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Identity statement

Reference code(s)
GB0100 KCLCA McClare
McCLARE, Dr Colin William Fraser (1937-1977)
Level of description
Collection (fonds)
Extent and medium of the unit of description (quantity, bulk, or size)
10 boxes


Name of creator(s)

McClare, Colin William Fraser, 1937-1977, biophysicist

Administrative / Biographical history

McClare was born in 1937 and educated at Felsted School and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he read natural sciences, specialising in chemistry. He undertook research at Cambridge on the chemistry of free radicals in biology as a Medical Research Council student, 1958-1961, and on energy transfer in nucleic acids as a Beit Fellow, 1961-1963, and was awarded a PhD in 1962. He was Lecturer in Biophysics at King's College, London, 1963-1977. From his growing interest in bioenergetics and the problems of muscle contraction he concluded that classical thermodynamics was inadequate for the description of biological processes, and that the application of the Second Law of Thermodynamics to biological machines required the introduction of time scales. His ideas were not generally accepted and although he wrote extensively on the subject his papers were not accepted for publication until four controversial papers appeared in the Journal of Theoretical Biology and Nature , 1971-1972. These generated a vigorous correspondence with scientists all over the world. McClare's unorthodox views failed to gain the approval of established scientific opinion. He took his own life at the age of thirty-nine, 1977.

Archival history

Received for cataloguing at the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre (later National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists, University of Bath) in 1979 from Mrs Gill McClare, widow, and the Biophysics Department, King's College London.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Given by Mrs McClare to King's College London in 1981.

Content & structure

Scope and content

Papers of Colin William Fraser McClare, c1957-1981, comprising biographical and autobiographical material; laboratory notebooks c1964-1976; 'ideas' diaries; drafts for lectures and papers (not all published) c1959-c1976; teaching material, in particular for a course on the 'Social Impact of the Biosciences' which started in 1973, with which McClare had been closely involved; a set of McClare's publications including his major papers on bioenergetics and the correspondence arising; correspondence, 1964-1976 (mainly early 1970s), includes letters exchanged with the philosopher Sir Karl Raimund Popper, who offered considerable encouragement to McClare's early attempts to formulate and publish his scientific ideas, and whose philosophy McClare acknowledged as a profound influence.

System of arrangement

Biographical and personal; Notebooks and working notes; Scientific drafts and publications; Talks, lectures and conferences; Teaching material; Scientific correspondence.

Conditions of access & use

Conditions governing access

Open, subject to signature of Reader's undertaking form, and appropriate provision of two forms of identification, to include one photographic ID.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Director of Archive Services

Language/scripts of material


Finding aids

'Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Colin William Fraser McClare' by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre (CSAC 77/1/81, 30 pp), later the NCUACS, University of Bath, from whom copies are available. Includes index of correspondents.

Allied materials

Existence and location of originals

King's College London College Archives

Description control

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Source: 'Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Colin William Fraser McClare' by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre (CSAC 77/1/81), later the NCUACS, University of Bath.

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

Jan 2001


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  • Biophysics
  • Diaries
  • Documents
  • Higher science education
  • Information sources
  • Learning methods
  • Literary forms and genres
  • Literature
  • Nonfiction
  • Practical work (learning method)
  • Primary documents
  • Prose
  • Teaching materials

Personal names

  • McClare, Colin William Fraser, 1937-1977, Biophysicist
  • Popper, Sir, Karl Raimund, 1902-1994, Knight, Philosopher

Corporate names

  • King's College London College Archives

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