Papers and correspondence of Frederick Soddy, 1877-1956

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers contain biographical material including appointments, travel journals, and press-cuttings. There are notebooks, 1894-1956, which provide a record of his scientific activities including his work with Rutherford and Ramsay, his researches at Glasgow, Aberdeen and Oxford, and his interest in mathematics. There are lectures, articles and addresses, 1895-1954, and papers and patents relating to Soddy's work for the Board of Invention during the First World War. There is also scientific correspondence, 1905-1953.

Administrative / Biographical History

Soddy was born in Eastbourne and educated at Eastbourne College, University College of Wales, Aberystwyth and Merton College, Oxford, graduating first class in the Honours School of Natural Sciences in 1898. He was as a Demonstrator at McGill University, Montreal, 1900-1903, working with Rutherford on atomic disintegration theory and then returned to Britain to work with W. Ramsay at University College, London, 1903-1904. He moved to Glasgow University as Lecturer in Physical Chemistry and Radioactivity, 1904-1914, where he worked on isotopes and the displacement law of relativity. He became Professor of Chemistry at Aberdeen University, 1914-1919, and in 1919 moved to Oxford University as Dr. Lee's Professor of Chemistry. He resigned his Chair on the death of his wife in 1936. Soddy was among the first to be aware of the social and economic implications of atomic energy. He wrote and lectured widely on these subjects and endeavoured to promote organisations to diffuse them. He became increasingly interested in mathematical problems both before and during his retirement, and attached great importance to them. Soddy was elected FRS in 1910, and awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1921 for his work on the chemistry of radioactive substances and on the origin and nature of isotopes.


By section as follows: Biographical, Material collected by M. Haworth, Printed material, Laboratory notebooks, Lectures etc, Papers re Soddy's work in Aberdeen, Work on mathematical problems, Publications, Notebooks and working papers, Correspondence. Index of correspondents.

Conditions Governing Access

Entry permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card or an Oxford University Card displaying the Bodleian logo. All applicants for new or replacement cards must apply in person, with a recommendation and payment if required, and with proof of their identity.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Frederick Soddy (1877-1956) by J. Alton and H. Weiskittel, CSAC catalogue no. 14/8/74, 29 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Separated Material

There is some further manuscript material, which is enumerated in the catalogue, in the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford. The museum also hold slides prepared for Soddy's chemical lectures, parts of Soddy's machine for solving cubic equations with three real roots, and a model of an unconventional internal combustion engine incorporating an unusual mechanical linkage which was designed by Soddy and made by F.J. March, Chief Mechanic, Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory, in the late 1920s.

Additional notebooks from the Glasgow period are held in Glasgow University Archives.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1973 by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre from the Bodleian Library, Oxford and the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory, Oxford. Placed in the Bodleian Library (gift) in 1974.