The library of Maurice Wilkins

“A personal library is an X-ray of the owner’s soul. It offers keys to a particular temperament, an intellectual disposition, a way of being in the world. Even how the books are arranged on the shelves deserves notice, even reflection. There is probably no such thing as complete chaos in such arrangements.”
- Jay Parini, American writer and academic (b 1948-)

As part of the acquisition of Maurice Wilkins personal papers for the King’s College London archives, the family also donated an extensive part of his private library. This generous gift contains a plethora of non-fictional material ranging from his scientific career in biophysics to later work in nuclear disarmament. The collection, consisting of books, booklets, pamphlets and journal articles, can be found within the Archives Reading Room in the Strand Building and occupies ten shelves. As the above quotation states, a personal library can be a window to the owner’s soul and the Wilkins library collection certainly conveys a sense of Wilkins’ range of interests.

The collection contains journal articles and leaflets from a number of publications. Some relate to his scientific career with off-prints from the Journal of Molecular Biology, while others reveal his interest in the relationship between art and science. Also included are a series of annual booklets from the Nobel Prize organisation, listing prize winners.

The published books cover a diverse number of subjects but can be broken down into the following categories:

Science: life sciences, genetics, physics and biographical material

History: mainly the history of science, but also of ancient Greece, the Renaissance and the political and scientific history of the twentieth century

Psychology and Philosophy: psychoanalysis and how the mind works, also alternative therapies and eastern philosophy, in particular the practice of yoga

Anti-nuclear: relating to the anti-nuclear movement, disarmament, nuclear conflict.

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