Fonds ADRN - Papers of Lord Adrian

Identity area

Reference code



Papers of Lord Adrian


  • c. 1910-78 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

37 boxes

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Edgar Douglas Adrian was born on 30 November 1889, son of Alfred Douglas Adrian and his wife Flora, née Barton. He was educated at Westminster and admitted to Trinity College in 1908, becoming a Fellow in 1913 after studying Natural Sciences and Medicine. He finished his medical training at St Bartholemew’s Hospital and spent much of the war as a medical officer in Aldershot. Returning to Cambridge in 1919 he supervised Trinity Medical students and worked in the physiological laboratory. Later he became a Foulerton Research Professor of the Royal Society and in 1937 Professor of Physiology, a post he held until 1951.

Adrian’s mentor had been Keith Lucas, who died in the war, so Adrian first continued his studies, publishing a collection of Lucas’ lectures entitled ‘The Conduction of the Nervous Impulse’. Adrian then went on to undertake his pioneering work on the Central Nervous System that was to lead to the Nobel Prize in 1932.

Adrian was President of the Royal Society from 1950 to 1955 and became Master of Trinity in 1951 in succession to G M Trevelyan, holding the position until 1965. In 1955 he was elevated to the peerage. He died on 4 August 1977.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The papers were deposited by Richard Adrian, 2nd Baron Adrian, in November 1993 and March 1995.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The papers contain faculty and special lectures, academic correspondence, scientific notebooks, letters and papers as Master of Trinity and President of the Royal Society, papers relating to the Natural Sciences Club, papers relating to the Cambridge Post-Expressionist exhibition and the diaries of Hester Adrian.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


After the deposits by Richard Adrian, Lady Adrian deposited Adrian's Notebook on the Properties of Matter, 1908 in March 1998, Copley Medal congratulations, 1946, and a draft speech for an RS banquet 1960 in Oct 1998 and C U Natural Sciences Club photos 1910-1919 in Sep 1999.

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Conditions governing access

NOTE. These papers have not yet been catalogued, but small quantities can be made available to readers provided at least two weeks' notice is given. It may be that certain items, owing to their contents or condition, cannot yet be produced. Please contact the Library for further details.

Conditions governing reproduction

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      Finding aids

      This collection-level description was created by Jonathan Smith in 2019. Though the archive is not yet catalogued in detail, a brief box-list/inventory has been compiled and has been attached here in pdf form as a guide to its contents. There are also notes (75 pp typescript) on the papers by Adrian's daughter Anne Pinsent Keynes, written in 1998, which can be read at Trinity College Library.

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      Related units of description

      Bound volumes of Adrian's speeches as Master of Trinity can be found at Add.Ms.c.210-213

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