Fonds THMJ I - Papers of Sir Joseph Thomson (J. J. Thomson), Part I

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Papers of Sir Joseph Thomson (J. J. Thomson), Part I


  • 1876-1970 (Creation)

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6 boxes

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Joseph John Thomson was born in Cheetham Hill, Manchester on 18 December 1856, the son of James John Thomson, bookseller and publisher and his wife Emma. In 1871 Thomson was admitted to Owens College Manchester and studied there until 1876, when he was awarded an entrance scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1880 he graduated as Second Wrangler, was 2nd Smith's Prizeman and was made a fellow in the same year. He became a college lecturer at Trinity in 1883 and the following year succeeded Lord Rayleigh as Professor of Experimental Physics.
Thomson's research concerned the passage of electricity through gases. In 1897 he announced his discovery of the electron to an audience at the Royal Institution and in 1912, assisted by F W Aston, he discovered isotopes of neon. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1906
In 1918 Thomson became Master of Trinity, resigning from his chair in favour of Rutherford. However, a personal chair was created to enable him to continue his researches. He died in 1940.

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Scope and content

The archive contains little scientific material as by far the greater part of Thomson's scientific papers are deposited in Cambridge University Library. Material is arranged as follows:
Section A - Personal material and correspondence;
Section B - Notes and drafts for publication;
Section C - Scientific correspondence;
Section D - Accounts and biographies of Thomson;
Section E - Published works.

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      Finding aids

      The library holds a detailed catalogue produced by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists. This is also available via the National Archive's Discovery union catalogue:

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      The majority of Thomson's scientific papers are deposited in Cambridge University Library, see MS Add.7654:
      Another collection of Thomson's papers, much larger than Part I, was later deposited at Trinity College, and can be found under the reference THMJ II (NCUACS catalogue 91.4.00).
      The papers of Thomson's son, Sir George Paget Thomson, are also held by Trinity, see THMG.

      Notes area


      Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre finding aid created by Jeannine Alton and Julia Latham-Jackson

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      Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre reference

      CSAC 74.4.80

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          Archivist's note

          The current record was created using the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre finding aid, and was edited by Rebecca Hughes in 2021.

          Accession area