- c 1890-2007 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
9 boxes paper, audio tape, cd, shellac disk, vinyl disk
Name of creator
Born in Nottingham, 1909, Laurence Picken came up as a scholar to Trinity College, Cambridge, as a Natural Scientist and gained his PhD in 1935 in Zoology. He went on to work as an x-ray crystallographer at the Geneva School of Chemistry. In the early war years he was in charge of the blood transfusion laboratory for the eastern region, improving plasma filtration. The British Council later encouraged his learning Chinese so he could join Joseph Needham in Chungking in 1944, where his love of music extended to eastern instruments, and he learned the guqin (seven-stringed zither) among others. Throughout the rest of his life he would amass an extensive collection of musical instruments from all over the globe - when he moved out of his rooms in Jesus College in 1977 he donated his collection of nearly 700 instruments to the University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
He first became a Fellow at Jesus College in 1945, continuing his work in the areas of Zoology, Oriental Studies and Music. He wrote entries on JS Bach, Chinese and Japanese Music for the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. In 1960 he received the Linnean Society Trail Medal for Microscopy. A true polymath, he continued to compose and take an active interest in the musical life at College, was fluent in French, German and Chinese and refused to have a telephone until his late 80s.
His publications include:
'The Organization of Cells and Other Organisms' (1960)
'Folk Musical Instruments of Turkey' (1975)
ed. 'Musica Asiatica' (1977-84)
ed. 'Music from the Tang Court' 7 vols. (1981-2000)
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
2016: 62 - Given to Jesus College archive by the estate of Laurence Picken
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Personal papers of scientist and ethnomusicologist Laurence Picken, including non-academic writings, musical compositions, collections of performance ephemera - largely relating to music and drama productions at Jesus College, Cambridge - personal and College-related papers and correspondence, recordings and photographs.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Conditions governing reproduction
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Some annotations in Chinese and correspondence in Italian.
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
The majority of Laurence Picken's papers, including his academic work and correspondence, are held by the Music Division of the Library of Congress (ML31.P53)
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
The majority of Picken's papers can be found in the Library of Congress https://catalog.loc.gov/vwebv/search?searchCode=LCCN&searchArg=2011570511&searchType=1&permalink=y