Papers and correspondence of Emmeline Jean Hanson, 1919-1973

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers include a full range of notes on lectures attended by Hanson as an undergraduate, and of her own drafts for lectures, carefully revised each year, which provides a record of undergraduate teaching in zoology at Bedford College, 1938-1948. There are also the courses of lectures in biophysics which she gave at King's College, 1960-1973. Hanson's research is represented by extensive laboratory notebooks and working papers, 1938-1973, which include ideas for research and comments on current and projected experiments as well as records and observations of work in progress. There are reports on the work of the Muscle Biophysics Unit, drafts for publications 1950-1973 and unpublished invitation lectures and talks 1956-1973, and scientific correspondence, 1956-1973. When Hanson or her principal colleagues were abroad on conferences, or visiting fellow-scientists and their laboratories, they exchanged frequent and extensive letters. A detailed picture can thus be formed of her own research and general progress in the field, and also of the scientists involved both in her laboratory and elsewhere.

Administrative / Biographical History

Hanson was born at Newhall, Derbyshire and educated at the Girls' High School, Burton-on-Trent, 1930-1938, and Bedford College, London where she read zoology, 1938-1941. After early research at Bedford College and the Strangeways Laboratory, Cambridge, she was appointed Demonstrator in Zoology, Bedford College, 1944-1948. In 1948 J.T. Randall invited her to join the staff of the Biophysical Research Unit that he was establishing at King's College, London with funding from the Medical Research Council. Hanson remained at King's until her death, becoming Professor of Biology in 1966 and Director of the Muscle Biophysics Research Unit in 1970.

Hanson's research was concerned with the structural basis of muscular contraction. Her most important investigations began during 1953-1954 when she held a Rockefeller Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was here, in F.O. Schmitt's laboratory, that she began her collaboration with H.E. Huxley which led to the formulation and testing of the sliding filament hypothesis of muscular contraction. She was elected FRS in 1967.


By section as follows: Biographical and personal, Bedford College London, Laboratory notebooks and working papers, King's College London, Lectures and conferences, Scientific correspondence, Publications. Index of correspondents.

Conditions Governing Access

Open, subject to the production of identification and signature of the reader's undertaking.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Emmeline Jean Hanson: CSAC catalogue no. 51/5/77, 25 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Summary guide entry on-line at, and detailed catalogue available in hard copy in the Centre's reading room.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1975-1977 by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre, from Dr Gerald Offer, Hanson's scientific executor. Placed in King's College Archives, London in 1978.