Dainton Collection

Ref: Special Collection
Title: Dainton Papers

Scope: A collection of books from the personal library of Lord Dainton, scientist, university academic and administrator, and chairman of national committees on science, higher education and libraries, circa 1930 to 1997.

Dates: 1793-2005
176 vols.
Name of creators:
Dainton, Baron, of Hallam Moors

Administrative / biographical history:
A collection of books from the personal library of Lord Dainton of Hallam Moors, scientist, university academic and administrator, and chairman of national committees on science, higher education and libraries, Chancellor of the University of Sheffield from 1978 until his death in 1997. The collection is intended to complement and support the Dainton Papers.

Frederick Sydney Dainton was born in Sheffield, where his father was a stone-mason, in November 1914 and was educated at the Central Secondary School for Boys, Sheffield, and St. John´s College, Oxford. He took a first class degree in Chemistry in 1937, moving to a research post in Cambridge. He went on to become Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Leeds (1950-65), during which period he was made an FRS, and Dr Lee´s Professor of Chemistry at Oxford (1970-73). Between these appointments he was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham (1965-70), at a time of increasing student militancy, and where he established the first new medical school in Britain of the 20th century. Amongst many other official appointments he chaired a governmental enquiry into the decline in the numbers of entrants into science and technology in universities, which produced the Dainton Report of 1968, and served as Chairman of the Council for Scientific Policy and of its successor, the Advisory Body for Research Councils. In 1967 he was asked by the Government to lead an enquiry into the future of national libraries, and the resulting report helped to create the British Library by Act of Parliament in 1972, whose new St. Pancras building opened shortly before his death.

After his period at Oxford he became in 1973 Chairman of the University Grants Committee, fighting against diminishing government funding for universities. In 1979 he took on two further major commitments, as Chairman of both the British Library Board, in which capacity he persuaded Margaret Thatcher of the need for a separate purpose-built building, and the National Radiological Protection Board, holding both these posts until 1985.

Knighted in 1971, he entered the House of Lords as a life peer, Baron Dainton of Hallam Moors, in 1986. From 1978 until his death he was the sixth Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, the first Yorkshireman to hold this post, in the city of his birth.

During his long and active career he published some 300 scientific papers, and received 26 honorary degrees from higher education institutions in the United Kingdom and abroad, together with many other honours. He was still working up to the time of his death in December 1997, when he had almost completed his autobiography, published under the title `Doubts and Certainties: a Personal Memoir of the 20th Century´, by Sheffield Academic Press in 2001. The work was completed by his wife Barbara with editorial assistance by staff at the University of Sheffield.
[Notes based on Lord Dainton´s autobiography, Who´s Who and obituaries.]

  • Related collections: Dainton Papers
  • Source: By bequest
  • System of arrangement: Numerical
  • Subjects: Chemists - Great Britain; Education, higher - Great Britain; Libraries, National - Great Britain; Scientists - Great Britain; Universities and colleges - Great Britain - Administration
  • Names: Dainton, Baron, of Hallam Moors, 1914-1997; British Library; University of Sheffield
  • Conditions of access: Available to all researchers, by appointment
  • Restrictions: None
  • Finding aids: Listed and catalogued