Whipple Spine LabelDonations to libraries come in all sizes, from a single book donated by the author, to large collections which make you get out a tape measure to make sure you have the space. They all have a place in the history and development of a collection, and even a subject field.  The donation in 1944 by Robert Stewart Whipple (1871-1953) of his scientific instruments and books to the University has been viewed as “… an essential element in the establishment of the history of science as an academic discipline in Cambridge”1 . Whipple’s original donation consisted of 1089 books covering subjects such as microscopy, optics, astronomy, physics and of course, scientific instruments. A small exhibition took place in November 1944 showing some of the key items in the collection, both instruments and books, with a write up appearing in ‘Engineering’. The books displayed, and therefore mentioned in the article, included:

  • The life of John Dollond by John Kelly,  signed by Michael Faraday (STORE 20:23)
  • Tracts consisting of observations about the saltness of the sea by Robert Boyle, previously owned and inscribed by Isaac Newton (STORE C:20)
  • Historiae coelestis libri duo by John Flamsteed, previously owned by Stephen Peter Rigaud ( 1774 – 1839) founder of the Ashmolean Society and professor of astronomy at oxford (STORE 57:9)

 These are just three of the treasures that help make the Whipple Collection an amazing resource for anyone interested in the history of science.


  1. Silvia de Renzi. Between the market and the academy: Robert whipple (1871-1953) as a collector of science books (REF FILE 14 B:26)
  2. The Whipple Collection of Instruments and Books. Reprint from “Engineering” Nov. 10 1944 and Mar. 2 & 23, 1945 (REF FILE 35 B:8)