- 1920-72 (Creation)
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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.