Ref NoDM517
Alt Ref NoDM1137, DM1947
TitleCecil Powell Papers
DescriptionThis is a description of DM517, DM1137, and DM1947
DM517 19 boxes
DM1137 15 boxes
DM1947 17 boxes

Cecil Frank Powell was born in Tonbridge, Kent, in 1903, and educated at Judd School, Tonbridge and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He began his research career at Cambridge with C.T.R. Wilson, but in 1928 he moved to Bristol University as research assistant to A.M. Tyndall. Powell spent the rest of his life at Bristol as Lecturer, 1931-1946, Reader, 1946-1948, Melville Wills Professor of Physics, 1948-1963, and Henry Overton Wills Professor and Director of the H.H. Wills Laboratory, 1964-1969. Powell always encouraged an international approach to research, and from 1950 played an increasingly large part in political and international science, as Chairman of the World Federation of Scientific Workers, 1956-1959, Chairman of the Science Policy Committee CERN, 1961-1963, and in many other capacities. He was one of the signatories of the Russell-Einstein manifesto of July 1955, and presided at the plenary session of the first Pugwash Conference in July 1957. Powell was a pioneer in particle physics, best known for his discovery of the pion. He was elected FRS in 1949 (Hughes Medal 1949, Royal Medal 1961) and was awarded the 1950 Nobel Prize for Physics for his development of the photographic method of studying nuclear processes and his discoveries regarding mesons made with this method. He died in 1969.

DM517 and DM1137
The papers contain biographical material (including three chapters of an uncompleted autobiography), speeches and publications. There are 105 manuscript notebooks which fall into three separate groups: Cambridge notes by Powell on lectures by Rutherford, C.T.R. Wilson and others; Bristol notebooks, 1939-1949, of cosmic ray observations by Powell and his team; and notebooks of miscellaneous material such as drafts by Powell for his own lectures, speeches or publications, notes taken at conferences, etc. There are also journals, notebooks and reports relating to the Royal Society expedition to Montserrat in 1936 to investigate earth tremors on which Powell served as seismologist. Except for a few letters dealing with publications, there is no personal or professional correspondence. Documents (including correspondence) dealing with Powell's work for international organisations were destroyed after his death. The supplementary papers include biographical material such as congratulatory letters on the Nobel Prize, Powell's sixtieth birthday and the Lomonosov Gold Medal, and family letters. Powell's research is represented chiefly by contemporary letters recording the high altitude balloon flights in Sardinia in 1952 and 1953. There are also photographs relating to Powell's scientific work and some drafts for lectures, addresses and broadcasts. Powell's public life in national and international affairs remains scantily documented, only a few records of Pugwash conferences and a little correspondence, disproportionately skewed towards the second half of the alphabet, surviving what was believed to be the wholesale destruction of his correspondence and papers after his death.
There are PDF detailed listings of DM517 and DM1137 available from Special Collections.

Original material: By section as follows:
Biographical, Cambridge noteboks, Laboratory notebooks, Working notebooks, Publications and speeches, Royal Society expedition to Montserrat, Offprints. Index of correspondents.

Supplementary material: By section as follows: Biographical and personal, Balloon flights, Lectures, broadcasts and publications, Pugwash conferences, Correspondence. Index of correspondents.

The principal component of the second supplementary collection is an alphabetical sequence of correspondence running A-S. This sequence, which was believed lost, precedes that running S-Z, which is presented in catalogue CSAC 111/2/86 (DM1137). The material, which is not exclusively correspondence, covers a wide range of topics from collaboration on research and expeditions with British and foreign universities, to relations with governmental bodies including the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the UK Atomic Energy Authority. There is also material relating to scientific societies such as the Royal Society and national and international laboratories and research organisations such as the National Physical Laboratory and CERN. There are also correspondence and papers bearing on the supply of materials for cosmic ray research, balloon flights expeditions and analysis of exposed emulsion stacks, atomic energy and nuclear weapons issues, publications and conferences.There is a separate alphabetical sequence relating to balloon and aeroplane flights, comprising a record of expeditions, 1953-1971. There are correspondence, photographs, technical drawings, maps, memoranda and reports on balloon flights in Bristol, Cardington (Bedfordshire), Scotland, Sardinia, Hyderabad (India), New Mexico, Victoria (Texas) and Sioux Falls (Minnesota), 1953-1971, and aeroplane flights on Comet, Vulcan and VC10 aircraft, 1957-1964. The papers also document balloon making, collaboration with foreign universities and institutions, technical support from naval and air ministries, meteorological services in the UK and relations with NATO.There is a little further research material, including laboratory notebooks, relating to n-p scattering, K-research collaboration and neutrino experiments, photographs of various stages of balloon preparation and flight, especially Bristol and Italy, and documentation of some of the conferences attended by Powell, 1960-1965, especially the series of Rochester conferences on High Energy Physics, the Ultra High Energy Nuclear Physics conference in Bristol (1963), various CERN conferences and the 1965 International Union of Pure and Applied Physics conference.

By section as follows: Biographical, Balloon and aeroplane flights, Publications, Correspondence, Research, Visits and conferences. Index of correspondents.

Printed catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Cecil Frank Powell (1903-1969) (DM517) by J. Alton and H. Weiskittel, CSAC catalogue no. 12/6/74, 15 pp. Printed supplementary catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Cecil Frank Powell (1903-1969) by J. Alton, P. Harper and M. Erskine (DM1137), CSAC catalogue no. 112/2/86, 39 pp. Printed Catalogues of the second supplementary catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Cecil Frank Powell: NCUACS catalogue no. 114/13/02, (DM1947) 74pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath. These catalogues are also on the A2A Website at
Related MaterialThere are three main caches of Powell papers: DM 517, DM 1137, and DM 1947.
Material placed in Bristol University Library since 1987 comprises the following:
DM1161 - Citations and certificates of honorary degrees 1947-1968
DM1179 - Certificates, photographs, sketch-books etc 1929-1987
DM1194 - School report 1912, correspondence etc 1921-1943
DM1208 - Tape-recording of Speech to the World Conference of Scientists 1955, Interview by A. Porter, 1968.
DM1251 - Diary of Mrs Powell, Nobel festivities 1950.
DM1834 - Off-prints and notes for projected tour of Europe 1969. DM1834 - Off-prints and notes for projected tour of Europe 1969.
DM1271 - Powell's University of Bristol Personnel file. 1930-1974. (Restricted)
DM1453 - Memorabilia from Physics Department 1928-1969.
DM1487/13 - 'Fragments of Autobiography'.
DM1503 - Photographs of Nobel ceremony, 1950; newspaper cuttings on Foreign Office ban on proposed lecture tour of Germany, 1953.
DM1636/3 - Papers re Powell Memorial Occasion 1970.
Extent53 archive boxes


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