Papers and correspondence of John William Sutton Pringle, 1912-1982

Scope and Content

The papers are almost exclusively concerned with Pringle's scientific career and include virtually no documentation of his unusually wide range of outside interests. There is a full record of his research notebooks and notes, 1934-1982, of teaching and administration at Cambridge and Oxford, and of lectures and publications, 1949-1982. There is a full account of the protracted struggles over the siting and design of the new Zoology Department at Oxford; many of the files were prepared by Pringle himself and reflect his own awareness of the historical value of the material. Pringle's interest in science in the Third World is shown by the full record of his involvement with the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) at Nairobi, where he was a member of the Governing Board from 1972 (Chairman from 1973) to 1978 and a director of a major project from 1973.

The supplementary papers provide additional material relating to Pringle's career at Oxford: negotiations relating to the offer to Pringle of the Linacre Chair of Zoology, his involvement in the establishment of the multidisciplinary School of Human Sciences, and service on committees.

Administrative / Biographical History

Pringle was born in Manchester and educated at Winchester College and King's College, Cambridge where he took first class degrees in both parts of the Natural Sciences Tripos. His research career began in 1934 and he was University Demonstrator in Zoology, 1937-1938, and Fellow of King's College, 1938-1944. After war service on airborne radar with the Telecommunications Research Establishment and later with the Ministry of Transport he returned to Cambridge as lecturer in the Department of Zoology and Fellow of Peterhouse. In 1959 he was appointed Reader in Experimental Cytology. In these years much of his most important research, on the physiology of cicada song, proprioception in insects, and insect flight muscle, was conducted.

In June 1961 Pringle accepted the Linacre Chair of Zoology at Oxford where he remained for the rest of his career. His period at Oxford was marked by many achievements such as the building of a large new laboratory housing the Departments of Zoology and Experimental Psychology and the subdepartment of Molecular Biophysics, a major contribution to the new Honour School of Human Sciences and the establishment of his own Agricultural Research Council unit for research in muscle biophysics and insect physiology. From the late 1960s he also developed an active interest in the problems of science in developing countries, and he was especially involved with various research institutes and universities in East Africa. He was elected FRS in 1954 (Croonian Lecture 1977).


By section as follows: Biographical and personal, Cambridge, Oxford, Research, Lectures and publications, Science in the Third World, Societies and organisations, Visits and conferences, Correspondence, Bibliography. Index of correspondents.

Access Information

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Some items not available for 30 years from date of writing.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of John William Sutton Pringle: CSAC catalogue no. 117/8/86, 136 pp and NCUACS catalogue no. 21/6/90, 19 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Custodial History

Original material received for cataloguing in 1986 by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre from the Zoology Department, Oxford. Placed in Bodleian Library (gift) in 1986.

Supplementary material received for cataloguing in 1989-1990 by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists from various sources. Placed in Bodleian Library (gift) in 1990.