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Identity statement

Reference code(s)
KING’S COLLEGE LONDON: Department of Biophysics records
Level of description
Extent and medium of the unit of description (quantity, bulk, or size)
54 boxes, 87 slide boxes, 24 outsize, custom-made or artefact boxes


Name of creator(s)

Kings College London Department of Biophysics

Administrative / Biographical history

The Department of Biophysics began as the Medical Research Council (MRC) funded Biophysics Research Unit, 1946, attached to the Department of Physics, with John Turton Randall as first Director.  It moved into the purpose-built Wheatstone Physics Laboratory in the basement of the main King’s Building, 1952. Staff of the Unit published preliminary findings on the structure of DNA in the April 1953 edition of Nature, simultaneously with James Watson and Francis Crick, Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge. After years of further research, Maurice Wilkins was jointly awarded, with Watson and Crick, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1962. The Unit moved to new premises in Drury Lane in 1964 and became the Department of Biophysics, with research groups working on cilia and flagella, muscle structure, nucleic acid structure, nuclear and chromosome structure, and x-ray diffraction studies of DNA and RNA. Randall retired in 1970, and was succeeded by Maurice Wilkins, 1970-1981. In 1989 the Department was renamed the Randall Institute, and relocated in 2001 to New Hunt’s House, Guy’s Campus, as the Randall Division of Cell and Molecular Biophysics, within the School of Biomedical Sciences.

Content & structure

Scope and content

Partially indexed slides and prints relating to research conducted in the Biophysics Unit, 1949-1964, and Department of Biophysics, 1964-1992, and associated journal articles and other papers, comprising: glass and acetate slides, 1949-1984 (approx 1990 items), notably x-ray diffraction photographs of DNA, also graphs and other data, illustrations of equipment and illustrations for journal articles (ref: KDBP 1/1-8); index books for the slides, 1949-1964, listing date, subject and sometimes name of researcher (ref: KDBP 2/1-7). Photographic prints, 1949-1992 (approx 490 items), including x-ray diffraction images of DNA and x-ray spectrometer diffraction patterns (ref: KDBP 3/1/1-10); photographic prints, 1959-1984, relating to work by individual named researchers, including x-ray diffraction images, microscope images, graphs, diagrams, and equipment (ref: KDBP 3/2/1-24); photographs, 1950-1992, of the staff and premises of the Biophysics Unit and later Department of Biophysics, including the construction of the Wheatstone Physics Lab, c 1950, a staff cricket match, c 1952, new laboratories at 26-29 Drury Lane, c 1963 (ref: KDBP 3/3); journal articles, 1945-1976, written by staff of the Biophysics Unit/Department of Biophysics (ref: KDBP 4/1-71). Also other papers relating to the work of the Biophysics Unit, notably the PhD thesis of Raymond Gosling, 'X-ray diffraction studies of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid', 1954 (ref; KDBP 5/1-3).

System of arrangement

As listed above

Conditions of access & use

Conditions governing access

The collection is open for consultation in the Archives Reading Room Only, subject to signature of a Reader Undertaking from and appropriate provision of two forms of identification

Conditions governing reproduction

Copies may be supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Head of Archives Services.

Language/scripts of material
Finding aids

This summary guide and detailed catalogue

Allied materials

Existence and location of originals
King's College London College Archives
Existence and location of copies

A significant portion of the collection items are available online in the Maurice Wilkins and Medical Research Council Biophysics Unit archive hosted by the Wellcome Library.

Related units of description

The papers of Maurice Wilkins, King’s College Archives.  

Description control

Rules or conventions

Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

This catalogue is made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License. This catalogue may be updated from time to time in order to reflect additional material and/or new understandings of the material.

Date(s) of descriptions


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