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Published works

Four bound volumes of offprints of Thomson's papers, 1876-1935, with other material relating to publications, including photocopies of three articles sent to G. P. Thomson by P. Spitzer in 1970.

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.

Correspondence

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.

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.

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.

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).

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

Electron diffraction

C3-8 consist of the contents of a folder labelled 'Potential Drop in Dark Space. October 1923-January 1924'. For ease of reference, the material has been subdivided and put into separate folders. Thomson's original ordering of the papers has been retained.
C 10-22 consist of the contents of folder labelled 'Calculations for Scattering of positive rays in hydrogen, argon and helium'. The order of the papers remains unchanged but the original folder has been discarded.

Early notebooks and research

This Section documents aspects of Thomson's education at the Perse School and Trinity College, Cambridge, and his early research conducted at the Cavendish Laboratory under the direction of his father immediately before and after the First World War.

The material is presented as follows:
B.1 - B.10 School notebooks 1905-10
The earliest of these dates from Thomson's first year at the Perse School, Cambridge, and the subjects covered include English literature and the classics as well as science and mathematics. During his last year at school he attended A. Wood's lectures at Cambridge University, and his notes on these appear at B.5 - B.7.

B.11 - B.31 Cambridge University. Undergraduate notebooks and early research 1910-14
The majority of these contain notes on lectures attended by Thomson during this period, including some by his father (B.26, B.27, B.30).
Item B.31 documents Thomson's first research at the Cavendish Laboratory, where he began work on positive rays under his father's direction in the summer of 1913, to be interrupted a year later by the outbreak of war.

B.32 - B.39 Research in Cambridge 1919-22
After the First World War Thomson returned to the Cavendish to resume the work on positive rays, turning later to anode rays with which he discovered, simultaneously with F.W. Aston, that lithium comprises two isotopes of masses 6 and 7.
The notebooks continue to May 1922, after which Thomson accepted an appointment as Professor of Natural Philosophy at Aberdeen University.

Many of Thomson's notebooks were re-used at different periods of his life; sometimes the old pages were torn out, sometimes he restarted from the back of the book. Occasionally a single notebook contains very diverse material, such as B.2 (school exercises at one end and personal accounts for 1924-26 at the other) and E.60 (school exercises followed by notes on thermonuclear research).

Reports, articles, addresses, and papers

These consist of reports for government and advisory committees, drafts and typescripts for talks, addresses and papers, etc., presented chronologically. Some are photocopies obtained by G.K. Batchelor, and all are typescript unless otherwise indicated. When the item is accompanied by correspondence, this is noted in the entry and indexed.

The majority of these papers deal only with scientific research and problems, but a few of the later addresses include reminiscences and biographical material of historical interest.

Material published in The Scientific Papers of Sir Geoffrey Taylor, ed. G.K. Batchelor, IV Vol., C.U.P., is indicated in the form (SP....). With these exceptions, and any others noted in the entries, the items in this Section are unpublished.

A photocopy of the list of publications is reproduced by permission from Batchelor, Memoir, on pp.74 - 83.

Notebooks, working notes, and patents

The paucity of material in this Section is regretted. It derives in part from Taylor's idiosyncratic working methods which led him to make random jottings on any piece of paper that came to hand; the folder in B.3 is characteristic, and many of the letters, committee papers and other documents in the collection bear notes, drawings and calculations of this kind. Even so, it is probable that many other notebooks have not survived.

Biographical and personal

A.1 - A.11 Biographical and autobiographical material

A.12 - A.53 Career and appointments

A.54 - A.64 Honours and Awards

A.65 - A.78 Letters of congratulation

A.79 - A.134 Family papers and correspondence

(The Taylor family, A.79 - A.104)

(The Boole family, A.105 - A.134)

A.135 - A.174 Personal correspondence

Taylor, Sir Geoffrey Ingram (1886-1975), knight, physicist and engineer

Papers of Claude-Henri de Saint-Simon

These papers are of a miscellaneous nature, though many of them relate to the new encyclopaedia projected by Saint-Simon in the years 1808-10 and the scheme for a new école normale he was working on in 1812. The papers are interspersed with slips and wrappers bearing notes by Sraffa on the identification of the various writings and their relation to printed works.

Rouvroy, Claude Henri de (1760-1825), Comte de Saint-Simon, political and economic theorist

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