History of Science Collection

Rare Books and Special Collections

THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE COLLECTION is the library's special collection of rare books on science, engineering, and technology. It includes printed books from the fifteenth century to the present. Additional materials to support historical research are available in the library's general collections of over one million volumes.

VISITORS ARE WELCOME to the rare book room in the History of Science Center, which is available for special classes and group presentations on the History of Science Collection. Researchers may consult materials from the collection in the separate reading room.

Use of the Collection

Rare Book Room

THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE COLLECTION is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. An appointment is not necessary for individual readers and visitors, but classes and groups are advised to contact Bruce Bradley or Cindy Rogers to make an appointment in advance of a proposed visit.

The Linda Hall Library is pleased to provide digital images of rare materials from its collections. Please read our information regarding the proper use, reproduction, and publication of images before downloading any materials found on this site, or to make a request for digital images from rare books.

About the Collection

FROM ITS OPENING IN 1946, the Linda Hall Library has included resources for study in the history of science and technology. In 1947, the purchase of the entire library of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences provided the foundation of a rare book and reference collection to support research in the history of science and technology. Smaller collections, such as portions of the Herbert Hoover collection of rare books in mining and metallurgy, the Robert B. Honeyman collection of scientific books, and the George White collection in early geology were acquired in the 1980s. In 1995, the entire collection of the Engineering Societies Library was transferred to the Linda Hall Library, including the Ball Gemmology Collection and hundreds of early books on engineering, mathematics, physics, geology, and other related sciences.

Scientific Journals and Periodicals

LONG RUNS OF SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL JOURNALS dating from the seventeenth century are a special strength of the library's collections. More than 40,000 titles are currently represented, including a complete set of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, beginning in 1665. A long-term acquisitions program has filled in the gaps for older titles, while current acquisitions assure a steady flow of the most recent scientific and technical journals, including those dealing with the history of science and technology.


Subjects Included

A few subject areas of special strength include:

    • Astronomy
    • Star atlases
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Electricity and magnetism
    • Optics
    • Natural sciences of the Renaissance
    • Encyclopedic works of early natural history
    • Natural history museums and collections
    • Scientific classification
    • Early herbals
    • Natural magic
    • Jesuit science
    • Geology and paleontology
    • Theories of the earth
    • Engineering projects
    • Inventions and machines

Classics and Landmarks

Landmarks of science and technology that are recognized for their seminal influence, groundbreaking ideas, or presentation of initial discoveries are included in the collection.

Some Examples:


Exhibitions from the History of Science Collection are presented throughout the year in the library's exhibit halls.

Click the link to see a full list of online exhibitions. Click here to order printed catalogs of any of these exhibitions.

Recent exhibitions:

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Kansas City, MO 64110-2498
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