Esther Simpson correspondence and papers

Scope and Content

These letters and papers reflect the many friendships and contacts which Esther Simpson developed in the course of some fifty years' work on behalf of refugee scholars.

The collection is complementary both to the papers of the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning now preserved in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and to the papers of the Leeds Academic Assistance Committee preserved in this Library (Leeds MSS 415 and 446).

The main collection (items 1-1437) comprises Esther Simpson's personal papers, certificates, photographs, press-cuttings, miscellaneous documents, and correspondence to and from Esther Simpson, as received from her.

Small collections received subsequently from other sources have been numbered - 1438-82, 1483-1501, 1502-33 - and are itemized in the handlist. The items date between 1918 and 1997.

Another collection was received after Simpson's death. The files and items in this collection are numbered from 1534. They comprise correspondence with charitable organisations and individuals. There are personal papers which include material relating to the honours she received, her employment and invitations.

Administrative / Biographical History

Esther Simpson was born in Leeds, as Esther Sinovitch, in 1903. She was gifted musically and already had medals and certificates in violin playing from Leeds College of Music before she entered the University of Leeds in 1921. Her correspondence in later years with Max Rostal and his family witnesses to her continued interest in music. She graduated from Leeds with first class honours in French with German in 1924 and took a diploma in education in the following year.

As an undergraduate she had studied for a time at Caen, and soon after taking her diploma, she turned from teaching to superior secretarial work in Europe. She was living in Geneva in 1933 when she received and accepted an offer of employment in England as secretary to the newly-founded Academic Assistance Council (later, the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning) whose purpose was to help resettle in the free world scholars who had fled from totalitarian regimes, initially Nazi Germany. In the same year she changed her name to the more English-sounding Simpson.

Her employment with the AAC developed into a vocation. Many refugee scholars became her personal friends and she followed their subsequent careers closely: many of her `family' came to occupy professorial chairs throughout the world, others were elected Fellows of the Royal Society and more acquired numerous other distinctions. She was awarded the OBE in 1956 and after her retirement in 1966 she received two honorary doctorates from London (1984) and Leeds (1989). Dr Simpson died on 19th November 1996.

Access Information

Some parts of this collection have not been listed in detail and access may be restricted under the Data Protection Act and other relevant legislation. Please consult the relevant part of the catalogue for specific details. Where a detailed record does not exist, please contact Special Collections. Upon receipt of your request, a member of the team will discuss your requirements with you and review relevant material accordingly.

Acquisition Information

These letters and papers were generously given to the Library mainly in two consignments by Dr Esther Simpson, 1990-92.


Mainly in English.

Other Finding Aids

Contents listed in Handlists 94 and 94a and in the Letters database

Conditions Governing Use

Some parts of this collection are in copyright. Photocopies or digital images of the material in copyright can be supplied for private study purposes only. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study. Guidance is available on tracing copyright status and ownership.

Related Material

See also MSS 415, 446.