Ref NoDM517
Alt Ref NoDM517/1-198
TitleCecil Powell Papers
DescriptionThis description is based on the original paper catalogue prepared for The Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts Committee on Scientific and Technological Records, Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre (CSAC): ‘Papers of Professor Cecil Frank Powell, F.R.S (1903-1969)’ compiled by Jeannine Alton and Harriot Weiskittel (CSAC catalogue no. 12/6/74, 23pp), which is attached below. See notes on related material for other deposits of Professor Powell's papers.

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. For further information, including a bibliography of Powell's publications, see Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, Vol 17, 1971, pp541-563, article by Frederick Charles Frank and Donald Hill Perkins, available online at

DM517 comprises of the original collection of Professor Powell's papers recieved in 1973. This collection should be consulted alongside DM1137, which comprises of supplementary material that was recieved in 1985, and DM1947, received in 1999.

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 in DM517. At the time of cataloguing it was thought that there had been wholesale destruction of his correspondence and papers after Professor Powell's death. In fact, DM1137, deposited in 1985 contains some correspondence (mostly skewed toward the latter part of the alphabet), while the bulk of correspondence came to light with the deposit of DM1947, in 1999.

The papers are in a single numbered sequence and are presented here, as in the original list, in the following sections:

DM517/A: Section A: Biographical
DM517/B: Section B: Cambridge Notebooks
DM517/C: Section C: Laboratory Notebooks
DM517/D: Section D: Working Notebooks
DM517/E: Section E: Publications and Speeches
DM517/F: Section F: Royal Society Expedition to Montserrat
DM517/G: Section G: Offprints and Printed Material

Index of correspondents for DM517:
Numbers refer to alt. refs.

BLACKETT, Baron Patrick Maynard, 190
BLACKETT, Stuart, O. M., F.R.S., 190

COOPER, Professor K E., 140

DE VRIES, F. R., 189

FRANZINETTI, Professor Carlo, 112

GOLDSMITH, Maurice, 134

HOLLEY, E. H., 189

JACKSON, Corinne 123

LONGCHAMBON, Professor Louis, 171a

OAKLEY, F. S., 147
OTERO, Professor J. M., 171a

SCHOENBERG, Dr. M. E., 189
SCHRADE, Professor Hugo, 171a

WARD, Professor A.B., 6
WHYTE, Lancelot L., 134

This is one of the main deposits of Professor Powell's papers (19 archive boxes), together with:

Cecil Frank Powell: Biographical, Balloon Flights, Lectures, Broadcasts, Publications, Pugwash Conferences, Correspondence, Index of Correspondence. 1903-1969. (15 archive boxes). 'Supplementary catalogue of papers and correspondence of Cecil Frank Powell FRS, (1903-1969)' by J. Alton, P. Harper and M. Erskine, CSAC catalogue no. 112/2/86, 39 pp, is attached to the online catalogue.

Cecil Frank Powell: Biographical, Balloon and aeroplane flights, Publications, Correspondence, Research, Visits and conferences. Index of correspondents. c1941-2002. (17 archive boxes). 'Second supplementary catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Powell, Cecil Frank, FRS (1903-1969)': National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists (NCUACS) catalogue no. 114/13/02, 74pp, is attached to the online catalogue.
Related MaterialThere are three main caches of Powell papers: DM 517, DM1137, and DM1947.
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.
DM1271 - Powell's University of Bristol Personnel file. 1930-1974. (Catalogued as DM1137/A.4a)
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.
DM1834 - Off-prints and notes for projected tour of Europe 1969. DM1834 - Off-prints and notes for projected tour of Europe 1969.
Extent19 boxes


Access ConditionsMany of these collections are held in Store and advanced notice is needed for accessing papers

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