Nigel Calder Archive

Scope and Content

Papers created by or collected by the science writer and communicator Nigel Calder, c. 1969-2006. The collection notably includes manuscripts of both published and unpublished works; scripts for television productions; promotional material; notebooks and notes; correspondence, including personal correspondence with eminent scientists and science writers; and press cuttings.

Administrative / Biographical History

Nigel Calder was born on 2 December 1931 in London, the eldest son of Mabel Jane Forbes McKail and Lord Peter Ritchie Calder. His father was an author and science editor for the News Chronicle, a British daily newspaper which ceased publication in 1960. Calder had four siblings including historian Angus Calder, mathematician Allan Calder and educationist Isla Calder. He was educated at the Merchant Taylor's School in Hertfordshire and graduated from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, having studied natural sciences. From university Calder worked as a physicist at the Mullard Research Laboratories from 1954 to 1956.

Calder joined the staff at the inception of the New Scientist magazine in 1956, serving as editor from 1962 to 1966. After this time he became a freelance science author and TV producer, scripting thirteen TV series and documentaries relating to popular science topics and writing over 30 books. He was celebrated for his ability to write with scientific accuracy but also at a level accessible for the average reader in order to promote science and its progression. In 1972 he was awarded the UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science for his work in television, his father having been awarded the same prize in 1960.

In 1986 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and he became a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society on 13 February 1987. During his career he was a consultant for the European Space Agency and chairman of the Association of British Science Writers.

He married his wife Elizabeth Palmer in 1954 and the couple had two sons and three daughters. He died on 25 June 2014 in Crawley, West Sussex.


The collection has been arranged in series as follows:

  • 1. Correspondence
  • 2. Books and television programmes
  • 3. Work with the European Space Agency
  • 4. Kalinga Prize

The collection was arranged by Penny Ritchie Calder, the daughter of Nigel Calder, and deposited to the Library broadly in the sections listed, so this arrangement has been preserved. Within each series the files have been kept in roughly chronological order. The series for books and television programmes and European Space Agency work are divided into individual projects.

Access Information

Mainly open, some items closed. Please make an appointment to consult this collection. You can find out more about visiting the Royal Astronomical Society library and archives here , including contact details, or email the librarian to get in touch.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Penny Ritchie Calder, the daughter of Nigel Calder. She initially approached the Royal Astronomical Society on 1 February 2016. The collection was appraised by a Fellow of the Society on 29 November 2016 and finally deposited in the Society archive on 19 December 2016.

Archivist's Note

Catalogued by Helen Winning, project archivist for the Royal Astronomical Society, in December 2019.

Appraisal Information

The collection has been weeded for duplicates.

Custodial History

Personal and other non-work papers (including correspondence) have been filed separately in a family archive not deposited with the Royal Astronomical Society.


No further accruals are expected.