Record

Reference numberPB
LevelFonds
TitlePapers of Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett
Date1911-1975
DescriptionThe papers are extensive, relating to almost every aspect of Blackett's career in science and public life. Areas of particular interest include his wartime researches for all three services. This includes his post-war influence on the formulation of science policy within the Labour Party of Hugh Gaitskell and Harold Wilson, and his involvement in the affairs of developing countries, particularly India where he formed a friendship with Jawaharlal Nehru. There is biographical and personal material including large numbers of letters of congratulation received on the occasion of the various scientific and public awards and honours with which Blackett's achievements were recognised. There are records of his work on particle disintegration, cosmic rays, astrophysics and magnetism in the form of laboratory notebooks, working papers, correspondence, lectures, publications and broadcasts. There is also documentation on his activities on various defence projects and as a member of government committees before, during and after the Second World War. Blackett's political interests are represented by material relating to the Association of Scientific Workers, Labour Party discussion groups on science and technology policy and the Ministry of Technology instituted after the Party's 1964 electoral victory. There are records of a wide range of science related interests, such as the history of science and technology, science, education and government, nuclear weapons and disarmament, and of his overseas activities including material relating specifically to India and that concerned with matters more generally affecting developing countries.
A few lacunae in the surviving material have been identified. There are no documents relative to Blackett's service with the National Research and Development Corporation or the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and, of his correspondence during the Second World War, only that for 1942 survives.

The letters in PB/11 were donated by Professor AA Watson and relate to Blackett's discussion with Professor Nishina regarding what is now known as the muon.
LanguageEnglish
Extent1,362 items and files, 46 linear feet, digital files for newscuttings
ArrangementBy section as follows:
Biographical and personal; Particle disintegration, Cosmic Rays and Astrophysics; Magnetism; Second World War and Government Committees; Political activities; Science-related interests; Overseas activities; Lectures addresses, publications and broadcasts; Correspondence, and Diaries.
Finding aidsPrinted catalogue by Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre in 2 vols.
Access statusOpen
Access conditionsPapers retain the period of confidentiality agreed at the time of deposit. All new deposits closed for 30 years except by permission of the Officers of the Royal Society or the person controlling access.
Administrative historyBlackett was born in Kensington, London. He was educated at the Osborne Naval College and Dartmouth College for a career in the Royal Navy and saw action during the First World War at the Battle of Jutland. He resigned from the Navy at the end of the war and entered Magdalene College, Cambridge to read for the Natural Sciences Tripos, 1919-1921. He became a research student under Rutherford at the Cavendish Laboratory in 1921, working with cloud chambers. In 1924 he succeeded in obtaining the first photographs of an atomic transmutation, which was of nitrogen into an oxygen isotope. He continued to develop the cloud chamber and in 1932, with the assistance of G. Occhialini, he designed a cloud chamber in which photographs of cosmic rays were taken automatically, Early in 1933 the device confirmed the existence of the positron. In the same year he became Professor of Physics at Birckbeck College, London where he continued his cosmic ray studies demonstrating in 1935 the formation of showers of positive and negative electrons from gamma rays in approximately equal numbers. In 1937 he succeeded W.L.Bragg as Langworthy Professor of Physics at Manchester University, continuing his cosmic ray work. He was brought into the Air Defence Committee in 1936 by H.T.Tizard and during the Second World War he contributed to or directed several research projects such as proximity fuses and bombsights and greatly developed the technique of operational research, notably as applied to controversies over bombing policy and the U-boat campaign. He returned to academic life at the end of the war and, as a consequence of his research into cosmic rays, became interested in the history of the Earth's magnetic field and turned to the study of rock magnetism. He was Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Fellow, 1965-1974. Blackett was always politically committed to the left, and in later years to developing countries and especially to India. At certain periods he exerted influence, particularly after the Labour Party's General Election victory in 1964 when he became Deputy Chairman and Scientific Adviser, Advisory Council on Technology, Ministry of Technology.
Blackett received many honours and awards both in Britain and internationally. He was elected FRS in 1933 (Bakerian Lecture 1939, Royal Medal 1940, Copley Medal 1956, Rutherford Lecture 1958, Vice President 1945-1946, President of the Royal Society 1965-1970), and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1948 for his work on particle disintergration and cosmic rays. He was appointed to the Order of Merit in 1967 and received a Life Peerage in 1969.
Related materialGlasgow University Archives and Business Records Centre holds correspondence between Blackett and Sir Edward Bullard, 1945-1957; the Niels Bohr Institute holds correspondence with Niels Bohr, 1930-1961; Sussex University Library Manuscript Collections holds letters from Blackett to J.G. Bullard, 1933-1947; Imperial College, University of London, holds correspondence with Herbert Dingle, 1958-1969, Lord Jackson, 1957-1969, and J.D. McGee, 1955-1972; Nottingham University Library, Department of Manuscripts and Specil Collections, holds correspondence with Robert Peers, 1957-1958; Cambridge University Library, Department of of Manuscripts and University Archives, holds correspondence with Lord Rutherford, 1922-1937; Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, holds correspondence with Sir Robert Peieris, and correspondence relating to the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning, 1933-1947; the British Library, Manuscript Collections, holds correspondence with the Society of Authors, 1947-1949; Leeds University, Brotherton Library, holds correspondence with Edmund Stoner, 1937-1961; Imperial War Museum Department of Documents holds correspondence with Sir Henry Tizard, 1936-1958; the Science Museum Library, London, holds correspondence with Stanley Gill, 1964-1968; Churchill Archives Centre, University of Cambridge, holds correspondence with AV Hill, 1935-1974; Rice University, the Woodson Research Center, Texas USA holds correspondence with Sir Julian Huxley, 1938-1969.
Fellows associated with this archive
CodeNameDates
NA8131Blackett; Patrick Maynard Stuart (1897 - 1974); Baron Blackett of Chelsea; Nuclear Physicist1897 - 1974
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