Papers of Frederick Soddy, 1877-1956, Chemist, lecturer in Physical Chemistry and Radioactivity and Nobel Prize winner, University of Glasgow, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Personal papers, including obituaries and memorials, 1908-1959;
  • Newspaper cuttings, 1924-1980;
  • Published material, mainly article reprints, 1935-63;
  • Correspondence & certificates relating to awards and appointments, 1923-1925
  • Photograph, c1914

Administrative / Biographical History

Frederick Soddy (1877-1956) was a chemist who lectured at the University of Glasgow before the First World War, and won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1921.

Born in Eastbourne on 2 September 1877, he was the youngest son of Benjamin and Hannah Soddy. He was educated at private schools and then attended Eastbourne College (1892-94), University Colleg of Wales, Aberystwyth (1894-1895) and the University of Oxford, where he gained Postmastership at Merton College and graduated with first class honours in 1898.

Soddy worked as a research assistant at Oxford until 1900, when he then spent two years at McGill University in Canada, lecturing in Chemistry and working with Sir Ernest Rutherford on radioactivity, and then with Sir William Ramsay at University College, London. He moved to Glasgow in 1904 as a lecturer in Physical Chemistry and Radioactivity, and it was during his ten years at the University that he completed his most important research into the chemistry of radioactive elements.

Working with collaborators including the laboratory assistant Alexander Fleck (who later rose to become Chairman of ICI), Soddy developed the "Displacement Law" - that, "when an alpha or beta ray is emitted, the element moves to a different place in the periodic table." In 1913 he formulated the concept of "radio elements chemically non-seperable" which, at the suggestion of Dr Margaret Todd, a fellow guest at a dinner party in his father-in-law's house at 11 University Gardens, he named "isotopes".

Soddy left the University in 1914 to the Chair of Chemistry at the University of Aberdeen, and in 1919 became Dr Lee’s Professor of Physical and Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Oxford, a post that he held until his retirement in 1936.

During his career he achieved a number of honours. In 1910 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, and as mentioned above in 1921 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of isotopes. He was the first English-born Chemist to receive this honour. In 1923 he was awarded the Cannizzaro Prize in Rome, and in 1936 he was awarded an Honorary LLD by the University of Aberdeen, and was also made a Foreign Member of the Swedish, Italian and Russian Academies of Science.

Soddy died in Brighton on 22 September 1956, aged 79. By his will, he established the Frederick Soddy Trust to provide grants to "groups studying the whole life of a community."


Listed by box. Items are generally listed in their original order.

Access Information

Access to certain records within this collection is restricted in accordance with data protection legislation as they contain information about potentially living individuals. Please email Archives and Special Collections for advice:

Acquisition Information

Deposit : Neil Hope-Collins : 9 Dec 2013 : ACCN 3817

Other Finding Aids

See also University of Glasgow Collections

File list available. Please email Archives & Special Collections to request a copy:

Alternative Form Available

No known copies of this material

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Archivist.Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard ASC procedures

Custodial History

Not known


Further accruals possible

Related Material

GB 248 UP Photographs of Frederick Soddy; GB 248 GUA: Inventory, Papers of Frederick Soddy; GB 248 DC 058 Papers of Dr Andrew Kent, Chemistry Lecturer, University of Glasgow, 1935-1963; GB 012 Papers of Frederick Soddy; GB 116 Papers of Frederick Soddy; GB 161 CSAC 14.8.74 Papers of Frederick Soddy; GB 463 Papers of Frederick Soddy; Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, objects relating to Frederick Soddy.

Location of Originals

This material is original

Corporate Names

Geographical Names