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About the collections Theme of the exhibit Macrocosm Microcosm

The Formation of the Collections:

In December 1949, Everette Lee Degolyer provided the University of Oklahoma with an initial loan of 129 rare volumes in the history of science. DeGolyer was an alumnus of the University of Oklahoma and one of the founders of geophysics who had amassed a fortune prospecting for oil. A general intellectual, DeGolyer was also an ardent book collector. DeGolyer became interested in the history of science after reading a book by then Harvard University president James B. Conant entitled On Understanding Science. From it he became persuaded that modern science could only be understood through a study of its history. Convinced that his success in his profession was shaped by the education that he had received at the University of Oklahoma, he had a great respect for his alma mater. On December 23, 1948, the director of the University of Oklahoma Press, Savoie Lottinville, wrote University of Oklahoma President, George L. Cross, relating a conversation that he had held with DeGolyer in which he stated, "donít tell anyone, but Iím going back home and examine my income tax status. I had the idea that it might be a good thing to establish a library devoted to the history of science at the University of Oklahoma. Nothing may come of this, but I am going to think about it anyway." Lottinville suggested to President Cross that DeGolyer might donate his books to the University if it would use them in connection with a course in the history of science and technology. Cross appointed a committee of three, with Lottinville as chairman, and informed DeGolyer of their intentions. In response to this interest DeGolyer then loaned the 129 books.

Everette Lee Degolyer

Everette Lee Degolyer

President Cross recognized the opportunity for the University and negotiated a partnership with DeGolyer. DeGolyer went to Europe in 1949 and began to purchase books. He continued to supply the infant collection with books and money to buy books. In April 1951 he sent a check for $3,000 for the purchase of books followed in the fall by an additional $2,000. He assured the university that he would provide relatively unlimited funds for this purchase. The University responded by forming an acquisitions committee and later a larger committee to fulfill what the administration deemed to be its part of the bargain, to institute a course in the history of science. The book acquisition committee was beset by numerous delays. In the first place, it was uncertain whether the books were gifts or on loan (their status as gifts was not clear until the summer of 1952). They also feared that if the purchases were not in keeping with DeGolyerís wishes he would cease his financial support. And finally, the committee had little knowledge of the history of science and had little idea of what books should be purchased.


DeGolyer family

The DeGolyer Collection in the History of Science and Technology grew as money was provided for acquisitions. The first checklist issued in 1951 contained six hundred entries, the second in 1953 approximately twelve hundred, and the third in 1954 over thirty-five hundred entries or five thousand volumes. In 1954, the university appointed a recent Harvard Ph.D. in the History of Science, Duane H. D. Roller, to establish a program in the history of science to assure that the books donated by DeGolyer would be used by students. Within a year after Roller arrived the collection had doubled to about 10,000 volumes. In 1976, 40,000 volumes were described bibliographically in The Catalogue of the History of Science Collections of the University of Oklahoma by Roller and Goodman.

Duane H. D. Roller

Duane H. D. Roller

In December 1956, DeGolyer died and his will contained no provision for the collection. Upon his death, DeGolyer had given over $120,000 in books and about $80,000 in cash. The University has continued to support the collection that DeGolyer began, and other people donated books and money to buy books to assure that the collection retains its status as one of the best of its kind in the world. In ---- the name of the collection was changed from the DeGolyer Collection in the History of Science and Technology to the History of Science Collections, to reflect the contributions of the new donors. The individual collections retain their distinction either by their bookplates or by physical segregation.

Duane H.D. Roller and Marcia Goodman, the Collectionsí librarian


Throughout its first fifty years, the Collections have had a remarkable continuity. Duane H.D. Roller remained curator of the Collections until his retirement in 1990. Marcia Goodman was the Collectionsí librarian until she retired at the end of 1994. Marilyn Ogilvie became curator after Rollerís retirement. For fifty years, the Collections have continued to grow, numbering over 87,000 volumes in 1999.

Marilyn Ogilvie and Marcia Goodman


About the collections Theme of the exhibit Microcosm Macrocosm

Department of the History of Science
History of Science Collections