Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society

Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society
Formation28 February 1781; 242 years ago (1781-02-28)
TypeLearned society
Registration no.235313
Legal statusCharity
PurposeThe Manchester Lit and Phil was established in 1781 with the object of promoting the advancement of education and public interest in any form of literature, science, arts or public affairs.
HeadquartersManchester, UK
Region served
Official language
  • Research
  • Publications
  • Lectures
  • Events
  • Library
  • Archives
President (97th)
Ian Cameron

The Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, popularly known as the Lit. & Phil., is one of the oldest learned societies in the United Kingdom and second oldest provincial learned society (after the Spalding Gentlemen's Society).

Prominent members have included Robert Owen, John Dalton, James Prescott Joule, Sir William Fairbairn, Tom Kilburn, Peter Mark Roget, Sir Ernest Rutherford, Alan Turing, Sir Joseph Whitworth and Dorothy Hodgkin.


Dorothy Hodgkin, Dalton Medallist

It was established in February 1781, as the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester, by Thomas Percival, Thomas Barnes, Thomas Henry, Thomas Butterworth Bayley and others. The first formal meeting of the society took place on 14 March 1781. Meetings were held in a back room of Cross Street Chapel until December 1799, after which the society moved into its own premises in George Street. John Dalton conducted his experiments at these premises.

The Society's original premises on George Street were destroyed during the Manchester Blitz (around January 1941), at which time its library comprised more than 50,000 volumes as well as historic artefacts, portraits, and archives. Its replacement (built in the 1960s) was constructed using high alumina cement (referred to as having "concrete cancer") and was demolished in the 1980s. It became a registered charity (No. 235313) in 1964.

Membership is open to anyone aged over 16 years and lectures are held both in person at venues in Manchester City Centre, and (since 2020) online. There are on average 30 lectures each season and non-members are welcome to attend. The society has more than 400 members.

The Society operates from an office situated in Colony Jactin House, Ancoats, Manchester, and has three permanent staff.


The Society organises a range of lectures, including the Wilde, Joule and Dalton Lectures and three lectures annually specifically for Young People. The most prestigious lectures are the Percival Lecture and the Manchester Lecture, and in some years the most distinguished speakers are presented with the Dalton Medal. Since the local universities ceased offering extra-curricular courses the Lit. & Phil. has seen an increase in both membership and in the attendance of non-members at lectures.


Notable Members, in addition to those above, have included the Nobel Laureates, Sir Robert Robinson, Sir Norman Haworth, and Niels Bohr, as well as Chaim Weizmann, Hans Geiger, Sir William Roberts, Lyon, Lord Playfair, William Gaskell, Sir William de Wiveleslie Abney, Charles William Sutton, Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth, Joseph Jordan, Henry Moseley, Sir Adolphus William Ward, Stanley Jevons, James Prince Lee, Sir Edward Leader Williams, William Axon, Sir Henry Hoyle Howorth, Samuel Greg, Sir Edward Frankland, Samuel Hibbert-Ware and Moses Tyson.

Honorary Members have included Stephen Hawking, William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, Robert Bunsen, Sergey Kapitsa, Dmitri Mendeleev, Sir Cyril Hinshelwood, Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw, Jöns Jacob Berzelius and John Mercer.

Memoirs and Proceedings
Edited byProf. Graham Booth
Publication details
Standard abbreviations
ISO 4Mem. Proc.


The society's Memoirs and Proceedings (first published in 1783) was, at the time of its launch, the only regular scientific journal in the United Kingdom except for the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

The Manchester Memoirs has been published continuously since the first edition.

It contains the transactions of the society (most notably the text of many recent lectures) and is distributed to members and to similar institutions and libraries throughout the world by subscription. Copies are also available for purchase by non-members.

Dalton Medal

Named in honour of the Society's longest-serving President, the scientist John Dalton, the Dalton Medal is a distinction rarely bestowed and is the Society’s highest award. It is given to those who have made a distinguished contribution to science.

Since 1898 the medal has been awarded on only fifteen occasions: all recipients have been Fellows of the Royal Society and many have been Nobel Laureates.

Several medallists have had Manchester and University of Manchester/Owens College connections with the Departments of Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry and Engineering.

So far, only one woman has been a recipient of this medal.

Recipients of the Dalton Medal
No. Year Name Notes
1 1898 Henry Edward Schunck English chemist and expert on natural dyestuffs. He was born in Manchester and lived in Kersal, Salford. He started his studies with William Henry. He bequeathed his laboratory to Owens College, Manchester and it was moved to Burlington Street (1906) where it is still known as the Schunck Building. The Schunck Library is in the Chemistry Department.
2 1900 Sir Henry Roscoe English chemist noted for his work on the element vanadium and for photochemical studies. He was the grandson of William Roscoe of Liverpool (cousin of Stanley Jevons and uncle to Beatrix Potter). Educated at the Liverpool Institute for Boys and with Robert Bunsen in Heidelberg. Appointed 2nd Professor of Chemistry at Owens College, Manchester (1857–86), and MP for Manchester South (1885–95).
3 1903 Osborne Reynolds British engineer, physicist and educator. He was Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at Owens College, Manchester (1868–1904).
4 1919 Sir Ernest Rutherford New Zealand physicist and is considered to be the father of nuclear physics. He was Langworthy Professor of Physics at the University of Manchester (1907–19) where he split the atom in a building on Coupland Street. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1908).
5 1931 Sir Joseph 'J. J.' Thomson English experimental physicist born in Cheetham Hill, Manchester who enrolled at Owens College, Manchester (1870). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics (1906). His son, Professor Sir George Paget Thomson, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics (1937).
6 1942 Sir Lawrence Bragg Australian-born British physicist and X-ray crystallographer. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics (1915), with his father, and became its youngest ever recipient. He was Langworthy Professor of Physics at the University of Manchester (1919–37).
7 1948 Patrick Blackett English experimental physicist and cosmologist. He was Langworthy Professor of Physics at the University of Manchester (1937–53). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics (1948).
8 1966 Sir Cyril Hinshelwood English physical chemist awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1956).
9 1981 Dorothy Hodgkin British biochemist who developed protein crystallography and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1964).
10 1997 Sir Harold Kroto English chemist famous for his discovery of fullerenes and is most famously associated with buckminsterfullerene C60 (buckyballs). Educated at the University of Sheffield, he was a great promoter of science education (particularly for young people) and an ambassador for the public's engagement with science. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1996).
11 2002 Sir Walter Bodmer German-born British human geneticist who was educated at Manchester Grammar School.
12 2005 Sir Roger Penrose English mathematical physicist, mathematician and philosopher of science, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics (2020).
13 2009 Sir Bernard Lovell English physicist and radio astronomer who established (and was the first Director of) the Jodrell Bank Observatory at the University of Manchester.
14 2012 Martin, Lord Rees of Ludlow British cosmologist and astrophysicist. Born in Shropshire, he has been Astronomer Royal since 1995.
15 2016 Sir Konstantin Novoselov Russian-British physicist, and Langworthy Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics (2010).





  • 1783–89 Isaac Moss
  • 1790–91 Thomas Maxwell
  • 1791–95 Benjamin Arthur Heywood
  • 1796–1814 Nathaniel Heywood
  • 1815–50 Sir Benjamin Heywood, Bt
  • 1851–54 George Wareing Ormerod
  • 1855–62 Henry Mere Ormerod
  • 1863–68 Robert Worthington
  • 1868–73 Thomas Carrick
  • 1873–76 Samuel Broughton
  • 1877–95 Charles Bailey
  • 1896–1901 John Jackson Ashworth
  • 1901–02 Charles Bailey
  • 1902–10 Arthur McDougall
  • 1910–21 W. Henry Todd
  • 1921–22 Robert Henry Clayton
  • 2011–13 Michael N. G. Evans
  • 2013–16 David S. Brown
  • 2014–15 David Costley-Wood
  • 2016–21 Greg Mauchline
  • 2016–22 Trevor Rees
  • 2022–present Christine Mbarga

See also

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