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Level Collection
Extent 33 boxes, 1 oversize folder
Extent 10 boxes of uncatalogued material
Title Heatley, Norman George, OBE (1911- 2004)
Date 1902-2004
Box Number 1-33
Outsize Item Number 1
Ordering Instructions This archive record describes a grouping of orderable items: to order any of them for consultation, order copies or view them if they have been digitised, navigate down the archive hierarchy to Item level.
Name Heatley, Norman George, 1911-2004
Description The Norman Heatley archive consists of a variety of material relating to Heatley's work in the field of biochemistry throughout his lifetime. The papers predominantly relate to the research and development of penicillin, including both important material generated contemporaneously from 1939 as well as a large amount of retrospective material which can be said to form a 'narrative' demonstrating how the history of penicillin has been researched and related from the 1940s through to the early 21st century.

The collection comprises laboratory notebooks and other experimental research papers, correspondence, publications, newspaper and journal articles, photographs and drawings of apparatus, photocopied diary extracts and typescript narratives. There are frequent annotations to early material added by Heatley later in his life and explanatory notes, some prepared by Heatley expressly for the collection.

A good deal of information on other scientists involved in the development of penicillin and antibiotics is contained in the collection, providing many interesting insights into their personalities and interactions with colleagues.

The collection comprises two sections of largely original material - Sections A and B, a section of retrospective material on the story of penicillin - Section C, and two groups of publications by Heatley and by other scientists - Sections D and E.

Section F comprises personal and family material (and will also include as yet uncatalogued material acquired in 2015 as Acc.2179).

Arrangement The papers are arranged in the following sections:

A. Research Notebooks and Research Data, 1928-1973

B. Correspondence and Papers Regarding Research Work, 1917-1980

C. Telling the Story of Penicillin, 1931-c.2004

D. Publications and Writings by Heatley, c.1930-2004

E. Publications and Writings By Scientists Other Than Norman Heatley, 1902-1992

F. Personal and Family Material, 1930-1997

Historical Background

Norman George Heatley was born 10 January 1911 at Woodbridge, Suffolk. He attended preparatory schools in St. Felix and Folkestone, 1918-1923 and public school in Tonbridge, 1923-1929.

From 1929 Heatley read Natural Sciences at St John's College, Cambridge University, graduating in 1933. Between 1933 and 1936 he worked under Joseph Needham at the School of Biochemistry (Sir William Dunn Biochemical Institute) University of Cambridge, on microchemical methods applied to biological problems. He took the MA degree in 1935 and obtained his PhD in 1937.

In September 1936 Heatley came at the invitation of Howard W. Florey to the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, initially to work with E. B. Chain on tumour metabolism. Between 1936 and 1939 he also developed a new type of microrespirometer. He was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Philip Walker Studentship.

From October 1939, Heatley worked directly with Florey (and Chain) on the early research, extraction and development of penicillin. This close collaboration continued up to June 1941 when Heatley accompanied Florey to the USA to seek help from firms to mass produce penicillin. He remained there until June 1942, spending time working in the Fermentation Division of the Northern Regional Research Laboratory of the US Department of Agriculture, Peoria, Illinois, and from mid-December 1941 at the research laboratories of Merck & Co. Inc., Rahway, New Jersey. The first six months of his time in the USA were supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, who had offered him a Fellowship to work in Copenhagen with Professor Linderstrom-Lang but which was prevented by the outbreak of war in September 1939 (see B/2/2).

After Heatley's return to Oxford in 1942 he resumed work at the Dunn School of Pathology as an employee of the University of Oxford, first as a Senior Research Officer, then as a University Lecturer. In 1948 he was awarded one of three newly endowed Nuffield (Penicillin) Research Fellowships at Lincoln College, being elected to an honorary fellowship in 1982.

In the 1960s Heatley was seconded to work in the USA on three projects. From September 1962 to March 1963 he worked with Dr S Lepkowsky in the Department of Poultry Husbandry, University of California, on secretin and pancreozymin. Further work in this area was undertaken in 1968 at Baltimore City Hospitals where he collaborated with Dr J Love in the Department of Surgical Research. In addition, in 1963 he worked with Dr Ernest Bueding, in the Department of Pathobiology, School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, on the respiration of schistosome heads, using the microrespirometer designed at Oxford just before the war.

Throughout his career Heatley published over 65 articles in scientific journals, many as co-author, dealing with his biochemical research, techniques and methods, including work on penicillin and antibiotics (see Section D for writings by Heatley). Heatley also contributed to Antibiotics: A survey of penicillin, streptomycin, and other antimicrobial substances from fungi, actinomycetes, bacteria and plants by Howard Florey (Oxford University Press 1949).

He was awarded the OBE in 1978 for his contributions to scientific research. In 1982 he was made an Honorary Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, became Honorary DM (Oxon.) in 1990 and Honorary Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge in 1992.

Heatley retired from university and college positions in 1978, however, until his death in 2004 he participated in and contributed to numerous works and productions on the history of penicillin and antibiotics, often providing invaluable assistance, insights and factual commentary to researchers. Despite playing a key role in the development of penicillin, the importance and worth of Heatley's work during the Second World War went comparatively unrecognised until the 1990s. It is widely thought that Heatley ought to have been the fourth scientist to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1945, along with Alexander Fleming, Ernst B. Chain and Howard W. Florey.

Heatley married Mercy Bing in 1944. They had two sons and two daughters. Norman Heatley died 6 Jan 2004.

For additional biographical information see online obituaries of Heatley and material in Section C.

Acquisition Details

A small quantity of these papers were placed in the Archives and Manuscripts department of the Wellcome Library (formerly the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre) in 1983 by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre (which later became the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists); the CSAC had received them for cataloguing from Heatley, 1980-1983.

These papers (Acc.133) were originally catalogued as GC/48 and comprised one box of material. Previous references are included in the catalogue where relevant. Copies of the original catalogue for GC/48 are held by the Archives and Manuscripts Department.

The majority of the papers were transferred to the Archives and Manuscripts department by the Heatley family after his death in 2004 (Acc.1311). The collection now comprises 30 boxes and one oversize folder.

Accessions 1848 was received in 2011 and is now catalogued as: A/1/3a; A/2/1/1a & 2a; A/2/1/16; C/1/4/1a, 3a & 4a; C/1/4/5-6; C/1/5/2a; C/4/7; C/2/2/5; F/1/1-32; F/2-3.

Accession 1884 was received in 2012 and is now catalogued as: A/4/7 (addition to existing file); C/1/6/5; C/1/8; C/2/4.

A substantial additional accession, 2179, was donated by the Heatley family in May 2015. It is currently not available to researchers.

Accession Number 133
Accession Number 1311
Accession Number 1848
Accession Number 1884
Accession Number 2179
Accruals The following is an interim description of material that has been acquired since this collection was catalogued. This description may change when cataloguing takes place in future:

In May 2015 an additional 10 boxes of papers of Norman Heatley and papers of his wife Dr Mercy Heatley were present by the Heatley family to the Wellcome Library (Acc.2179). Papers of Norman Heatley include personal, family and friends correspondence (some of which also covers his work and professional matters), appointment diaries, photographs, some scientfic papers, press cuttings and off-prints of articles, financial and legal papers and audio visual material. The papers of Mercy Heatley include personal, family and friends correspondence, school reports and diary notes, material for biography, correspondence and papers relating to some of her professional work as a psychologist and to her campaigning work with pressure groups and photographs. This material, taken with that already catalogued and available, provides a deeply fascinating and comprehensive archive of the life and career of Norman Heatley and a substantial archive of the personal and professional life of Mercy Heatley.

Access Status Certain restrictions apply
Access Conditions The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, with the exception of PP/NHE/A/2/1/5 which is Restricted Access until 1 Jan 2045.

This collection contains uncatalogued material which is currently unavailable to researchers. We regret that we are unable to provide access to this material. For more information, please contact the Archives and Manuscripts department.

Reproduction Conditions Images are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.
Language English
Finding Aids Online catalogue of Archives and Manuscripts and hard copy list in the Rare Materials Room. Copies of the catalogue of the original smaller collection can be obtained upon application to the Archives and Manuscripts Department.
Related Material

At other repositories:

Penicillin apparatus, including some designed by Heatley, is held by the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford.

See also the papers of E B Chain (PP/EBC)at the Wellcome Library and and H W Florey held at the Royal Society

Subject Anti-Bacterial Agents
Subject Experimental science
Subject Animal Experimentation
Subject Antifungal Agents
Subject Bacterial Infections


Subject Bacteriology
Subject Biochemistry


Subject Drug Industry
Subject Drug Therapy
Subject Fungi
Subject Gastroenterology

Gastrointestinal system

Subject History of Medicine
Subject Microbiology
Subject Mucins


Subject Inventions
Subject Penicillins
Subject Research Support as Topic
Subject Research


Subject War
Subject World War II
Subject Pharmacology
Subject Pathology
Subject Physiology
Subject Immune Sera
Subject Syphilis
Subject Tuberculosis

Microbiological assay

Subject Viruses
Subject Dysentery
Subject Digestion
MaterialType Archives - Non-digital
System No. 3f5f9d4d-3594-494c-a943-9e6695ae18ee