; early minute books of the Social Club and Benefit Fund; copies of the board minutes, accounts and other papers of the American associate company; a large collection of operating instructions and repair manuals for the company's instruments; comprehensive notes of important items in the Board Room minutes for 1895 to the 1960s compiled by A.F. Wolfe, c. 1962, the original minutes being lost; Paul Trust minutes, extracts, correspondence and administrative papers, 1952-1967; George Kent files, 1967-1971; papers relating to the company's Stereoscan, Geoscan and microanalyser, c. 1961-1969; overseas files; press cuttings; test results; and many miscellaneous documents, including patents, memoranda and letters, c. 1890-1970. The collection also includes around 10,000 photographic negatives, with album prints, c. 1900-1970, of people, buildings and instruments.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company was founded in 1878 by two Cambridge graduates, Albert Dew-Smith and Horace Darwin, to meet the need for new types of instrument for laboratory work in Cambridge University, especially instruments for physiology and physics. The company was based initially in Panton Street, before moving to St Tibbs Row in 1882. It became a limited liability company in 1895, following the move to larger premises in Carlyle Road. On taking over the R.W. Paul Instrument Company of Muswell Hill, London, in 1920, the firm became the Cambridge and Paul Instrument Company Ltd. It changed to the Cambridge Instrument Company Ltd in 1924, when it became a public company. In 1968, the firm merged with George Kent Ltd. The merger signalled the end of the company in its original form. It was reorganised into four divisions, and these were eventually sold off separately.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room. Part of the collection is uncatalogued and closed to readers.

Acquisition Information

Two large deposits of material were received from Dr E.D. Barlow in 1980 and 1982. Additional material was deposited by D.J. Unwin around 1987, and by Mr M. Snelling in 1995.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, with reference to M.J.G. Cattermole and A.F. Wolfe, Horace Darwin's shop: a history of the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company, 1878 to 1968 (Bristol, 1987).

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue of the collection is available in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Related Material

Cambridgeshire County Record Office, Shire Hall, holds the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company Archive, comprising a Trade School log book, 1917-1921; operating instructions for instruments, 1900-1970; a catalogues of gas analysers, 1958-1980; circuit/writing diagrams of indicators, recorders and gas analysers, c. 1935-1970; laboratory notebooks, c. 1922-1974; and floor plans of the Rosemary Lane factory, c. 1979.

The Whipple Museum of the History of Science has a collection of the company's instruments, c. 1883-1966; serial number record books, 1907-1957; and 42 bound volumes of pamphlets on scientific and engineering topics collected by Horace Darwin and Robert Whipple, with a view to them being relevant to the company's products.