Papers and correspondence of William Hume-Rothery, 1899-1968

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers include notebooks, working papers and drafts for lectures and publications, mainly for the later period of Hume-Rothery's career since he destroyed much of the material relating to his early life because of pressure of space. There are, however, copies of letters written by him to G. Headley (his former schoolmaster), 1924-1931, describing the progress of his researches. Hume-Rothery's total deafness required his colleagues to communicate with him in writing. Some of these conversation notes are separately preserved in notebooks, and others appear as random jottings throughout the papers.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Hume-Rothery was born in Worcester Park, Surrey and educated at Cheltenham College, 1912-1916, before entering Royal Military Academy, Woolwich to pursue an army career. However, in 1917 he contracted cerebrospinal meningitis which destroyed his nerves of hearing and impaired his sense of balance. His higher education, and all his subsequent scientific career were accomplished under this handicap. In 1918 he was accepted by Magdalen College, Oxford where he read Chemistry in the Honour School of Natural Science. He was awarded a Demyship by the College in 1920 and took a First Class in 1922. After graduation, on the advice of F. Soddy, Hume-Rothery went to the Royal College of Mines, Imperial College, London, 1922-1925, to work under H.C.H. Carpenter, the Professor of Metallurgy, on the structure and properties of intermetallic compounds. He then returned to Oxford where his early work on the science of metals and alloys began 'in one room - more literally, on one bench'. He held various research fellowships from his College, Magdalen, 1925-1929, the Armourers' and Braziers' Company, 1929-1932, and the Warren Research Fellowship of the Royal Society, 1932-1955. His work in the study of metallurgy helped to gain university recognition for the subject, and Hume-Rothery was the first holder of the George Kelley Readership in Metallurgy, 1955-1958, and the first Isaac Wolfson Professor of Metallurgy, 1958-1966. He was elected FRS in 1937.


By section as follows: Biographical and printed work, Laboratory notebooks, Working papers, Lectures, Lecture notebooks, Publications, Correspondence. Index of correspondents.

Conditions Governing Access

Entry permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card or an Oxford University Card displaying the Bodleian logo. All applicants for new or replacement cards must apply in person, with a recommendation and payment if required, and with proof of their identity.

Other Finding Aids

Printed catalogue of the papers and correspondence of William Hume-Rothery (1899-1968) by J. Alton and H. Weiskittel, CSAC catalogue no. 1/73, 11 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1973 by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre from Mrs Elizabeth Hume-Rothery, widow. Placed in Bodleian Library (gift) in 1973.