Tag Archives: JSB

Looking through the archive of JSB

I finally worked up the courage to look through the archive of one of my prospective biographees yesterday. It felt a little like they were bringing his body out, two boxes of his remains. (Biographer Martin Thomas makes this comparison in The Many Worlds of R.H. Mathews, the weight of his papers about Mathews roughly equal to that of a corpse.)

JSB’s archive was quite sterile. I was reminded of a fictional biographer’s comments:

Scientists often think differently from the rest of us as to what constitutes a good biography; a dry as dust account of the subject’s work and a few bald details as to dates of birth, marriage and death, suits them best. That this was Henry’s opinion soon emerges from an examination of those chests’ contents. They include a published copy of each one of his learned tomes, as well as papers from other haematologists… – Barbara Vine, The Blood Doctor p. 23.

The first document in the box was a defence of freemasonry. This was a major preoccupation of his. Much of the box was taken up by his typescripts of radio broadcasts on various general knowledge topics. The only letters were from after his death,  relating to his estate.

There was a list of everyone who attended his funeral in 1954. This could be a lead, come to think of it. There would surely be a couple of them alive still, people who might be able to provide memories of the man. There was also a list of each floral tribute received; it was a long list – the funeral must have been awash with flowers.