Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society

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Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society
Formation 28 February 1781
Type learned society
Legal status Charity
Purpose Promoting the advancement of education and the widening of public interest in the appreciation of any form of literature, science, the arts, and public affairs.
Headquarters Manchester, United Kingdom
Region served
Manchester and Greater Manchester
Official language
Dr Diana M. Leitch

The Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, popularly known as the Lit & Phil, is a learned society in Manchester, England.

Established in 1781 as the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester,[1] by Thomas Percival, Thomas Barnes and Thomas Henry,[2] other prominent members have included Robert Owen,[3] John Dalton, James Prescott Joule, Tom Kilburn, Peter Mark Roget, Ernest Rutherford and Joseph Whitworth.[4] The first formal meeting of the society took place on 14 March 1781. Meetings were held in a back room of the Cross Street Chapel until December 1799, after which the society moved into its own premises in George Street.[5]

The original "House" (as it was called) was destroyed as a fire-break during the Manchester Blitz in 1940. Its replacement, built in the 1960s, was constructed using high alumina cement (referred to as having "concrete cancer") and was demolished in the 1980s. The Lit & Phil now usually meets in one of three hired lecture theatres: The Royal Northern College of Music, The Manchester Business School, or MANDEC (Manchester Dental Education Centre), all of which are within 200 yards (180 m) of each other. The society operates from an office provided by the Manchester Metropolitan University, and has two permanent staff.

The Lit & Phil offers over 30 lectures or similar events each year, one every week of the academic term. It became a registered charity (No. 235313) in 1964, and is a private members' society (three or four events each year are restricted to members and their guests only), and has more than 450 members. As a charitable institution the society encourages members of the public to attend most of its lectures to improve the further and higher education of those living in Greater Manchester. The most prestigious lecture is the Dalton Lecture, with the most distinguished speakers being presented with Dalton Medal. Since the local universities ceased offering extra-curricular courses the Lit & Phil has seen an increase in both membership and in the attendance of non-members at lectures.

The society's Memoirs and Proceedings, first published in 1783, was at the time of its launch the only regular scientific journal in the United Kingdom except for the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.[6] The Manchester Memoirs has been published continuously since the first edition. It contains the transactions of the society (most notably the text of many recent lectures) and is distributed to members and to similar institutions and libraries throughout the world by subscription. Copies are also available for purchase by non-members.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Makepeace 1984, p. 19
  2. ^ The making of a social reformer at OpenLearn
  3. ^ Manchester 1786–1799, Robert Owen Museum, retrieved 26 August 2011 
  4. ^ About us, Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, retrieved 10 January 2010 
  5. ^ Makepeace 1984, p. 75
  6. ^ Makepeace 1984, p. 20


  • Makepeace, Chris E. (1984), Science and Technology in Manchester: Two Hundred Years of the Lit. and Phil., Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society Publications, ISBN 0-902428-04-7 

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