The papers are very extensive. They include a little family material relating to Coulson's father, and chart, almost without interruption, all aspects of Coulson's own life and career. They include many unpublished lectures and papers, many publications omitted from the official bibliography (which already listed 444 items), and much personal and scientific correspondence. There is also material relating to Oxford University and Coulson's part in the development of the Mathematical Institute and the Theoretical Chemistry Department. From the time of his first academic appointment at Dundee in 1938, Coulson attached great importance to fostering or creating research schools, and his successive departments were prolific in publications and sent out scholars from and to all parts of the world who spread his methods and influence. The care he showed for them extended to details of housing, schooling and finance as well as to the supervision of research and guidance of subsequent career, and is amply documented in the papers.
The records of working notes, calculations and correspondence help to provide a picture of the development of theoretical chemistry as a subject of research and as an academic discipline with which Coulson was closely involved from about 1930 to his death in 1974. He was himself aware of the value of lecture notes and drafts as a source of historical information on teaching methods, curriculum development and the spread of new ideas from the frontiers of research through the various strata of the educational system, and for these reasons he preserved his notes taken as an undergraduate and graduate at Cambridge, and notes and updated drafts for his own lectures and talks. There is also a very extensive correspondence on all topics of interest to Coulson, scientific and religious.