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Archive of Frederick Soddy, F.R.S. (1877-1956)


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The Soddy Archive contains biographical and printed mmaterial, laboratory notebooks, lectures, articles and addresses, and correspondence.


  • 1894-1958


2.4 Linear metres (20 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. Eng. misc. b. 170.
Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Eng. misc. b. 170-189

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 13921, 13922


Correspondence and papers of Frederick Soddy, (1877-1956), scientist.

Biographical / Historical

Frederick Soddy was born at Eastbourne in 1877. He was educated at local schools and then Eastbourne College. He attended University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, in 1894-1895 and in 1895 he was awarded a Postmastership in Science at Merton College, Oxford.

In 1900, Soddy moved to McGill University, Montreal, where he collaborated with Ernest Rutherford, formulating the theory of radioactive disintegration. (For this work Rutherford was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908.)

In 1903 Soddy returned to England. There he worked with Sir William Ramsay at University College, London, continuing the work he had begun with Rutherford. Notable is their spectrographic proof of the production of helium from radium.

Soddy was appointed Lecturer in Physical Chemistry at Glasgow University in 1904, where he remained until 1914. Here he worked with Alexander Fleck on the chemistry of the radio-elements, leading to the formulation of the theory of isotopes. It was primarily for this work that Soddy was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1921. From 1914 to 1919 he was Professor of Chemistry at Aberdeen University. He did some minor research during the war years, but he was essentially finished as a research chemist.

In 1919 Soddy was appointed Dr. Lee’s Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University, a position he retained until his retirement in 1936. He published no more scientific work of any significance, although he did publish several mathematical papers, mainly on solutions of cubic equations with three real roots. His later writings were in the field of political economy and monetary theory, and his concerns about the role of science in warfare. He was deeply troubled by the use of atomic bombs in the Second World War.

Soddy was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1910 and was awarded the Cannizzaro Prize in 1913. He died in 1956.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Soddy bequeathed his papers, notebooks and manuscripts to Major and Mrs. Howorth as his literary trustees. In 1958 Mrs. Howorth published a biography, Pioneer Research on the Atom...The Life Story of Frederick Soddy. The papers were deposited in the Bodleian Library in 1974.

The Laboratory Notebooks, now MSS. Eng. misc. b. 186-188, were received from the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory, Oxford.

Related Materials

A few printed books belonging to Soddy were accepted by the Radcliffe Science Library, Oxford.

Offprints presented to Soddy by W.H. Bragg were offered to the Archives of the Royal Institution for the Bragg Collection.

Models of Soddy's own design of Constant Speed Universal Joint Mechanisms were transferred to the Department of Engineering Science, Oxford about 1960.

The following material is held by the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford:

Museum ref. no. 74 - 1: parts of Soddy's machine for solving cubic equations with three real roots.

Museum ref. no. 73 - 4: 19 boxes of slides prepared for Soddy's chemical lectures.

Manuscript material as described in the following extracts from the Museum's catalogue of manuscripts:

MS. Museum 121 FREDERICK SODDY: A collection of manuscripts, typescripts, reviews and offprints including a collection of bills, letters, and certificates relating to radioactive samples; a manuscript notebook entitled 'Work on the scheme...' started Feb. 17th 1914, to look for "UR.2." an isotope of UrX2,producing Actinium in an X - ray change'; a set of notes, dated Mar. 28 - Oct. 20, 1913, on the separation of Ur.X & Y; three letters from Soddy to Brewer 1951 - 1956; a letter to Brewer from T.E. Soddy, Oct. 17, 1957; letter to Sir Harold Hartley from Brewer, Jan 3, 1953; a typescript and working drawing entitled 'Soddy's Machine for solving the cubic equation with three real roots. Third model with positive linkages throughout. 3.III.56.'; an unsigned typewritten memorial speech on Soddy; a number of publishers' advertisements and reviews of Muriel Howorth, Pioneer Research...; a copy of Die Neue Zeitung, no. 156, 5-6, July 1952, with a photograph of Soddy; pamphlets and offprints.

MS. Museum 126 FREDERICK SODDY: Notes for twenty-three lectures on radioactivity; absorption, deposit, and decay curves for radioactive substances (1914 and 1917); notes on Actinium.

MS. Museum 160 FREDERICK SODDY: Details of experiments of 19 December 1950, being a spectrograph anlysis of Professor Soddy's lead together with a letter from C.H. Collie relating to the experiment (3 September 1971).

A model of an unconventional internal combustion engine incorporating an unusual mechanical linkage. Designed by Professor F. Soddy, F.R.S., Dr. Lee's Professor of Chemistry. Made by Mr. F.J. March, Chief Mechanic, Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory, late 1920's. Transferred from the Chemistry Department between 1 August 1959 and 31 July 1960.
Archive of Frederick Soddy, F.R.S. (1877-1956)
In Process
2001, EAD version 2019
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom