Science History Institute
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106
The Science History Institute is a collections-based nonprofit organization that preserves the history and heritage of chemistry, chemical engineering, and related sciences and technologies. The collections are used to create a body of original scholarship that illuminates chemistry’s role in shaping society. In bridging science with the humanities, arts, and social sciences.
The Institute’s, Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History encompasses the history of chemistry and related sciences and industries. Strengths include alchemy, industries, general science, physics, physiology, medicine, toxicology, pathology, pharmacology, pharmacy and materia medica, technology, engineering, environmental topics, mining, and chemical manufacturers.
The Othmer Library is an independent research library. It is open by appointment to all users, but the collections and services are designed for scholars and experienced researchers who are working on specific topics, with a research strategy in place.
Researchers are encouraged to consult the online catalog and request materials in advance of their visit the library's online catalog, Midon, is available via the Institute’s web site and provides full bibliographic descriptions of books, journals, oral histories, and archival materials held in the collection. The requested items will be retrieved from the stacks to be used in the Jacobs Reading Room.
Reading Room hours--Monday–Friday--10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. (Eastern Time)
To schedule an appointment to visit our collections, please click on the above link to complete the online appointment form.
The Donald F and Mildred Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History collects, preserves, and makes accessible materials relating to the history of science, technology, and medicine, with an emphasis on chemistry and chemical engineering from ancient to modern times. The Othmer Library currently houses approximately 160,000 print and microform volumes, rare books and manuscripts, significant archival materials, and historical photographs.
The monographs and journals range from the general fields of inorganic and organic chemistry, biochemistry, analytical chemistry, chemical engineering, food chemistry, and pharmacology, to specific subjects such as brewing, cosmetics, dyes, plastics, soaps, and textiles. Virtually every subject of modern chemical theory is represented, from quantum chemistry and chemical thermodynamics through cryogenics and molecular biology. The rare book collection consists of over 6,000 volumes dealing with all aspects of chemistry and related subjects from the 15th century on.
The Institute’s Othmer Library holds about 5,200 linear feet of historical manuscripts and photographs. The library actively collects and preserves the papers of individuals and groups whose work has significantly advanced our scientific understanding and whose discoveries have helped shape our lives. The photograph collection of over 25,000 images provides visual documentation of chemists, laboratories, and instrumentation. Holdings also include over 400 interviews conducted by the Institute's ongoing Oral History Project.
The Institute's Digital Collections offer highlights from our library, archives, and museum collections. Our chronology ranges from the Roman Empire to the 21st century, and the materials include everything from fine art to rare books and from scientific objects to photographs.