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A digital archive of William Bateson

(Wellcome Trust Research Resources Grant 108835/Z/15/Z)

This project, which came to an end in February 2019, produced an online archive of the papers and notebooks held by Cambridge University Library relating to the work and intellectual life of the biologist William Bateson (1861–1926), a pioneering figure in the early history of genetics.

Through his work on variation and inherited traits, William Bateson effectively launched the modern study of genetics, coining the term ‘genetics’ for the study of heredity and co-founding the Journal of Genetics (1910) and the Genetical Society (1919). A vigorous promotor of Gregor Mendel’s principles of heredity, Bateson was at the forefront of the rediscovery of Mendel’s work, translating and promoting his papers on plant hybridization, and often courting controversy with his outspoken views.

The William Bateson Papers at Cambridge University Library (MS Add. 8634) create a fascinating online resource for the study of Bateson’s career and scientific method. Covering the period 1861 to 1935, they include field journals, lecture notes, research notes, draft publications, correspondence and photographs. 

The Bateson Archive on Cambridge Digital Library covers the following broad subject areas: biographical items (including Bateson's school reports and journals and letters home from his important tour of Central Asia, 1886–7); his Cambridge career; records relating to his involvement with scientific topics and controversies; publications (comprising drafts and notes for many of Bateson's key works); notes for public lectures 1905–26; records of visits and meetings (including field notebooks of various trips to the USA and Canada); and records of Bateson's involvement with various societies and organisations.

Alongside the archive, the project also digitised the experimental notebooks of Bateson and his longtime collaborator Reginal Punnett, recording their work with poultry, sweat peas and rabbits.

A new catalogue of the whole Bateson Archive (Add. 8634) in Cambridge was created by Dr Emma Saunders, Science Archivist, over the course of the project. This can be downloaded as a PDF here, or consulted in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust