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Department of Molecular Biology, 1957-1993

Identifier: EUA IN1/ACU/M1

Scope and Contents

The records of the Department of Molecular Biology consist of:

  1. courses offered by the department
  2. departmental administration
  3. relations with the University of Edinburgh and other educational bodies
  4. relations with other scientific and government bodies
  5. papers and articles written by people connected with the department
  6. material relating to the promotion of the department and its courses
  7. papers relating to buildings and accommodation


  • Creation: 1957-1993


Language of Materials


Physical Description

8 metres (41 boxes) Some computer punchcards present: nothing available to read them

Conditions Governing Access

Access restrictions/conditions may apply.

These archives are currently awaiting relabelling. Until this work is done, access should be arranged directly via the Deputy University Archivist, Grant Buttars.

Biographical / Historical

The Department of Molecular Biology was founded in the University of Edinburgh in October 1965 by Martin R Pollock, Head of the Division of Microbial Physiology, and William Hayes, Director of the MRC Microbial Genetics Research Unit. Pollock and Hayes had realised that the fields of biochemistry and molecular genetics had converged to the extent that a new department combining them would be able to make significant contributions to the field. Several Universities were considered and Edinburgh eventually chosen.

They were initially based in the biophysics unit but moved into the Darwin Building in 1968. At this point, the staff of the MRC Microbial Genetics Research Unit which had been based in London moved into the department. The first PhD students joined in 1965, third year courses began in 1968 and the first honours courses began in 1969. The department's policy was that their honours students should go elsewhere to study for a PhD.

The department was involved in a lot of research which included recognition of bidirectional transcription of DNA in E. Coli, progress in the elucidation of the genetics, physiology and structure of factors responsible for antibiotic resistance in bacteria, the first bacteriophage vectors for recombinant DNA technology and their application to the cloning and manipulation of genes from any organism, the application of the methods of Molecular Biology to explore the possibilities of malaria vaccines and the production of the first artifical vaccine for Hepatitis B. These were produced by Ken Murray and the proceeds partly used to found The Darwin Trust.

The Darwin Trust founded the Biocomputing Research Unit to enable the department to cope with the enormous expansion in the flow of information regarding amino acid and the nucleotide sequences that underpin all genome projects and also founded a unified Science Library.

Other departments dealing with different aspects of biology were scattered across the university and plans were made to pull these strands together. In 1990 the department ceased in that form and became part of the Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology.


8 metres

Custodial History

Transferred directly from successor department

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transfer: Institute of Clinical and Molecular Biology, University of Edinburgh: 2 October 1996. Accession EUA Acc.1996/046


This material has not been appraised

Physical Description

8 metres (41 boxes) Some computer punchcards present: nothing available to read them

Archivist's Note

Rachael Third, 22 September 2001

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379