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Whipple Library

Department of History and Philosophy of Science
4 handwritten index cards in a stack

The Foster Pamphlet Collection consists of 5,221 pamphlets on the subject of physiology. The collection covers every aspect of physiology as it stood in the late nineteenth century. It includes works on pathology, microbiology, neurophysiology, psychology, cardiology, myology, blood and anatomy. Some of the pamphlets are reprints of articles from journals or sections of books, others are dissertations or other original works. The pamphlets are bound in some 200 volumes, all labelled 'Physiological Laboratory'.

Sir Michael Foster (1836–1907)


Most of the pamphlets were collected by Sir Michael Foster, the founder of the Cambridge School of Physiology and founder editor of the Journal of Physiology. In 1883 Foster became the first Professor of Physiology at Cambridge University. Member of Parliament for the University of London from 1900 to 1906, he was the leading figure in the professionalisation of physiology in Victorian England. He served on national commissions dealing with vaccination, tropical disease, disposal of sewage, and the reorganisation of the University of London.

In 1903 Foster was succeeded as Professor of Physiology at Cambridge by John Newport Langley (1852–1925), who continued Foster's practice of collecting and binding together interesting and important articles and dissertations. The later volumes in the Foster collection were bound after Foster's death, and many of the articles bear the note 'J.N. Langley', suggesting that they were part of Langley's collection.

Most of the pamphlets range in date from 1860 to 1907, but a few were published as early as 1823, and one or two as late as 1919. From 1919 they remained in the Physiological Laboratory of the Department of Physiology in Cambridge, until in 1997 they were donated to the Whipple Library.

The collection includes pamphlets written in several languages. Most are in German, French or English, but there are also many in Italian and Spanish, and some in Dutch and Latin. Foster brought together articles and works from across the world, written in the UK, France, Germany, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. The collection includes some well-known, and some obscure, articles by leading scientists of the period, such as Sigmund Freud.

The Foster collection was previously only accessible by means of a card catalogue, compiled by Foster himself. The Whipple Library successfully completed its cataloguing in May 2002, and records for the pamphlets can now be accessed through the online catalogue.

Images of the Foster Pamphlet Collection

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