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History and Philosophy of Science: HPS Collections

The Whipple Library

The 'Whipple Library' is the specialist library for HPS in Cambridge, and one of the leading libraries for the history and philosophy of science, technology and medicine in the UK. Its primary function is to support the teaching and research carried out by students and staff in the Department, but we are also open to all members of the University and welcome users from all subjects, both to borrow books and use our work space.

Make a Recommendation

We welcome recommendations for book purchases from all our users. Please email us with the details (

The UL also welcomes recommendations via its website.

New books

Look out for our display of new books on the shelves next to the lift on Level 2. Our monthly list of new accessions is also circulated via the hps-discussion mailing list.

Latest additions to the Library (Print Format Only)

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Collections Showcase

A Spectro-polarimeter made by Adam Hilger Ltd, England, c1910, on display on the third floor of the Heycock Wing of the Whipple LIbrary
Students working in the Heycock Wing of the Whipple Library
The bright, open space of the Old Library area of the Whipple Library
Researchers writing while working in the Whipple Library
A model of the dermal layers on display on the ground floor of the Heycock Wing of the Whipple Library
A selection of 19th Century scientific books for children from the Whipple Library rare book collection.

Scope of modern collections at the Whipple

The Whipple Library collects print and e-books in all areas covered by the Tripos papers in History and Philosophy of Science (including for the NatSci, PBS and HSPS triposes, plus HEM for BBS). We also purchase material relevant to the MPhil and Part III courses, and to the research carried out by PhD students and academic staff in the Department.

Follow these links for summary information about the teaching and research interests of the Department:

Finding books at the Whipple

You'll need to know the classmark to find the book you want on the shelf. Many of the HPS readings lists on Moodle include Whipple Library classmarks and online links, but if you don't have the classmark already, you'll need to find it by looking the book up in iDiscover.

The Whipple uses an simple in-house alphabetical classification scheme. A-H is in the Old Library (across the Bridge), while I-Y is in the main Reading Room. Use the posters and shelf labels to locate the particular section you need, or ask a member of staff if you're unsure.

Can't find the book on the shelf?

  • Check on iDiscover to see if the book belongs in the Reserve, Reference or Oversize sections. Reserve is kept behind the Library desk; Reference and Oversize are on Level 1. Please ask staff for directions if you're unsure.
  • Books marked 'STORE' are kept with our special collections and will need to be fetched for you. Please fill in a Store request slip with the book details and hand it to a member of staff.
  • If the book is not marked Reserve, Reference, Oversize or Store, and is not on the shelf, please speak to a member of staff. The book may be awaiting reshelving if it's recently been returned, or if it's missing we need to know about it so we can replace it!

Information about collections for HPS

A portrait of the Library's benefactor, Robert Stewart WhippleThe Whipple Library was founded on the gift of Robert Stewart Whipple of his rare scientific books to the University in 1944, and is the largest specialist library in the history and philosophy of science and medicine in the UK.

We aim to cover a wide range of topics in the subject, but have particular strengths in the history and philosophy of scientific technologies, especially instruments; history and ethics of medicine; European philosophy of science.

Reading lists

Detailed reading lists for individual papers for each course, with details of Whipple Library and online holdings, are posted on the relevant HPS Moodle sites.

Contact Library staff if you don't have access to the sites you need.

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