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Sir William Dunn School of Pathology: Historical Papers


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Comprises historical working correspondence and papers, photographs, and audio visual material, primarily an important collection of photographs and cine films which record the development of the first antibiotic penicillin at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology in the 1940s. (The administrative papers of the department are held by the Oxford University Archives.)


  • Creation: 1893-2014


6.0 Linear metres (113 physical shelfmarks; 68 digital shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. 12202].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 12202/1-91, MSS. 12202 Photogr. 1-22, MSS. 12202 digital 1-68.

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 6404, 12202, 12305, 12387, 12319


Academic, working, and social correspondence, papers, photographs and audio-visual materials from the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at the University of Oxford, including materials relating to the development of the antibiotic penicillin in the Dunn School in the 1940s.

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. 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. 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 and in 1908 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 with colleagues including Ernst Chain, Norman Heatley, and chemist Edward Penley Abraham (who went on to develop and patent the antibiotic cephalosporin, proceeds from which continue to help fund the department).

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

Transferred from the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, 2009-2017.

Related Materials

The administrative papers of the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology can be found in the Oxford University Archives at PT 1-76/2. The Radclife Infirmary case notes from the first therapeutic trials of penicillin are at MS. Eng. Misc. c. 594. The Edward Penley Abraham archive is at MSS. Abraham 1-191.

Sir William Dunn School of Pathology: Historical Papers
Finding aid prepared by Charlotte McKillop-Mash
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom