Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)UB/SOC4
TitleRecords of University of Birmingham Poynting Physical Society
Extent5 standard boxes and 2 large boxes
Thumbnail (Click this image to open a larger image)


DescriptionRecords of the University of Birmingham Poynting Physical Society, formerly Mason College Physical Society then University of Birmingham Mathematical and Physical Society, including records of its research section, the R3 group. Largely comprising minutes (1884-1973), proceedings (1884-1889), copies of the Society's journal, Poynter (1961-1988), and photographs (1920-1980), the collection also contains early membership lists dated 1891, and a small amount of administrative material and ephemera from the mid-20th century. The collection also includes a short article on the history of the Society written in 1987. The foundation and early years of the Society are well-documented in the minutes and proceedings. However the records are incomplete; most notably there are no general or Committee minutes for the years 1902-1918 (it appears the Society may not have functioned at this time), and no minutes of general meetings beyond 1953.

The collection provides information about the formation and development of one of the earliest departmental societies at the University and reflects the interests and activities of staff and students of the Physics department from the 1880s to the late 20th century. The R3 records provide insight into the research culture fostered by J. H. Poynting in the early years of the department.
NotesThe finding number for the photograph displayed at Fonds level is UB/SOC4/2/2
ArrangementArranged in four series: Administrative Records, Proceedings, Other Society Records, and Photographs.
Access ConditionsOpen to all registered researchers
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue, or view the catalogue as a PDF file by clicking in the document field below.
Access StatusOpen
Physical DescriptionPhotographs stored in large boxes
Creator NameMason College Physical Society; University of Birmingham Mathematical and Physical Society; Poynting Physical Society
Administrative HistoryMason College Physical Society was formed in 1884 for all staff and students of the College interested in Physics, Astronomy and 'kindred subjects'. The Professor of Physics, J. H. Poynting, was President of the Society and a Committee of students was appointed to run its activities. The Society was funded by a membership fee introduced in 1885. The Committee organised lectures and demonstrations to promote the discussion of Physical subjects and to bring members into contact with a broader range of topics than could be covered in departmental lectures. In the 1890s it was felt that the lectures were too specialised to be of interest to a broad range of students and in 1894 the R3 (Recent Research Reading) group was created for the discussion of more advanced subjects, leaving general meetings to focus on subjects suited to junior students and those with a general interest in Physics.

The Physical Society continued to function until 1901 but there are no records of the Society from 1902-1918 except for the minutes of the R3 group, which continued to meet regularly until the early 1940s when the group appears to have disbanded. The Physical Society stopped appearing in student handbooks (UB/GUILD/E/3) and The Mermaid (UB/GUILD/F/3), so it appears the Society ceased functioning from around 1902 until the formation of the University of Birmingham Mathematical and Physical Society in 1919. In the Mathematical and Physical Society the office of President alternated between members of staff from the Physics and Maths departments, and the Committee organised papers on both Mathematical and Physical subjects. The joint Society was short-lived as in 1923 the two subjects were separated and the Poynting Physical Society was formed. The office of President was held by the Professor of Physics, Vice-Presidents were elected annually from amongst the academic staff, and the student Committee contained representatives from each year of the course.

The Poynting Physical Society's range of activities expanded to include joint debates with other student societies, social events, and visits. The Society invited speakers from other universities and arranged joint meetings with organisations such as the Institute of Industrial Supervisors and Institute of Physics. The Poynting Physical Society began producing a Newsheet in the late 1940s, which in 1954 became the journal Poyntor (later Poynter). Over time the emphasis of the Society shifted away from lectures and research and towards social activities. In the late 1940s/early 1950s an Entertainments Committee was established and new roles were created such as Carnival Representative, Sports Representative, Visits Secretary, and Post-Graduate Secretary. In 1951 the Committee introduced the P.P.S. prize, awarded for the best student lecture of the session. The Poynting Physical Society is currently active at the University of Birmingham. The Society runs socials, sports competitions, trips and careers-related events.
Custodial HistoryThe majority of the collection was transfered from the Physics Department archive in 1990. The remaining material which was already held within the University archives is assumed to have been transfered at an earlier date.
Related MaterialCadbury Research Library holds the archives of the University of Birmingham and its predecessor colleges. These include records of other student and departmental societies


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