The Walter Perry Collection

Scope and Content

Scope and Content

The Walter Perry Collection was donated to the University in two separate deposits of material. The first deposit, made shortly after Walter Perry left the University in 1981, mostly contain papers relating to the creation of the University and his work as Vice Chancellor. The second deposit was collected from Walter Perry's office within the Edinburgh Regional Office of the Open University after his death in 2003. Some papers were also donated by the family at this time. This collection contains papers relating to the many projects and initiatives in which Walter Perry was involved after he stepped down as Vice Chancellor of the Open University in 1981. They also contain his diaries, lecture notes from his University years, some papers relating to the establishment of the Open University and his unpublished memoirs.

The two deposits of material have been placed together to form a single collection.

Administrative / Biographical History

Biographical History

Walter Perry (1921 - 2003) was the first Vice-Chancellor of the Open University from 1969 - 1979 and was heavily involved in its early development. He was made a fellow of the University in 1981 and was succeeded as Vice-Chancellor by John Horlock (1980 - 1989) and then John Daniel (1989 - 2001).

Walter Perry was born Walter Laing MacDonald Perry in Dundee on 16th June 1921, to Fletcher Perry and Flora MacDonald. He was educated at Ayr Academy, Dundee High School, and the University of St. Andrews, where he gained MB, ChB (1943), MD (1948) and DSc (1958).

He began his career as Medical Officer in Colonial Services (Nigeria), 1944-1946, and then for the RAF, 1946-1947. Between 1947-1952 he was a member of staff for the Medical Research Council and then became Director of the Department of Biological Standards at the National Institute for Medical Research, 1952-1958. In 1958 he was appointed Professor of Pharmacology at University of Edinburgh and its Vice-Principal from 1967-1968, until he took on the role of Vice-Chancellor at the Open University in 1969. In 1960 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society (Edinburgh). In 1963, he became a member of the Royal College of Physicians (Edinburgh), in 1967 a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (Edinburgh), and in 1978 a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. In 1985 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society.

As well as his Educational work Walter Perry was the Chairman of Community Radio Milton Keynes from 1979 - 1982, Chairman of Living Tapes Ltd from 1980, Chairman of Videotel Marine International from 1985 - 1998 and President of the Company from 1998 onwards. He was also Deputy Leader of the SDP, House of Lords, from 1981 - 1983.

Walter Perry received several honorary degrees and has been involved in various societies and commissions, many educational. He was awarded an OBE in 1957, a knighthood in 1974 and was created a Life Peer in 1979, taking as his title Baron Perry of Walton. In 1994 he was awarded the Wellcome Gold Medal and in 2000 he was awarded the Royal medal from the RSE.



The second deposit arrived at the Open University Archive with no structure or filing system. The structure has therefore been artificially created to aid access. Individual files have not been split unless clearly stated in the item record.

  • WP/1 The Open University
  • WP/2 Other Educational Work
  • WP/3 Papers regarding Health, Science and the Environment
  • WP/4 Personal Files and Interests

Access Information

Access Conditions

To access the collection contact the Open University Archivist. All items will be monitored for personal or sensitive information before they are released to researchers. The Archivist reserves the right to restrict access if necessary. All researchers will be required to complete an access/data protection/ copyright form

Access to some of the papers within the collection is restricted under the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Acquisition Information

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The first deposit of material was largely an internal transfer of papers from the Vice Chancellor's Office of the Open University. The second deposit was transferred from the Edinburgh Regional Office of the Open University. A small selection of materials were donated by Lady Perry.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Physical Description

Mostly paper, also includes floppy discs, Vinyl records, cassette tapes and videos.

Archivist's Note

This finding aid was created in 2006.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying Restrictions

Reproduction of items from the collection will be permitted according to copyright legislation and Open University Library policy.

Custodial History

Custodial History

The first deposit was transferred to the University Library by Walter Perry. The second deposit was transferred from Walter Perry's office within the Edinburgh Regional Centre for the Open University after his death in 2003. A small selection of files was also donated by Lady Perry at this time.