The Royal Society has been gifted the research papers of three more Fellows who worked at the Medical Research Council’s National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR): John Herbert Humphrey, Wilhelm Feldberg and Timothy Bliss.

The institute was based at Mill Hill Laboratory from 1950, before joining the Francis Crick Institute in 2015 and starting the move to a new home in St Pancras. During the move, the Royal Society was lucky enough to acquire six Fellows’ collections from the NIMR, with the papers of Humphrey, Feldberg and Bliss joining a previous donation featuring early-career material by Henry Dale, Royal Society President 1940-45, along with the archives of Rosa Beddington and Brigitte (Ita) Askonas.

At its conception in 1913, the Medical Research Committee (later Council) met to agree on a broad scheme of research and decided to set up a central institute for medical research, with proper laboratories and staff to fulfil the mission of preserving health and preventing or combating disease. The NIMR moved to Mill Hill Laboratory in 1950, after a long delay to the building’s completion during wartime. In its history of Mill Hill, the Francis Crick website states that, in the 65 years since the grand opening, scientists at NIMR ‘have made major and seminal contributions in biomedical science’.


Reproduced by permission of the Medical Research Council


Timothy Bliss joined the NIMR in 1967, working on synaptic long-term potentiation and cellular mechanisms of LTP and its functional relevance to memory. He became Head of the Division of Neurophysiology and Neuropharmacology in 1988, and Head of the Neurosciences Group in 1996.

Wilhelm Feldberg (1900-1993) was a neuropharmacologist whose research included the pharmacology of histamine and acetylcholine, and the chemical nature of synaptic transmission in the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system. Feldberg first came to the NIMR in 1926, and returned as a Jewish refugee in 1933, after being dismissed from his post at the Physiological Institute in Berlin. After working in Melbourne, Feldberg returned to England in 1938 and took the post of Head of the Division of Physiology and Pharmacology in 1946, before becoming Head of the Laboratory of Neuropharmacology until 1974.

John Herbert Humphrey was an immunologist who joined the Division of Biological Standards at the NIMR in 1949, and in 1957 he became Head of the new Division of Immunology. Humphrey’s research included work on cellular immunology and the understanding of the disease process.


Portrait of John Herbert Humphrey by Walter Bird (IM/GA/WRS/9586) © Godfrey Argent Studio


My colleague Laura and I went to Mill Hill to list and package these three exciting sets of papers. We worked in the beautiful Art Deco Library on the Feldberg Collection, moving to the (much colder!) old warehouse for the Humphrey papers – the most organised of the three sets – and finally the old social games room to sort the Bliss papers.

We went through each collection individually and made a brief list of what was included. There were some fascinating scientific records in the collection including research notes, annotated copies of papers, theses from all career stages right back to undergraduate level, and correspondence with other scientists at home and abroad. These were interspersed with more personal items, such as photographs of scientists working at Mill Hill and retirement and birthday commemoration books.

Watch this space for the catalogue, but it you have any particular research interests in these collections please contact the Royal Society Archive.


John Herbert Humphrey’s beautifully organised filing system


The collection packaged and ready to be sent off to storage



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