Papers of: Singer, Charles Joseph (1876-1960), and Singer, Dorothea Waley (1882-1964)

Scope and Content

The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence: the Singers were clearly vigorous letter writers and both Charles and Dorothea had an enormous number of family, friends and acquaintances. Unfortunately many of their letters were hand written and very few carbon copies survive. Very occasionally an attempt at methodical selection and arrangement is evident: on the whole correspondence had been kept in alphabetical order, and this has been retained in the arrangement of the collection. Dorothea and Charles' correspondence was fairly mixed (reflecting their working life together) with the exception of two distinct groups: correspondence about Dorothea's research on alchemical manuscripts, and later correspondence about her hearing aids.

The main part of the collection centres on the correspondence; this has been grouped together in a self-evident sequence: writings and biographical personal papers follow. Certain of Dorothea's papers remained clearly distinct and these have been kept together. Section E contains a variety of material relating to Jewish refugees, which had been placed on one side by Dorothea after the war for permanent preservation. It has not been listed in detail but sorted into three broad categories. The last section, comprising additional correspondence of the Singers with Sir Zachary Cope, Sir Arthur Salusbury MacNalty and Dr F N L Poynter, is not strictly part of the collection, but these groups of correspondence were given to the Institute to be placed alongside the Singer papers.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Joseph Singer (MA, DM, D.Litt., Hon D.Sc., FRCP) was born on 2 November 1876 in London. He studied at University College London, and from 1896-99 he studied zoology at Oxford, graduating BA, BCh. In 1903 he qualified from St Mary's Hospital Medical School MRCS LRCP. He gained other degrees honours during his career: MA MD; FRCP; Honorary DSc. From 1904-1908 Singer held various hospital posts in England and abroad, including Sussex County Hospital; Brighton; Government House, Singapore; Abyssinia (Medical Officer to expedition); Malta and Salonica, where he returned during the First World War when he served with the RAMC.

Singer held various posts throughout his career: Registrar to the Cancer Hospital, London; Physician to Dreadnought Hospital; Lecturer in history of medicine at University College London, as well as work abroad, including Visiting Professor at University of California, Berkley.

He married Dorothea Waley Cohen, eldest daughter of Nathaniel L Cohen and Julia M Waley in 1910, with whom he was awarded the Sarton Medal of the History of Science Society of America.

He held a number of secretaryships and presidential posts, including Honorary Secretary of the Royal Society of Medicine (Historical Section), 1916-1919; President RSM (Historical Section), 1920-1922; President of Third International Congress of History of Medicine, 1922 and President of Acad?mie Internationale d'Histoire des Sciences. He retired in 1942.

Charles Singer died on 10 June, 1960 at home in Par, Cornwall. Dorothea Singer died on 24 June, 1964.


By section as follows: A. Correspondence (A.1-20 Individuals A-Z, 1911-1957; A.21-40 1958-60 A-Z, 1958-1960; A.41-51 Named files, 1941-1960; A.52-71 Organizations, 1922-1961; A.72-82 Publications and research, c.1937-1960); B. Charles Singer: writings (B.1-8 Published articles, 1914-1961, n.d.; B.9-23 Typescript lectures and notes, 1913-1960, n.d.); C. Biographical/personal (C.1-4 Miscellaneous biographical notes, lists of publications, obituaries, 1936, n.d.; C.5-10 Correspondence received after death and about library, 1958-1965; C.11 Address books, n.d.; C.12-29 Newspaper cuttings, 1911-1949; C.30 Photographs, 1904; C.31 Drawings, c.1878-1893); D. Dorothea Singer: papers (D.1-12 Correspondence about writings, 1918-1954; D.13-21 Correspondence about deafness, 1945-1964; D22 Miscellaneous drafts and writings, 1918-1957; D.23 Correspondence, general, c.1917-1939); E.Jewish Refugees: circulars, pamphlets and related material, 1939-1948; F. Correspondence of Sir Zachary Cope, Sir Arthur Salusbury MacNalty and Dr F N L Poynter, 1945-1961.

Access Information

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, by prior appointment with Archives and Manuscripts staff and after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Acquisition Information

The records were transferred to the Wellcome Library in October 1980 (acc. 26).

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued by Julia Sheppard, Wellcome Library, July 1987. Hard-copy catalogue with partial index to sections A1-52, A72-77, C5-6, F available in Wellcome Library.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Annie Lindsay

Separated Material

Material held elsewhere: British Library, Manuscript Collections: correspondence with Society of Authors, 1925-1960 (Add MS 56809). Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts: letters to OGS Crawford, 1940-1957 (MSS Crawford); correspondence with CD Darlington, 1938-1948 (CSAC103/3/85). Oxford University, Museum of the History of Science: correspondence, 1915-1919 (MS Royal Microscopical Society 9). Rice University: Woodson Research Center: correspondence with Sir Julian Huxley, 1922-1959 (Julian S Huxley papers). Rockefeller University Archives: correspondence 1930-1952. Southampton University Library: papers relating to German anti-Semitism (MS 94); correspondence with James Parkes, 1940-1957 (MS 60/16/717); correspondence with Cecil Roth, 1939-1958 (MS 156). Sussex University Library Special Collections: letters to J G Crowther, 1936-1942 (SxMs29).

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner. Researchers wanting to reproduce anything of a personal nature should contact the family.

Custodial History

The records were given to the Wellcome Institute by Edgar Ashworth Underwood, the Singers' son-in-Law, after Dorothea Singer's death in 1964.

Related Material

Material held by Archives and Manuscripts, Wellcome Library: see Sources Lealfets No. 7 War Medicine and Health Post 1920; No. 21 Eyes, Ears, Teeth, Feet; No. 27 Drawings, Paintings, Prints and Posters; No. 28 Refugee Scientists and Medical Practitioners and for correspondence with EA Underwood, 1944-1959 see PP/EAU/22-28.


Julia Sheppard `Charles Singer: Papers in the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre' in Medical History , vol. 31, 1987, pp 466-471.