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Computing, 1966-73

 File — Multiple Containers

Scope and Contents

From the Series:

The Laboratory Files series (SB/6) consists of laboratory notebooks that document Brenner's research throughout his career. The series includes Brenner's work on the genetic code, fugu, sequencing, as well as his groundbreaking research on C. elegans.

The series is divided into 6 subseries:

From the Series:
  1. General Files (1952-1998)
  2. Medical Research Council (MRC) Notebooks (1955-1992)
  3. Nematode Electron Micrographic Prints (Late 1960s)
  4. Scientific Photographs (1952-1990s)
  5. Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) Notebooks (1961-1981)
  6. General Research Files (1970-2010)
From the Series:

The General Files subseries (SB/6/1) consists of material that was included in the original accession of Brenner material from 2006. The subseries consists of laboratory and course material from his time at Oxford University (early 1950s), a summer course at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1954), and the Medical Research Council (MRC) (1950s-90s). The material has been arranged chronologically. Titles for the files are derived from labels on the original notebooks; unlabeled material are described simply as "Laboratory Notebook" or "Laboratory Notes." Some of the material in this subseries is closely related to the notebooks found in the next subseries, which were accessioned at a later date.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) Notebooks subseries (SB/6/2) is composed of material included in Brenner's 2010 accession. This large set of laboratory material was generally housed in green MRC 3-ring binders, which were discarded during processing. Like the previous subseries, titles for the files were derived from the original notebook labels when available. The files have been arranged chronologically, and date from 1955 to 1992. Several of the notebooks belonged to other members of Brenner's laboratory (Muriel Wigby, Leslie Barnett, etc.), and some of Francis Crick's notebooks have been included in the subseries. There is some overlap with material found in the previous subseries.

The Nematode Electron Micrographic Prints subseries (SB/6/3) was also part of the 2010 accession. It consists of prints of various nematode species dating from the late 1960s, when Brenner was searching for the best worm to use as a model organism. While he eventually settled on Caenorhabditis elegans, the prints include a variety of other species of worms. The photographs were taken by Nichol Thomson. The subseries is arranged alphanumerically by the code assigned to each nematode (N2, N3, N4, etc.). Related research can be found in the two previous subseries.

The Scientific Photographs subseries (SB/6/4) consists of various photographic prints, negatives, slides, and transparencies that are scientific in nature. Some of these images and figures were used in papers authored or co-authored by Brenner. The subseries is arranged chronologically and dates from 1952 to the 1990s.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) Notebooks subseries (SB/6/5) is composed of 143 notebooks and three files of loose papers which are mostly related to nematode research from the 1960s to 1981. They were accessioned in 2007. The data inside varies, but includes columns of different phenotypes, as well as some experimental notes and techniques. The notebooks were created by Sydney Brenner and his laboratory group. The notebooks are organized numerically by a system devised by Brenner. They are numbered 1-130; notebook 128 is missing. Notebooks 66-68 consist of blank pages, and notebook 71 is empty. Unnumbered notebooks have been placed at the end of the subseries, and are arranged chronologically. Finally, loose papers (including two files of material created by Brenner's student Jonathan Hodgkin) have been placed after the unnumbered notebooks. These notebooks were described by Brenner in an oral history interview conducted by Web of Stories: "We also found very quickly that [C. elegans] were susceptible to mutagenesis, by a compound called EMS - ethylmethane sulphonate - and indeed, you can mutate their genes at about the same frequency as you can mutate the genes of the E. coli [Escherichia coli] that accompany them. That they are transparent to this mutagen. And that enabled us to get the whole of the genetics under way, and the first mutant was isolated in 1967. It was called E1. It's a very famous mutant. The E stands for EMS, because we thought we would name the mutants with this. Later the E stood for mutants isolated in Cambridge. What I decided to do at the time was to keep all the work that I would do open - that is all the lab notebooks - so that everybody could use them. And so each organism, each mutant was given a file, and into that file went everything that had been done with that mutant. That is, they weren't kept chronologically in my... in my own lab books, so that if we isolated, we put in the file how it got segregated, put in the file where you could find it, all the crosses had been... were put in the file with that mutant. And so up to about... this system was retained, all the... the books are there, there are a few hundred of them - they are stored and looked after in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology. But they contain all the raw data of every mutant and the things that I worked... naturally once the work began to expand and other people that... that stopped. So that's a history there embodied in those books of the contribution to that work." []

The General Research Files subseries (SB/6/6) consists of material that was included in the 2014 accession of Brenner material. The subseries consists of various laboratory research on topics such as fugu, phage, sequencing, as well as research related to his work at Lynx Therapeutics. The material has been arranged chronologically. Titles for the files are derived from labels that Brenner supplied on the files themselves or from titles found on notes inside unlabelled folders.


  • Creation: 1966-73

Language of Materials

From the Collection:

English (bulk)

Access Restrictions

Virtual access to most material from this collection is availabe freely online, via the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Digital Archives Repository.

Physical access is given only by appointment, 8:00a.m. to 4:45p.m., Monday through Friday. Certain restrictions to material apply to both virtual and physical collections. Contact archivist for details.


From the Sub-Series: 33 boxes (14.3 linear feet)

Repository Details

Part of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives Repository

Library & Archives
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
One Bungtown Rd
Cold Spring Harbor NY 11724 USA