- 1905-22 (Creation)
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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).