AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXX, No. 2, Fall 1998

 

The Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge

by Alan Kucia, Head Archivist

The Churchill Archives Centre was built in 1973, principally to house the personal papers of Sir Winston Churchill. It is the closest British equivalent to one of the US Presidential Libraries. In addition to the Churchill Papers we also hold the papers of more than 400 individuals who have contributed to the history of the "Churchill Era". These include politicians, public servants, servicemen, scientists and engineers, including six winners of the Nobel Prize for Physics. We have particularly strong holdings relating to physics at Cambridge from the 1920s onwards, particularly the work of Cockcroft, Chadwick and Walton in the 1930s.

Sir John Cockcroft (1897-1967)--The Cockcroft papers are extensive. They include his Cavendish Laboratory experimental notebooks, 1927-46, lecture notes, correspondence with many of his contemporaries including Bohr, Chadwick, Gamow, Kapitza, Meitner, Rutherford and of course his fellow "atom smasher" E. T. S. Walton, and papers on his later administrative career as Director of the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell (1946-58) and Master of Churchill College (1959-67).

Sir James Chadwick (1891 - 1974)--The Chadwick papers are also extensive. As with Cockcroft and Walton we have his laboratory notebooks for 1925-29, but sadly not for his work leading to the discovery of the neutron in 1932. There is a considerable amount of material on his wartime atomic energy work, and his post-war administrative career. The collection also includes Lord Rutherford's lab notebooks for 1924-26.

Lise Meitner (1878-1968)--Although not a Nobel laureate, the papers of Lise Meitner are our most heavily used scientific collection. The papers consist of her diaries, notebooks, offprints and letters. The strongest part of the collection is undoubtedly her extensive scientific correspondence with over a thousand contemporaries including Bohr, Born, Bragg, Chadwick, Cockcroft, Irene and Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, James Franck, George Gamow, Hans Geiger, Werner Heisenberg, Hertz, Pauli, Peirls, Planck, Rutherford, Schrodinger, von Laue, and particularly her two best known collaborators, Otto Hahn and her nephew, Otto Robert Frisch.

Ernest Walton (1903-1995)--Most of Ernest Walton s papers have been deposited at Trinity College Dublin. We hold his laboratory notebooks for his time in Cambridge, 1929-34, particularly his collaboration with John Cockcroft, for which they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in 1951.

Sir Martin Ryle (1918-1984) and Anthony Hewish (b 1924)--Ryle and Hewish were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1974 for their work in radio astronomy, and particularly the discovery of pulsars. Their papers contain a wealth of material on radio astronomy at Cambridge over the last 40 years.

In addition to these substantial collections the Centre holds the papers of a number of other distinguished physicists. The Centre is constantly acquiring new material, and was recently given the papers of Reginald (RV) Jones, the wartime director of Air Scientific Intelligence, and later head of the Physics department at Aberdeen University. This very large collection is currently being catalogued by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists at the University of Bath. We expect it to be available to researchers in about two years

The Centre welcomes enquiries from researchers. Full details of our holdings, and how to obtain access can be found on our Web Page: http://www.chu.cam.ac.uk/archives/home.htm.


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