University of Birmingham Staff Papers: Papers of Sir Oliver Lodge

Scope and Content

The main part of the collection consists of Sir Oliver Lodge's personal and family correspondence consisting of more than 2000 letters, 1861-1940. Correspondents comprise colleagues at the Universities of Liverpool and Birmingham, including G. H. Rendall, Professor J. H. Muirhead and Bertram Windle; a number of clerical figures including Charles Gore, Bishop of Birmingham; various politicians and social reformers including Eleanor Rathbone, John Ruskin, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Joseph Chamberlain and A. J. Balfour; members of prominent Birmingham families, including the Kenrick and Cadbury families; and scientists, literary figures, members of the nobility and numerous other individuals. Family correspondence includes more than 200 letters from his eldest son, Oliver W. F. Lodge, 1908-1940, and others from his brother, Richard, 1909-1933 and sister, Constance. The collection also includes an incomplete sequence of his pocket diaries; scripts and offprints of his published work, an unpublished typescript of Encyclopaedia of Physics , and various diagrams relating to his scientific research; presscuttings about Lodge and his interests; and photographs of his research apparatus at the University of Liverpool.

Administrative / Biographical History

Oliver (Joseph) Lodge (1851-1940) was born in Penkull, Staffordshire in 1851, the eldest of eight sons and a daughter of Oliver Lodge of Wolstanton, Staffordshire and his wife, Grace (ne Heath). His siblings included Alfred Lodge (1854-1937), mathematician, Frank Lodge, Sir Richard Lodge (1855-1936), historian and Eleanor Constance Lodge (1869-1936), historian and principal of Westfield College, London. Oliver was educated at Newport Grammar School, Shropshire and University College, London and was awarded a DSc in 1877. He was appointed as Professor of Physics at the University College, Liverpool, 1881-1900 and then became Principal of Birmingham University, 1900-1919.

As a scientist, his research included the development of wireless and telegraphy and experiments on relative motion of matter and ether. His psychical research was also influential. He published extensively and his publications included The Ether of Space (1909); Making of Man (1924); Advancing Science (1931); Past Years, an autobiography (1931). He served as President of a range of societies including the Society for Psychical Research, 1901-1904 and 1932 and the British Association, 1913-1914. He received numerous awards including honorary degrees from British and other universities, he was a Farady Medallist and he was knighted in 1902. He died on 22 August 1940.

He married Mary Fanny Alexander (ne Marshall, d 1929) and they had six sons and six daughters. Oliver William Foster (1878-1955) was his eldest son and Raymond, who was killed during the First World War, was his youngest son.

References: Dictionary of National Biography 1931-1940 ( Oxford University Press, 1949 ). ; Oliver Lodge, Past Years. An Autobiography ( London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1931 ).

For further reading about the University of Birmingham see: Eric Ives, Diane Drummond, Leonard Schwarz The First Civic University: Birmingham 1880-1980 An Introductory History ( The University of University of Birmingham Press. 2000 ).


This collection is arranged into five series: correspondence; manuscripts of papers, diaries etc; offprints; presscuttings; personal miscellanea. Lodge's correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. Lodge's offprints and scripts have been ordered, as far as possible, according to Besterman's, A Bibliography of the Works of Sir Oliver Lodge (London, 1935).

Access Information

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

This collection was presented by the Lodge family in 1974.

Other Finding Aids

See full catalogue for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

University of Birmingham Information Services, Special Collections Department also holds the archives of the University of Birmingham which includes Lodge's correspondence as Principal of the University, 1900-1919; and also the Letters Additional of Oliver Lodge, an on-going artificial collection of letters and other papers of and relating to him (GB 150 OLLAdd)

The Society for Psychical Research (GB 2237) holds the papers of Oliver Lodge relating to his psychical studies.