The Lit & Phil Card Index


This is the online Card Index of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, known historically (and to its members) as the Lit & Phil.

About the Lit & Phil

The Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, founded on 28 February 1781, is the second oldest learned society in Britain. Many of the founding members were medical men, resident in the King St-Piccadilly area of the city; the earliest meetings took place in a room in the original Cross St Chapel, but in 1799 the Society moved to 36 George Street, which remained its home until the Blitz of 1940. From 1960-1980 the Society enjoyed the facilities of its rebuilt home, but since 1981 has not had its own premises; today it operates from an office and small library within Manchester Metropolitan University.

By the 1860s, membership had expanded to over 200, and included prominent merchants, engineers and manufacturers. Women were not admitted to membership until the beginning of the 20th century. Many famous scientists, engineers, physicists and mathematicians have been members of the Society, the most famous being John Dalton, the ‘father of modern chemistry’, a member from 1794 until his death in 1844. Much of his original research was done in a laboratory at the Society’s George Street House. Other notable past members include Dalton’s gifted pupil James Prescott Joule, Peter Mark Roget, the originator of the Thesaurus; William Fairbairn the engineer; Henry Roscoe the chemist; Ernest Rutherford the nuclear physicist; Joseph Whitworth the precision engineer as well as Professor Tom Kilburn and Alan Turing, computing pioneers. However, the membership has never been exclusively scientific or academic. Today, a wide range of professional as well as academic backgrounds are represented in the membership and there is a good male-female balance.

Because of the Blitz, lack of permanent large premises, changing methods of publishing and availability of information, the Library is much smaller than in its 19th century hey-day, but it still contains a complete set of the Society’s Memoirs and Proceedings from vol I, 1785 as well as various drawings and other material. Most of the surviving artefacts, Dalton manuscripts, and similar are available for consultation at either the University of Manchester John Rylands Library, the Science Museum or MOSI. The Hon Curator & Librarian is always pleased to help with historical inquiries about the Society or its membership.