Papers and correspondence of Sir Edward Crisp Bullard, 1907-1980

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The surviving papers cover almost every aspect of Bullard's career. The chief lacunae are his wartime papers which he destroyed in 1945 and his official papers at Toronto and the National Physical Laboratory. There are biographical and personal material, diaries, personal and family correspondence and photographs, records of the Cambridge Department of Geodesy and Geophysics including the original correspondence leading up to its foundation in 1921, and documentation of his connection with the University of California, chiefly the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The largest body of material relates to Bullard's many research interests from early work on gravity to the last uncompleted book on energy sources and nuclear waste disposal, and includes full documentation for his work on dynamo theory and on computing applications. There is much material on Bullard's service on committees and as consultant, and relating to learned societies and professional organisations, to publications, lectures and broadcasts, and to visits and conferences. Bullard's surviving scientific correspondence is somewhat disappointing and contains a high proportion of material dating from his later years.

Administrative / Biographical History

Bullard was born in Norwich and educated at Repton School and Clare College, Cambridge where he read natural sciences, 1926-1929. His first graduate research was at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge working under the direction of P.M.S. Blackett and in collaboration with H.S.W. Massey, on electron scattering in gases. In 1931, partly because of the economic depression, he accepted a post under G.P. Lenox-Conyngham in the Department of Geodesy and Geophysics at Cambridge. Here he worked on geophysical instrument design and development, gravity determination in Britain and Africa, explosion seismology including the first British expeditions to study the Atlantic seafloor, and heat-flow in South Africa bore-holes. During the Second World War he was seconded to the Admiralty, working on anti-mine protection, operational research and intelligence. After the war he returned to Cambridge but in 1947 he moved to Toronto University as Professor of Physics and while there, but on a summer vacation visit to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California he did some of his most important work on the design of equipment for the measurement of heat-flow at sea. In 1950 he returned to Britain as Director of the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington where despite administrative and official duties he continued to work on marine heat-flow, building apparatus and taking part in sea-going expeditions, and also developed his dynamo theory of terrestrial magnetism.

In 1956 Bullard returned to the Department of Geodesy and Geophysics, Cambridge as Assistant Director of Research (Reader in Geophysics 1960, Professor 1964). His research interests now included continental drift and plate tectonics as well as continuing work in seismology and geomagnetism, and the development of computer programs for processing large amounts of observational data. During this period he was very active as consultant and adviser to Government Departments (notably the Admiralty, Foreign Office, Ministries of Defence, Science and Supply), to professional and learned societies such as the Institute of Physics, Royal Society and the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, and to industrial firms principally Shell and IBM UK. He was also a founder member of the Natural Environment Research Council. On retirement from Cambridge in 1974 Bullard moved to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography where he continued his research and took part in expeditions and teaching and lecturing programmes. He added a last research topic to his interests - energy sources and nuclear waste disposal - in his capacity as consultant to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology. Bullard was elected FRS in 1941 (Bakerian Lecture 1967, Hughes Medal 1953, Royal Medal 1975) and was knighted in 1953.


By section as follows: Biographical and personal, Cambridge, California, Research, Committees and consultancies, Societies and organisations, Publications, lectures and broadcasts, Visits, Correspondence. Index of correspondents.

Conditions Governing Access

Readers intending to use the Archives Centre must write in advance to the Keeper of the Archives giving details of their research subject and listing the collections they will wish to consult. New readers should also provide a letter of introduction and some form of identification (such as a passport or driving licence). Open except A.135-A.137 (to 2034), A.146-A.149 (to 2014), closed on grounds of personal sensitivity.

Other Finding Aids

Printed catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Sir Edward Crisp Bullard (1907-1980), CSAC catalogue no. 100/4/84, 373 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Separated Material

Certificates and scrolls of honour remain in family hands.

Material relating to the Anchor Brewery (the Bullard family firm) is held at the Norfolk Record Office, Norwich.

Material assembled by Bullard for his memorial writings on W.M. Ewing is at Columbia University, New York.

Correspondence exchanged with W.H. Munk and others, and a little other material, is in the Archives of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego.

Official papers relating to Bullard's service on government committees are held at the Air Historical Branch, Ministry of Defence, London.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1981-1984 by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre from Dr Belinda Bullard, daughter. Placed in Churchill Archives Centre in 1984.