Papers and correspondence of Sir John McGregor Hill, b. 1921

Scope and Content

Biographical material is slight. It includes biographical profiles and press cuttings, and papers relating to Hill's appointment and retirement from the UKAEA. Documentation of Hill's publications, lectures and speeches forms the main body of the collection. The bulk of the material consists of articles, speeches and lectures given during the period 1965-1983. This covers Hill's chairmanship of the UKAEA and the material may have been assembled in that context. There are a few later speeches and lectures, 1987-1994 and a set of Hill's publications. The principal component of Hill's correspondence is a chronological sequence, covering the period 1980-1983, of carbon copies of Hill's correspondence to ministers in the Department of Energy and to others in various organisations and institutions in Britain and abroad. During this period Hill was President of the Institute of Energy, Chairman of BNFL and Chairman of Amersham International plc.

Administrative / Biographical History

John McGregor Hill was born in Chester on 21 February 1921. He was educated at Richmond County Grammar School in Surrey, 1930-1939 and at King's College, London, where he took a first class degree in Physics. Between 1941 and 1946, Hill served in the RAF, rising to the rank of Flight Lieutenant in the Radar Branch. On his discharge from the RAF Hill researched the life span of short-lived radio nuclei for his PhD in Nuclear Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge. In 1948 he was appointed Lecturer in Physics in the University of London.

In 1950 Hill joined the Department of Atomic Energy of the Ministry of Supply at the Windscale Works in Cumbria, marking the start of his career in nuclear energy. He first worked with engineers involved in commissioning Britain's first production nuclear reactors, the Windscale Piles, built for the production of plutonium for military purposes. When the headquarters of the industrial section of the organisation moved to Risley, Cheshire, in 1954, Hill joined the production team, which at the time was trying to determine future development and industrial policies for nuclear power. As Manager of the Production Group, Hill oversaw the uranium diffusion plan at Capenhurst, the fuel manufacturing plant at Springfields, the reprocessing plant at Windscale and the power-generating reactors at Calder and Chapelcross.

Appointed to the Main Board of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (as the Department of Atomic Energy had been renamed) in 1964, Hill received rapid advancement within the organisation (Deputy Director, Technical Director, Deputy Managing Director, Director, and Managing Director) succeeding Lord Penney as Chairman of the UKAEA on 16 October 1967, a post he held until 1981. Hill also served as a member of the Advisory Council on Technology, 1968-1970. In April 1971, Hill became Chairman of British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, (formerly the Production Group of UKAEA), and in 1975 he succeeded Sir Charles Cunningham as Chairman of the Radiochemical Centre Ltd (later Amersham International plc). He retired as Chairman of BNFL in 1983 and Amersham International plc in 1988.

Hill was elected FRS in 1981 and FEng in 1982. He was knighted in 1969.


By section as follows: Biographical, Publications, speeches and lectures, Correspondence. Index of correspondents.

Access Information

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Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Sir John McGregor Hill: NCUACS catalogue no. 82/3/99, 66 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in March 1999 by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists from Sir John Hill. Deposited in Churchill Archives Centre in 1999.