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Sir William Dunn School of Pathology: Administrative Papers


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Comprises legal, financial, administrative and personnel records, including building plans, records of grants and correspondence and papers relating to two former Professors of Pathology.


  • 1906-2006


6.4 Linear metres (76 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access


Preferred Citation

University of Oxford Archives, PT.
Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

PT 1-76/2.

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12202, 12305, 12387


Administrative papers of the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford (held as part of the University of Oxford's archives).

Biographical / Historical

Pathology at Oxford was originally taught as one of the components of general medical instruction; over time, along with anatomy and physiology, it became a separate subject. In 1845, HW Acland was appointed Lee’s Reader of Anatomy, and with his assistant, Lionel Beale, taught pathology in Christ Church Anatomy School. With the opening of the University Museum in 1860 and the transferral of the large collection of pathological rarities from Christ Church to the museum’s medical department, Acland acquired a laboratory for research in practical pathology and, later, bacteriology. In the same year, George Rolleston was appointed Linacre Professor of Anatomy and Physiology, and included pathology in his lectures.

During the 1890s, JS Burdon-Sanderson lectured on pathology, while James Ritchie taught bacteriology. The latter was Lecturer in Pathology from 1897 to 1900. On the opening of the new Department of Pathology in 1901, Ritchie was appointed Reader in Pathology; he was ‘constituted’ Professor in 1905. The position was temporary, although renewable after five years, and despite the benefaction of £5000 in 1899 for a new department, and the £5000 put up by the University, the annual grant was only £150 per year and no money was available to fund a permanent chair.

However, in 1904 William Osler was appointed Regius Professor of Medicine, and funds were obtained, largely from Oxford medical graduates and Edward Whitley, so that on Ritchie’s resignation in 1907 the post was elevated to a permanent professorship.

The contribution from the Oxford medical graduates was a result of the meeting they held on 20 December 1904, where they began a movement to promote the study and teaching of Pathology and appointed an Executive Committee to further their objective. A resolution was passed with the following terms: ‘…with a view to shewing the strong feeling the Oxford medical graduates have of the necessity for promoting the study and teaching of pathology, a fund be started for the purpose of assisting in this object and that it be primarily for the establishment and endowment of a Professorship in Pathology’.

The fund was called the Oxford Pathology Endowment Fund and was administered by three Trustees (William Osler, Sir William Selby Church and Herbert French) who passed any money raised to the Committee of Management. This consisted of nine members which included the three Trustees. Sir William Selby Church was also Honorary Treasurer of the fund. The Executive Committee appealed for subscriptions and an initial figure of £1168 was quickly raised.

In October 1908, the Oxford Pathology Endowment Fund was handed over to the University. The Declaration of Trust stated that the fund was only to be used towards the payment of the stipend of the Professor of Pathology or towards the expenses of the Pathology department. The amount in the fund in 1908 was £1554 held in stock and £34 in cash. Georges Dreyer, the Danish experimental pathologist, was appointed to the Professorship of Pathology, which he held until his death in 1934.

In November 1922, Congregation passed a decree accepting £100,000 from the trustees of the late Sir William Dunn, who had already made various bequests to medical science, including a grant for a Department and Chair of Chemistry at Cambridge. Nearly 3 acres of the University Parks were taken over at the east end of South Parks Road, thus beginning the eastward expansion of the Science Area. The foundation stone of the new School, designed by EP Warren (who worked closely with Professor Dreyer), was laid on 9 May 1923. The building was finished by the end of 1926, and was formally opened on 11 March 1927.

Dreyer was succeeded by Howard Florey, who began his ground-breaking work on penicillin at the School just before the Second World War. A new wing was added between 1967 and 1969, designed by Sir Leslie Martin, while Henry Harris, then Professor of Pathology, was head of department. On Harris’s appointment as Regius Professor of Medicine in 1979, the Professorship of Pathology was suspended and Harris remained head of department until 1994.

In 1998 the University Calendar describes the Department as giving courses of instruction ‘in the principles underlying the cellular, molecular and genetic basis of disease and in the Cell Biology and Immunology options of the Final Honour School of Physiological Sciences’, and carrying out research ‘in many branches of experimental pathology, experimental bacteriology and virology, cell biology, immunology and chemical pathology.’

These records were transferred to the University Archives in 1994. They include various financial records, papers concerning the internal organisation and running of the School, and material on the School’s establishment and extension. There is also a photocopy of Sir William Dunn’s will and lists of students (1896-1931) who attended classes in pathology.

The minute book of the Oxford Pathology Endowment Fund (PT 31) was donated to the University Archives in 2006 by Oxfordshire Health Archives which had received the volume from the executors of the late Dr. Alastair Robb-Smith. It is not known how the volume came into the possession of Dr. Robb-Smith.

Additional records, PT 32-76, were catalogued by the Department of Special Collections with the help of a Wellcome grant before being transferred to the University Archives in 2017. The records were originally collated within the department of Pathology by Professor Eric Sidebottom before being passed to Special Collections.

Heads of Department

1901-1907 James Ritchie, Reader in Pathology (‘constituted’ Professor in 1905) 1907-1934 Georges Dreyer, Professor of Pathology 1934-1935 (vacant) 1935-1963 (Sir) Howard Florey, Professor of Pathology 1963-1994 Henry Harris, Professor of Pathology 1963-79, Regius Professor of Medicine 1979-1992, Emeritus Regius Professor from 1992 1994-2012 Herman Waldmann, Professor of Pathology 2013- Matthew Freeman, Professor of Pathology

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired from the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, 1994, 2016-2017.


  • Encyclopaedia of Oxford, ed. C Hibbert (Macmillan 1988)
  • Science at Oxford 1914-1939: Transforming an Arts University, J Morrell (OUP 1997)
  • Trust Deed of the Oxford Pathology Endowment Fund, 1905 (OUA WPβ 2/28)
  • Declaration of Trust, 1908 (OUA WPβ 2/19)
Sir William Dunn School of Pathology: Administrative Papers
Finding aid prepared by University Archives
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom