About the Collections

The History of Science Collections of the University of Oklahoma Libraries was established in 1949 with an initial gift from OU alumnus Everette Lee DeGolyer. Current holdings of nearly 100,000 volumes, representing every field and subject area of science, technology and medicine, include complete sets of first editions of major scientists such as Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Darwin. Volumes range chronologically from Hrabanus Maurus, Opus de universo (1467), to current publications in the history of science.

The History of Science Collections of the University of Oklahoma Libraries, located on the 5th floor of Bizzell Memorial Library, is one of the premier research collections in its field. Holdings of nearly 100,000 volumes from every field and subject area of science, technology and medicine range chronologically from Hrabanus Maurus, Opus de universo (1467; right) to current publications in the history of science. The Galileo and Darwin collections illustrate the capacity of the holdings to support research:

  • The Galileo collection includes all 12 first editions of Galileo, four of which contain his own handwriting. It also includes the first English translation of Galileo, and many other first and later editions of the works of Galileo and his immediate contemporaries in the Accademia dei Lincei.
  • The Darwin collection consists of all of Darwin’s works in their first editions, and several autograph letters. In addition, it includes hundreds of subsequent editions and translations (for example, the Descent of Man in Yiddish, 1928).

Rare works like these, along with current works in the history of science, are all shelved together in the same area to facilitate browsing and research.

In addition to rare books, the History of Science Collections offer outstanding access to early printed serials, modern journals, monographs and reference sources in the history of science, all conveniently located within a single facility. The Roller Reading Room provides a quiet and secure environment for using Collections materials. In addition, long-term researchers may register to apply for access to non-public spaces. With research privileges, one may browse the Stacks, and directly check out items for convenient in-house use. The Commons provides a comfortable place for conversation, lunch, or browsing recent journal issues. The Harlow Room provides a secure location for classes in which rare books may be used in instruction. It is also used for colloquia and a variety of special events.

History: In 1949, Everette Lee DeGolyer founded the OU history of science program by lending 129 rare works to the University in exchange for the establishment of a teaching and research program in the history of science. The University complied with his stipulation by hiring Duane H.D. Roller to serve as both curator of the DeGolyer Collection and as the first professor of the history of science. DeGolyer eventually donated 6,000 volumes. By the time Marilyn B. Ogilvie became the second curator in 1991, the program had expanded to consist of a distinct Department of the History of Science with a half-dozen faculty, and a special collection numbering 79,000 volumes. The DeGolyer Collection was renamed as the History of Science Collections (plural) to recognize the role of additional donors. With continual University support, by Ogilvie’s retirement in 2008, the Collections had grown to over 94,000 volumes. Most of these are housed in two climate-controlled areas located in a highly secure facility designed to accommodate the needs of students, faculty and visiting scholars.

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