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Biographical papers

The material in this section is arranged as follows:

A/1-A/4: Obituary notices, 1940-1942

A/5-A/31: Biographical notes, 1909-1958. Within this group, A/23-A/31 comprises correspondence and papers found together. The bulk of this material was originally assembled by Lord Rayleigh whilst writing his biography The Life of Sir J. J. Thomson O.M. sometime master of Trinity College, Cambridge, published in 1942 by Cambridge University Press. There is also a little material added later by the family.

A/32-A/71A: Career, honours, and awards, 1874-1940. This section also includes letters of congratulation to Thomson's mother Emma on his early successes, and letters of condolence to his wife on his death.

A/72-A/103: Certificates, 1900-1937. A number of these awards are also documented at A/32-71.

A/104-A/109: 'J.J. on Education', 1918-1940 (material found together, and thus entitled, by Lord Rayleigh in the course of writing his biography of Thomson). See A/120 for press cuttings re Thomson's interest in Education.

A/110-A/143: Press cuttings, 1888-1956. Arranged in chronological order, and including press cuttings re Thomson's lectures and publications.

A/144: Diary of J. J. Thomson

A/145-152: Financial papers, 1878-1938

A/153-160: Photographs, 1909-1932

A/161-165: Invitations, 1885-1936. Social invitations received by Thomson. See also C/81-C/130

A/166-176: Miscellaneous, 1878-1956

Trinity College, Cambridge

Thomson's association with Trinity College, Cambridge began in 1876, when he arrived as an undergraduate to study Mathematics. After graduation in 1880 Thomson remained in Cambridge and undertook research in physics under Lord Rayleigh. He was made a Fellow of Trinity College in 1880, College lecturer in 1883 and in 1884 was appointed Professor of Experimental Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory. In 1918 Thomson was appointed Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, a position he held until his death in 1940. The material in this section relates entirely to the period of Thomson's Mastership, and is arranged as follows.

C/1-C/80: Correspondence. Received by Thomson on his appointment to the Mastership of Trinity College Cambridge in 1918 (C/1-C/10) and as Master 1918-1939 (C/11-C/80). Most of the correspondence relates to a wide range of College matters including students, Fellows, meetings, lectureships, appointments to Church livings held by the College, gifts and endowments etc., but the material also includes personal and business letters and correspondence and papers for other bodies on which Thomson served, most notably the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. There is a very little posthumous material relating to Thomson's Mastership.

C/81-C/130: Invitations received by the Thomsons, as well as replies to invitations to College social events hosted by the Thomsons between 1918 and 1938.

There are also a small number of Trinity College entrance examination papers and scripts from Dec 1937: C/131-C/137

Societies and organisations

The material is very slight and in consequence does not represent the full extent of Thomson's involvement with British and overseas societies and organisations. The best documented body is the Committee on Science in the Educational System of Great Britain, of which Thomson was Chairman.

Lectures, speeches, and publications

F/1-F/32: Principally drafts and correspondence relating to Thomson's public lectures and speeches, 1890-1938. F/27 is a notebook used by E.P. Adams for typescript notes on lectures by Thomson.
F/33-F/64: Publications by Thomson. F/39-F/46 relate to Conductivity of Electricity through Gases (1903); F/51-F/55 relate to Rays of Positive Electricity and their application to Chemical Analysis (1913).


H/1-H/14: Scientific correspondence. H/1-H/6 comprise principal correspondents, in alphabetical order; H/7-H/14 comprise shorter scientific correspondence, in chronological order.

H/15-H/36: General correspondence, mostly arranged in chronological order. H/32-H/35 comprise the contents of a folder inscribed 'Letters to JJ from distinguished people and others'; H/36 is a bundle of telegrams.


A/1-A/77: biographical and personal material (1892-1996), arranged as follows: A/1-A/4, memoirs and obituaries; A/5-A/16, biographical and historical accounts and information; A/17, bibliographies; A/18-A/77, diaries.

A/78-A/116: material (1919-1945) relating to Synge's childhood and schooldays. A/78-A/82 is general material (1922-1926), A/83-A/100 relate to his time at Old Hill Preparatory School, and date from 1919-1945, and A/101-A/116 relate to Synge's time at Winchester College, and date from 1927-1933. A/117-A/153: material (1931-136) relating to Synge's time as an undergraduate, including manuscript and typescript notes on lectures and practical work, bound volumes of duplicated typescript work sheets for practical work (A/139-A/143), examination papers, correspondence etc. A/154-A/211: career, honours, and awards (1936-1992)

A/212-A/354: material relating to Synge's family. In some of the earlier material the family surname is spelled 'Sing' or 'Singe', reflecting its pronunciation. The current spelling seems to have been adopted consistently only after the First World War. Material arranged as follows: A/212-311, Laurence Millington Synge and Katherine Charlotte Synge, née Swan, Synge's parents; A/312-329, Ann Synge (née Stephen), his wife; A/330-335, Jane, Elizabeth, Patrick and Alexander, four of his seven children; A/336-343 Anne Dorothea (Anthea) and Katharine, Synge's sisters; A/344-347 Mary Synge, his paternal grandmother, and Emma Swan, his maternal grandmother; A/348-352; other relatives; A/353-354: miscellaneous family material. A/355-369: personal correspondence of Richard L. M. and Ann Synge (1920s-1991). Many correspondents are identified by first name only, and may include more distant relatives. A/370-377: requests for autographs, (1952-1992).

A/378-428: material related to Richard Synge's personal interests, arranged as follows: A/378-418, Politics. Synge was on the political Left. He was a member of the Communist Party in the 1930s and 1940s. His later political activity concentrated on the peace movement and organisations concerned with human rights; A/419-426, Travel, though the bulk of the material relating to Synge's visits is to be found in section G; A/427, Cairngorm Club; A/428, Volunteers for lonising Radiation (VIR).

A/429-435: material relating to finance and business (1933-1991), including correspondence, accounts and expenses. A/436-432: miscellaneous material. A/443-470: photographs (1918-1991)

Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine

The material includes correspondence and papers relating to Synge's appointment at the Lister Institute including his statement of proposed work, inventories of equipment and chemicals, and miscellaneous administrative material. B/7-B/13 comprise papers relating to Synge's visit to Tiselius's laboratory, and travels in Sweden and Norway, in 1946-1947: equipment, chemicals etc required and expenses of the visit.

Rowett Research Institute

There is documentation of Synge's appointment: his headship of the Department of Protein and Carbohydrate Chemistry, including research programmes, equipment and staff; Agricultural Research Council Visiting Groups; and quite extensive administrative material. There is also material relating to the Institute's Strathcona Club of which Synge was a loyal member, and a little memorabilia.

The material is presented as follows:

C/1-C/2: Appointment

C/3-C/56: Protein and Carbohydrate Chemistry Department, including: C/3-C/7, research programme and reports; C8-C/20, estimates; C/21-C/37, equipments and supplies; C38-C/45, staffing; C/46-C/52, departmental notices; C/53-C/56, miscellaneous.

C/57-C/63: Agricultural Research Council

C/64-C/78: RRI administrative notices

C/79-C/92: RRI annual reports

C/93-C/96: RRI newletters

C/97-C/100: The Strathcona Club

C/101-C/103: memorabilia

Food Research Institute

The material is not extensive, and is arranged as follows:

D/1-D/12: General correspondence and papers: including papers relating to Synge's appointment; his plan of research; and material relating to Lord Rothschild's 1971 Green Paper 'A Framework for Government Research and Development' (D/5-D/7),

D/13-D/17: Chemistry Division: administrative papers

D/18-D/19: Project reports on Synge's research


Notebooks, papers and correspondence documenting the bulk of Synge's research work. The material is presented as follows:

E/1-E/48: Notebooks, 1936-1933. The notebooks document Synge's research from postgraduate studies in the mid 1930s, through work for the Wool Industries Research Association in Leeds, Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine, Rowett Research Institute and Food Research Institute, to post-retirement work in the 1990s on electronic storage of chemical information. The bulk of the notebooks are a sequence I-XXVII running from 1938 to c 1979. There are also notebooks used for references from searches of the Science Citation Index. At E/43-E/48 are notebooks used by three collaborators: J.C. Wood (1952-1954); M.A. Youngson (1958-1962); and S. Matai (1968-1969).

E/49-E/101: Research notes, 1938-1987. The material includes: reports on work on proteins for the Wool Industries Research Association (E/49-E/59, 1938-1943); wartime work on grass protein (E/60-E/63, 1939-1943) and gramicidin (E/67, 1944-1946); studies on the nutritive value of by-products of the herring industry (E/75-E80, 1949-1951); papers relating to computer searching for chemical information (E/89-E/94,1981).

Societies and organisations

The material covers twenty-four UK and overseas organisations with which Synge was involved, c 1936-1993. These are presented alphabetically, as follows:

H/1: Aberdeen Biochemical Association
H/2-H/26: Agricultural Research Council
H/27-H/42: Association of Scientific Workers
H/43-H/55: Biochemical Society
H/56-H/58: British National Committee for Biochemistry
H/59-H/67: British Nutrition Foundation
H/68: Cambridge University Natural Science Club
H/69-H/70: Chemical Society
H/71: Chemical Structure Association
H/72: Haldane Research Centre, India
H/73-H/74: Joint Consultative Organisation for Research and Development in Agriculture and Food
H/75: Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine
H/76: Medical Research Council
H/77-H/79: Nutrition Society
H/80: Ray Club
H/81-H/82: Royal Institute of Chemistry
H/83-H/95: Royal Society
H/96-H/101: Royal Society of Chemistry
H/102: Royal Society of Edinburgh
H/103: Société de Chimie Biologique
H/104: Society for Analytical Chemistry
H/105-H/109: Society for General Microbiology
H/110: United Kingdom Council for Food Science and Technology
H/111: Wallace & Tiernan Ltd

Publications, lectures, and broadcasts

The material is presented as follows:

F/1-F/118: Publications (1940-1992). This material is further divided as follows:
Drafts, F/1-F/7. A chronological sequence of material relating to publications, or to the intention to publish. Where applicable reference has been made to the bibliography of Synge's published work in the Royal Society memoir of Synge (A/1) in the form Bibliog. .. (1940-1992)
Translations, F71-F/90, (c 1940-1977)
Editorial correspondence, F/91-F/118. Arranged alphabetically by publisher or journal title (1940-1992)

F/119-F/171: Lectures (1942-1984)

F/172-F/176: Broadcasts (1947-1961)

F/177-F/192: 'Unpublished Etc' (c 1938-1979). Contents of Synge's two folders so inscribed. The second folder was found inside the first. Chiefly drafts by Synge, including book-reviews.

F/193-F/197: Off-prints (1937-1992 and undated)


The correspondence in this section is presented as follows:

J/1-J/341: Alphabetical by correspondent, 1927-1994.
J/342-J/412: Shorter scientific correspondence, 1936-1993. Presented in chronological order; indexed.
J/413-J/422: Requests for off-prints, 1940-1990. Presented in alphabetical order; not indexed.
J/423-J/443: References and recommendations, 1948-1985 and undated. Further subdivided as follows:
J/423-J/424: Grants and funding, 1948-1976
J/425-J/430: Higher degrees, 1950-1980
J/431-J/435: Royal Society, 1951-1985
J/436-J/437, Honours and awards, 1951-1983
J/438-J/442: Appointments and promotions, 1954-171
J/443: Requests for advice
Note that some recommendations etc appear in the files of correspondence arranged alphabetically by correspondent, J/1-J/341.

Family and personal papers

The material in this section is arranged as follows:

B/1-B/679: Correspondence and papers, 1836-1952. Family and personal correspondence of Sir J. J. Thomson is at B/1-B/44. At B/45-B/639, the bulk of this section, is the correspondence and papers of Thomson's wife Rose Elizabeth, Lady Thomson (née Paget): most of this is incoming correspondence from family members and friends; there are also notebooks and diaries at B/570-B/594, correspondence from and material relating to societies, organisations, and appeals at B/595-B/635, and miscellaneous material at B/636-B/639.

There is also family and personal correspondence of other family members including their son George Paget Thomson, B/640-656, and daughter Joan Paget Thomson, B/657-B/658. The correspondence between family members is arranged by recipient, thus letters from J. J. Thomson to his wife are to be found in the incoming correspondence of Rose Thomson at B/45-B/53 rather than in the family correspondence of Thomson himself (B/1-B/6).

B/680-B/688: Photographs, 1917-1925

B/689-B/719: Accounts, 1888-1951. This material consists chiefly of Thomson household accounts, which were kept by Lady Thomson, and have been arranged, in chronological order.

B/720-B/731: Miscellaneous, 1918-1944

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