Smithies’ notebooks go digital

The more than 150 handwritten notebooks of Nobel laureate Oliver Smithies are now open to the world on the Oliver Smithies Research Archive website, containing digitized scans done by Wilson Library with support from the Office of the Provost.

Oliver Smithies, Carolina’s world-renowned geneticist and Nobel laureate, has been taking daily notes in his journals since he was a biochemistry graduate student at Oxford University nearly 65 years ago. Smithies has dedicated his life to the study of science, and his notebooks contain not only his groundbreaking research, but also details of his day-to-day life.

As of Nov. 7, those 150-plus notebooks are open to the world on the Oliver Smithies Research Archive website, containing digitized scans done by Wilson Library with support from the Office of the Provost.

“When you are doing science you have to keep a good record of what you do, and I suppose I’m a person that saves things,” said Smithies, Weatherspoon Eminent Distinguished Professor at the School of Medicine. “They accumulated without any particular thought about them being kept for anybody except for me. I think the reason to digitize the them was not for any personal vanity or anything, but because they have a record of what an everyday scientist is doing for a lifetime.”

It is extremely rare for anyone, let alone a Nobel laureate, to have their personal and professional lives documented in such detail, making Smithies’ notebooks a one-of-a-kind collection.

“We’ve collected historic books and manuscripts for a long time; these materials are the building blocks for current and future research and scholarship,” said Nicholas Graham, University archivist. “The notebooks will provide terrific opportunities for scientists interested in learning more about his research process, and I can also see them being very helpful for journalists and biographers.”

Read the full story in the University Gazette.