CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
TitleRowett Institute of Nutrition and Health papers
Date1913 - present
Extent65 linear metres
Creator NameRowett Institute of Nutrition and Health (1913 - )
Administrative HistoryThe Institute was founded in 1913 when the Development Commissioners and the Scottish Education Department arranged that an Institute for Research in Animal Nutrition should be established in Scotland under the supervision of a joint committee appointed by the University of Aberdeen and the North of Scotland College of Agriculture. In April 1914 Dr John Boyd Orr (later Lord Boyd Orr) arrived in Aberdeen and found that there was no Institute and he started work in temporary buildings at the University of Aberdeen. Despite his shock at the prospect of leaving his well equipped lab in Glasgow 'to work in isolation in a wooden laboratory in the wilds of Aberdeenshire', Orr drew up some plans for a nutrition research institute. At the same time he committed the £5000 which was available to the building of a granite laboratory block at Craibstone, not far from the present site of the Rowett.

World War One interrupted the Institute's progress but Orr returned to Aberdeen in 1919 and with a staff of four started work in the new laboratory. Orr continued to push for a new research institute and finally the Government agreed to pay half the costs but stipulated that the other half was to be found from other sources. Orr was fortunate to meet John Quiller Rowett, a wealthy man who was the Director of a wine and spirits merchants based in London.

In 1920 Rowett provided money to purchase 41 acres to provide a suitable site for the Institute to be built on. In addition, Rowett contributed £10,000 towards the cost of the buildings. The money was given with one very important condition: namely that "if any work done at the Institute on animal nutrition was found to have a bearing on human nutrition, the Institute would be allowed to follow up this work". The Institute was formally opened in 1922.

The first major expansion of the Institute came in 1923 when Walter A Reid, a senior partner in a firm of local accountants, provided £5000 to create the library and later a further £5000 to develop it. By 1930, the Institute had grown broadly into its current shape. The main laboratory block had been joined by the Duthie experimental farm, the Reid Library and Strathcona House, all made possible by donations from generous benefactors.

In 1929 the Imperial Bureau of Animal Nutrition was established and its headquarters was in the Reid Library. It was to be a clearing house for information on nutrition and allied subjects for research workers throughout the Empire. The Bureau and Library published the quarterly Journal "Nutrition Abstracts and Reviews". The Institute also expanded work overseas in Kenya and Palestine with research stations there.

Major work took place between 1937 and 1939 and was sponsored by the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust. It involved a comprehensive study involving clinical examinations of 4000 children from over 1300 families across Scotland, England and Wales. It related standards of dietary adequacy in terms of energy, protein, calcium and vitamin A, drawn up by the Rowett, to what was actually consumed. The survey re-informed the view that many of the people were nutritionally deficient and the results of the survey provided the basis and framework for rationing based upon nutritional need during world war two. The dietary surveys were so comprehensive that they still provide an accurate source of research information today and there have been recent follow-up studies by the so called 'Boyd-Orr Cohort' based at the University of Bristol.

In 1945 Boyd Orr retired from the Institute and became the first Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The Directorship was assumed by Dr David Cuthbertson and there was to be a period of rebuilding following the war. As the numbers of staff expanded so did building projects and there were soon extension to the laboratory blocks and Strathcona House. The Institute was requested to place more emphasis on the nutrition of animals of agricultural importance and not to embark on studies of direct concern to man and this emphasis continued throughout the next directorship of Kenneth Lyon Blaxter (Director from 1965 - 1982). From 1982 under the directorship of William James the direction of research on human nutrition was once again expanded. Under his directorship The Human Nutrition Unit was established at the Institute, which provided unique facilities for dietary and metabolic studies on normal healthy volunteers. He left the Rowett in 1999 and was succeeded by Professor Peter Morgan.

In 2008 the Institute merged with the University of Aberdeen, embedded within the College of Life Sciences and Medicine. The Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health will continue to be a Major Research Provider for the Scottish Government with the aim of providing a sound basis for improved dietary advice for consumers and also to provide science which can be translated into ways to improve the healthiness of primary and secondary food products for the benefit of both the rural and food industry sectors in Scotland.

For more information see:

"The Rowett Institute" (John Boyd Orr, volume XI 1923-1924, pp 37-49, Aberdeen University Review)

Rowett Research Institute Collected Papers volumes 1-4 (1925 - 1939)

Progress in nutrition and allied sciences, being a contribution marking the first fifty years of the Rowett Research Institute (ed. David Cuthbertson, Oliver & Boyd, 1963)

Family Diet and Health in Pre-War Britain: A Dietary and Clinical Survey (Report to the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust from the Rowett Research Institute, 1955)

As I Recall: the 1880s - the 1960s (Lord Boyd Orr, MacGibbon & Kee, London, 1966)

Rowett Research Institute windows and worthies: artistic and cultural works in Strathcona House and the Reid Library, Rowett Research Institute (Walter Duncan and John Crichton, Rowett Research Institute, 1997)

The Boyd Orr View - From the Old World to the New, with Proposal for Action to Banish Hunger. The late Lord Boyd Orr's Testament (David Lubbock, 1992).
Custodial HistoryThe majority of the material has been collected and catalogued by Honorary Archivist Walter Duncan. David Lubbock, son in law of Lord Boyd Orr, donated much of the materials relating to Boyd Orr. Further items were donated by members of staff (Dr Douglas Harvey's papers were presented in 1996).

Honorary Archivist Walter Duncan produced initial lists and a first union catalogue was created after a grant from the British Library in 1997. In 1998 the archives moved to a new site and since then several new additions to existing sections and completely new sections (2002, 2003) have been added to the union catalogue.
SourceTransferred from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health to Special Collections in December 2011. Additional material deposited when the Rowett transferred to their new site at Foresterhill.
DescriptionInstitutional records of the Institute such as:

Committee minute books including of the University of Aberdeen and North of Scotland College of Agriculture Joint Committee on Research in Animal Nutrition.
Collected papers of the Institute, internal and official reports and newsletters.
Record books of experiments in the Physiology Department and of the Farm Institute.
Staff lists, salaries books, accounts, estimates and associated correspondence.
Minutes of the Reid Library Committee, Strathcona House Committee and staff committee.
Estates files including plans.
Photographs of staff, buildings, experiments and events. Also audio-visual material.
Thesis produced by members of staff.
Ephemera relating to the history of the Institute.

Papers of the Directors, particularly of John Boyd Orr, including his papers, books, manuscripts and typescripts of speeches and broadcasts, press cuttings and many personal papers relating to his life.

The original survey records of the Carnegie dietary survey of 1937-1939 and papers relating to the supplementary feeding experiments which formed part of the same experiment. The Carnegie collection also includes the diaries of the project, associated correspondence with field workers, government departments, public health authorities and other collaborators. There are also the original records from associated other dietary, nutritional and anthropometric studies conducted between the 1920s and 1940s.

Papers of some staff members, such as David Lubbock, including correspondence, papers, publications and oral history material. Also from Dr Douglas Harvey and relating to work in Kenya.

Minutes and papers concerning various external Committees, including; The Committee on Nutrition in the Colonial Empire, The Advisory Committee on Nutrition of the Ministry of Health and Department of Health for Scotland, The Scientific Food Committee established during the World War Two, The Scientific Advisory Committee of the Department of Health for Scotland, The Calorie Requirements Committee of the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations and Committees of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (post World War Two).
AppraisalThe collection has been retained as it was upon deposit (for now). Some printed duplicates have been discarded and/or added to the printed collections stock.
AccrualsYes. There are also a number of unlisted papers transferred at the time of deposit.
ArrangementIn the old catalogue arrangement the different series of papers were given a reference number which consisted of a three letter code and a subsequent number which enabled the individual documents to be identified. The catalogue was not structured like a typical archive catalogue as new accessions were given the next running number in the sequence. As a result some core records like minute books and annual reports are scattered throughout the catalogue (mainly in section 1).

Yet, the old arrangement has been maintained for now and the series ordered better and the letter codes replaced by a numerical code: i.e. Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health papers (RRI) becomes number 1 and John Boyd Orr papers (JBO) becomes number 2. The new arrangement has been designed to allow the catalogue to be able to be added to the archive catalogue and there has been no physical re-arrangement (the only small change is that the series SHO or Strathcona House has been merged with the main Rowett record series as there were already minutes present there).

The new arrangement is -

MSU 1451/1
Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health -
Previously RRI and SHO

MSU 1451/2-7
Director papers -

MSU 1451/8
Carnegie Dietary Survey -
Previously DSC

MSU 1451/9
Material relating to other dietary surveys, nutritional experiments etc. -
Previously DSO

MSU 1451/10-11
Staff and other deposited papers -
Previously DML and DDH

MSU 1451/12-14
External bodies papers -
Previously EAC, FAO and INS
Access StatusRestricted
Access ConditionsSome records contain personal information and may be closed for 75 (for adults) and 100 (for children 16 and under) years under the Data Protection Act (1998): mainly catalogue sections 8 and 9 relating to the Carnegie Survey and subsequent surveys.
Physical Description372 archive boxes, 12 outsize boxes, 239 volumes, 1 roll, 1 outsized photograph and 10 drawers of index cards.
Related MaterialRowett Research Institute Collected Papers volumes 1-4 (1925 - 1939) are available via the Reading Room. Many of Lord Boyd Orr's published works are also held as part of the printed collections.

Some of Lord Boyd Orr's papers are also held by the National Library of Scotland including manuscripts, typescripts and printed copies of addresses, broadcast talks, articles and reviews (also with covering letters and related correspondence).
Add to My Items