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This section does not include lectures given as part of courses at Cambridge University which are found in section D9. The surviving materials in this class vary from complete texts to notes and precis and, in the latter period, overhead projector slides.


The main sequence of correspondence (J.1 - J.124) is presented alphabetically, dated, and with an indication of any material of particular scientific or biographical interest. Most of the correspondence is with individuals, but some societies and organisations are also included.

There are few very substantial exchanges and it is clear that there are considerable gaps in the material; in particular there is very little early correspondence on electron diffraction, and the only letter in the collection from J.J. Thomson is at C.3.

J.125 - J.134 consists of shorter correspondence, mostly unindexed.


The items in this series are notes, which, for the most part, are discrete and focused, and are either titled on the note or Batchelor has added a slip of paper bearing a title to the document or file. The contents of some is almost certainly included in lectures and publications

Science-Related Interests

H.1 -H.40 Aims and methods of science

H.41 -H.78 Science and society

H.79 -H.91 Science and education

H.92 -H.98 Science and war

H.99 -H.111 Science and religion

H.112-H.125 Chance and predictability

H.126-H.159 Euthanasia

H.160, H.161 Shorter talks.

The material in this Section includes notes, lectures, broadcasts and publications, and a little related correspondence.

There is inevitably some overlap with material assigned to other Sections, e.g., F.150 - F.209 on the effects of nuclear and thermonuclear power. The main criterion is that Section H contains the reflections of a non-professional on fields of activity affected by developments in his own profession.

Thomson was always interested in the wider aspects of science. Some of the talks on the purposes and methods of science, and of its relation with religion, appear to date from the late 1920s or early 1930s; his lectures in America and Canada, 1929-30, are known to have included a talk on the philosophical implications of the recent discoveries in physics.

The surviving material represents two main strands in Thomson's thinking. One of these is concerned with the practical aspects of science, its impact on society, its funding and guidance, its relations with government institutions, its influence on individual lives in peace and war. His book `The foreseeable future' (1955, widely translated) is the best known summation of these ideas, but the entries below indicate the number and also the time-span of his writings and lectures on similar topics.

The second aspect relates to abstract and philosophical concepts. From general discussion of scientific and religious criteria of truth and choice, Thomson was led to examine determinism in human affairs, and randomness and predictability in the human brain. Much of his later work is concerned with these matters.

The two threads may be said to come together in Thomson's work for the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. Here he seems to have felt that for both sociological and philosophical reasons an individual may, and should, exercise the power of choice over his life. Thomson gave much attention to this in his later years, and planned an extended work on the subject (H.126 - H.138), left unpublished at his death.

Publications by others

Items in this section are typescripts of works sent to Sraffa, either for comment or as a courtesy, mostly by academics but in the last case by a publisher. This section is not intended to include straightforward offprints which will be found in the Sraffa printed book catalogue

Conferences and academic visits

From early in his career Batchelor travelled widely to conferences around the world. The following files may include preparatory materials and follow-up exchanges, though any papers given at or publications arising from conferences are likely to be found in sections K and H respectively.

Scientific Lectures and Writings

F.1 - F.33 University lectures (at Cambridge, Aberdeen, and Imperial College London)

F.34 - F.149 Physics

F.150 - F.209 Nuclear and Thermonuclear Energy

The material in each of the sub-sections is presented in approximate chronological order, though Thomson rarely dated his early notes and drafts; in many cases they can only be roughly dated on internal evidence. The `University Lectures', especially those given at Aberdeen, were often cannibalised and updated for use at Imperial College, London, and no firm boundary can be drawn except for the post-Second World War lectures at London on cosmic rays and nuclear physics.

The lectures and writings on `Physics', F.34 - F.149, naturally focus on Thomson's own research interests and discoveries. F.36 - F.61 are almost all on electron diffraction, his own experimental research (for which he shared with C.J. Davisson the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1937) and the wave-particle theory of matter; the number of these, and the range of places at which Thomson was asked to speak, show the international recognition of his work. Several items, F.66 - F.77, deal with the practical applications of electron diffraction, and the electron microscope, as tools of research.

After the Second World War, Thomson continued to write and lecture on the electron, and also on cosmic rays, mesons, and atomic structure. The advent of nuclear, and later of thermonuclear power, however, provided the chief matter of his scientific research and publications. F.120 - F.168 are a crowded cluster of items - including several broadcasts - on the nature and control of nuclear energy, followed by a similar output at F.169 - F.174 on the then new implications of the hydrogen bomb. These problems continue to recur throughout the remainder of the material, some linked with the opening of atomic power stations (F.188 et seq.).

Thomson himself made a distinguished contribution to research on nuclear fusion from the early 1940s, and played a part in the development of thermonuclear research at Harwell and A.E.I. Most of his work was not released for publication, but the public announcement of Zeta in 1958 led to many lectures and articles by him, some technical and some more popular, on thermonuclear questions (F.193 - F.205).

The material in this Section is only rarely accompanied by research material or by related correspondence - it should be consulted in conjunction with the notebooks and documents in Sections C and E.

Although several items naturally contain autobiographical and historical reflections by Thomson on his experience of twentieth-century physics, his explicit writings on the history of physics and physicists, and his more general ideas on the methods, purpose and implications of science have been grouped in Sections G and H respectively.

Scientific Correspondence

This class includes two series of Batchelor’s correspondence files and also loose scientific correspondence that was not filed. The alphabetically-arranged files of correspondence (F1 and F2) begin with letters from the 1940s. Probably at the beginning of 1980, with the size of the files increasing, a second series was begun. The files in the first series thus practically finish in 1979, however occasionally letters of a later date were inserted, hence the covering dates of some files in this continue beyond 1979. A third series (F3) has been created for the correspondence that was not filed. A correspondent’s appearance in this third series does not indicate that they do not appear in series F1 and/or F2.

Thermonuclear research

The material is divided as follows:

E.1 - E.70 Notes, drafts and calculations, 1946-59

E.71 - E.87 Patent applications relating to thermonuclear energy, 1946-59

E.88 - E.90 Correspondence and papers, 1946-52

E.91 - E.105 Minutes of meetings, 1952-63

E.106-E.111 Correspondence, 1958-63

E.112-E.143 Research reports and lectures by others

E.144, E.145 Miscellaneous other material

The survival of Thomson's research notes and drafts for this period (E.1 - E.70) is particularly interesting in view of the secrecy restrictions which allowed him to publish so little (but see F.114, F.115), although some of his drafts were reproduced for limited circulation as Harwell research reports (see, e.g., E.34, E.35).

Accounts and biographies of J. J. Thomson

Manuscript and typescript drafts, proofs, and research (including photocopies of photographs and correspondence) for J.J. Thomson and the Cavendish Laboratory in his Day, an account of Thomson and his work by G.P. Thomson published in 1964 by Nelson as part of the 'British Men of Science' series. Also correspondence with publishers, and other pieces by G.P. Thomson about his father, several commissioned for the centenary of J.J. Thomson's birth in 1956; the material was often drawn upon for later accounts and there is considerable overlap in the content.

Includes a hardback notebook (D/17), originally used by G.P. Thomson for mathematical notes on Gamma Functions (c. 1910-12) and continuing with drafts for the biography of his father.

Cambridge University Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics

Batchelor was instrumental in the move to establish departments within the mathematics faculty. In 1959 DAMTP was founded with him as first head of department – a role he was not to relinquish until 1983. As such he was able to shape the department, supervising its move into its first consolidated home in former premises of CUP on the Mill Lane site and introducing a fluid dynamics laboratory in the face of opposition from the Department of Physics. He continued as its head of Department until his early retirement in 1983


Where applicable reference has been made to Adams's List of Publications (A.2)

Nuclear physics and the Second World War

The material is divided into two sections
D.1 - D.28 Nuclear physics and the MAUD Committee
These papers include some of Thomson's early research notes on experiments with neutrons and one folder of calculations re uranium (D.8) as well as copies of the MAUD Committee reports of July 1940, various notes of meetings and some correspondence, both contemporary and later.

D.29 - D.78 Second World War: other activities
The documentation for this period is sparse. There is very little in the way of correspondence, and less to illustrate Thomson's daily activities, with the exception of the visits he made to various establishments in Canada and the U.S.A. during his time at Ottawa as Scientific Liaison Officer between Britain and Canada. Most of these papers are accounts of meetings and visits in Canada and U.S.A. but there is also some correspondence. This series of ms. and typescript reports is to be found at D.35 - D.59. D.66 - 72 relate to Thomson's work on the Radio Board. D.73 - 76 relate to his position of Scientific Adviser to the Air Ministry

Trinity College

This class contains a few items relating to Batchelor’s relationship with Trinity College. He was admitted as a Research Student in 1945, elected a Fellow under Title A [Junior Research Fellow] in 1947 and under Title B [Senior Research Fellow] in 1951. Correspondence concerning his admission can be found at BACH/B7

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