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G. Malcolm Dyson Collection


Held at: Science History Institute Archives [Contact Us]315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Science History Institute Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

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George Malcolm Dyson (1902-1978) was a British organic chemist and information scientist. He is noted for being the developer of the Dyson Notation chemical nomenclature system.

Born in London, England on April 5, 1902, Dyson earned degrees in Chemistry from Jesus College, University of Oxford (1923) and the University of London (1925). He then received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of London (1927). After receiving his doctorate, he joined the faculty of Loughborough College's School of Pure and Applied Science, where he served as Lecturer (1928-1932) and Head of School (1932-1938). In 1939, Dyson was hired by Fisons, a British pharmaceutical concern. At Fisons, he served as Technical Director of the firm's subsidiary Genatosan, a German health care and pharmaceutical company (1939-1959).

Drawing upon his experience as an organic chemist, Dyson saw the need for a consistent chemical nomenclature system, which could be used to create structural diagrams of organic compounds. He also recognized the growing need for scientific literature to be readily available and accessible to scientists. In response to these needs, during the early and mid-1940s, Dyson developed what became known as the Dyson Notation chemical nomenclature system. Dyson Notation was a linear coding system that assigned organic compounds unique alpha-numeric codes. These codes allowed for easy indexing and made the information about organic compounds readily machine readable.

Dyson formally introduced the Dyson Notation system at a meeting of the Royal Institute of Chemistry in 1946. The system quickly found favor within the scientific community. The first edition of his book about Dyson Notation, A New Notation and Enumeration System for Organic Compounds, was published in 1947. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) adopted Dyson Notation on a provisional basis in 1951, then confirmed its full adoption in 1961. Later in the 1960s, linear coding schemes like that used in Dyson Notation were replaced by the construction-table approach to structural encoding, which was first developed by DuPont.

Later in his career, G. Malcolm Dyson served as Director of Research at Chemical Abstracts Service (1959-1963). In addition to his professional duties, Dyson was a cofounder and the Founding President of the Institute of Information Scientists (1958-1961). He was also the recipient of the American Chemical Society's Austin Patterson Award (1961). At the time of his death, he had just completed his scientific thesis Some New Concepts in Organic Chemical Nomenclature, which was then under review by colleagues.

G. Malcolm Dyson passed away on December 28, 1978.


G. Malcolm Dyson Collection, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

White, Martin. "G. Malcolm Dyson (1902-1978), Chemist and Information Scientist." RSC CICAG Newsletter (Winter 2021/2022): 14-20.

The G. Malcolm Dyson Collection contains materials pertaining to British organic chemist and information scientist G. Malcolm Dyson, which were collected and maintained by Wendy Warr. The materials in this collection mainly concern the Dyson Notation chemical nomenclature system. A very small amount of biographical information about G. Malcolm Dyson himself is also found here.

A printed copy of G. Malcolm Dyson's scientific thesis Some New Concepts in Organic Chemical Nomenclature is found in this collection. Two letters (including a letter written by Dyson to Wendy Warr), a typed report, two photocopied magazine articles, and photocopied typed notes are preserved here as well.

The G. Malcolm Dyson Collection was donated to the Science History Institute by Wendy Warr in March 2018.

The G. Malcolm Dyson Collection was processed by Kenton G. Jaehnig in September 2022.

Science History Institute Archives
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid created and encoded into EAD by Kenton G. Jaehnig.
Finding Aid Date
September 2022
Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes and the collection is open to the public.

Use Restrictions

The Science History Institute holds copyright to the G. Malcolm Dyson Collection. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

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