The collection is particularly noteworthy for its full documentation of all aspects of Pirie's research, development and promotion of leaf protein for human nutrition.
Biographical material is not extensive. It includes obituaries, a copy of his Royal Society Biographical Memoir, a little documentation of undergraduate work and historical material assembled by Pirie relating to J. Brachet, J.B.S. Haldane, F.G. Hopkins and H.H. Mann. Miscellaneous material includes Pirie's philosophical notes on the nature of life, scientific method and other topics. Research notebooks complete the incomplete sequence of numbered notebooks listed in the Catalogue of the Papers of Sir Frederick Charles Bawden including papers of Alfred Alexander Peter Kleczkowski and Norman Wingate Pirie (CSAC 37/1/76) and also deposited in the Archives of the Royal Society. The sequence presented here runs from 1929 to 1996, with the missing notebooks to be found in the Bawden collection. The work documented includes Pirie's earliest research with A.A. Miles on Brucella abortus and Brucella mellitensis, his research with F.C. Bawden on viruses, and the many facets of his work on leaf protein to the end of his life. There are also two unnumbered notebooks not included in the sequence which date from the 1940s.
Records of Pirie's Leaf Protein work form the largest component in the collection, documenting the work for which Pirie became widely known. The material covers Pirie's own research work on leaf protein, his interest in leaf protein work worldwide, the promotion of leaf protein for human nutrition and the development of equipment, especially suitable for use in less developed countries, which could be used to extract it. There is documentation of Pirie's struggles within the Agricultural Research Council to find support for his work, his reports on progress and later fund-raising for his research. There is material relating to design and construction of leaf protein apparatus of various types. Pirie believed strongly that leaf protein could make a positive contribution to nutrition in poorer countries and trials were undertaken in India, Jamaica and other countries. Latterly he found backing for his work from the Find Your Feet charity and this relationship is documented. Also of interest is Pirie's interest in promoting leaf protein, including sample recipes using the foodstuff.
There is also material relating to other research interests, focusing on Pirie's earlier research, including the work for which he was elected FRS and was awarded its Copley Medal. It is not extensive and should be consulted alongside the research notebooks. It is presented by topic, for example tobacco mosaic and tomato bushy stunt viruses with F.C. Bawden in the 1930s, Brucella abortus in the 1930s and 1940s and bracken eradication in the 1950s. There is also material relating to various alternative sources of protein, including seafood, which relates to his interest in nutrition. Miscellaneous material includes documentation of Pirie's lobbying on behalf of 'biochemical engineering' research in the 1950s.
Publications material includes drafts and other material relating to a few of his works, for example on food resources and his 1987 book Leaf Protein and its by-products in human and animal nutrition, a small number of book reviews and a little editorial correspondence. The bulk of the publications record, however, comprises a sequence of Pirie's volumes of bound offprints, from 1929 to 1991 (the material for 1992-1996 is unbound). This sequence is more than just a full record of Pirie's published output, as intercalated or pasted to pages of the volumes are typescripts of unpublished work or work not published in full, reports on research, visits abroad etc., correspondence, and letters to the press on a wide variety of topics including nuclear weapons, the Communist party, space exploration, scientific writing and world nutrition. The offprints themselves may bear later manuscript annotations and typescript notes by Pirie, giving improved methods, corrections and later bibliographical references.
A few of Pirie's visits and conferences are documented, 1946-1989. There is material relating to extended visits to the USA in 1946, and to Czechoslovakia, the USSR and China in 1952 and later visits in connection with leaf protein work. The lack of coverage is partially compensated for by the quality of some of the documentation of the visits, including Pirie's manuscript and typescript notes and his official reports.
The bulk of the surviving correspondence relates to Pirie's work on leaf protein. There are also individual letters from significant correspondents, from the 1930s on, including A. Szent-Gyorgi, J.B.S. Haldane, G.C. de Hevesy, P.B. Medawar, T. Svedberg, R.L.M. Synge etc., which Pirie appears to have kept for historical reasons. The correspondence is presented in alphabetical order by correspondent.