Papers and correspondence of Lewis Fry Richardson, 1881-1953

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This small collection consists principally of the correspondence Ashford conducted with Richardson's colleagues while preparing his biography and Richardson's own notes and drafts. These notes and drafts range from manuscript jottings and research notes to lecture notes on differential equations 1937-1938 and drafts submitted for publication, and their subjects relate to Richardson's meteorological and mathematical interests, to his study of war and to his interest in psychology. Of considerable biographical interest is Richardson's house diary recording aspects of life at the family home Hillside House, Kilmun, Argyll 1943-1953. Ashford's own correspondence with Richardson and his collection of Richardson photographs were made available for cataloguing but are retained by Ashford during his lifetime.

Administrative / Biographical History

Richardson was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 11 October 1881. He was educated at the Bootham School, York, Durham College of Science and King's College Cambridge. After a number of appointments he entered the Meteorological Office in 1913 as superintendent of the Eskdalemuir Observatory, thus beginning his fruitful association with Sir Napier Shaw. In 1916-1919 he served in the Friends' Ambulance Unit attached to the 16th French Infantry Division. In 1920 he took charge of the Physics Department, Westminster Training College and in 1929 became Principal of Paisley College of Technology and School of Art. He retired in 1940 to research on the causes of war and eddy diffusion. Richardson's Royal Society obituarist identified as amongst the principal components of his work: 'his development of the application of the method of finite differences to the solution of physical problems, including the major problem of meteorology ... the computation of the physical state of the atmosphere for an epoch finitely subsequent to that for which the state is known by observation' and 'his development of the application of mathematics to the study of the relations between states, especially to elucidate the effects ... among a number of nations, of armaments, trade, communications, rivalry and grievances on the stability of the regime.' ( Obituary notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, 9 (1954), 219). In 1922 Richardson published his classic text Weather prediction by numerical process.Richardson was elected FRS in 1926. He died on 30 September 1953. See E. Gold, 'Lewis Fry Richardson', Obituary notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, 9 (1954), 217-235.


By section as follows: Biographical, Notes and drafts. Index of correspondents.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to holders of full Reader's Tickets for Cambridge University Library.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Lewis Fry Richardson (1881-1953) by T.E. Powell and P. Harper, NCUACS catalogue no. 44/6/93, 22 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath

Separated Material

Appendix E of Ashford's biography provides a detailed list of 'Archives containing material relating to L.F. Richardson'. The principal collections listed are at the University of Paisley, which holds about thirty files, chiefly of lecture notes but also including correspondence and research notes, and sixty textbooks with marginalia by Richardson, and the University of Lancaster which holds six bound volumes of principally working material for books on peace research but including correspondence and notes on other subjects, and two files on languages and religion and on mapping of populations.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1993 by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists from Mr O.M. Ashford, a colleague and close friend of Richardson and his family who brought the material together over many years in the preparation of his biography of Richardson Prophet or Professor? The Work and Life of Lewis Fry Richardson (Adam Hilger, Bristol and Boston MA, 1985). Deposited in Cambridge University Library in 1993.