Papers and correspondence of Robert William Ditchburn, 1903-1987

Scope and Content

The papers provide biographical material, records of Ditchburn's principal publications and the diamond research at Reading, and scientific correspondence. The biographical material includes letters from colleagues, students and friends sent to Professor G.W. Series, while he was preparing his Royal Society memoir of Ditchburn.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ditchburn was born in Waterloo, Lancashire and educated at Bootle Grammar School, Liverpool University and Trinity College, Cambridge. He undertook Ph.D. research at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge under J.J. Thomson and in 1929 was appointed Erasmus Smith's Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin. He remained in Dublin until 1946 except for three years' war service at the Admiralty Research Laboratory, Teddington. Ditchburn returned to England permanently in 1946 to take up the Chair of Physics at Reading University where he oversaw a very considerable expansion of physics which culminated in the opening of the J.J. Thomson Physics Laboratory in 1960. An important field of study for the Physics Department was diamond research and Ditchburn was instrumental in forming the De Beers-supported international Diamond Research Committee which he chaired from its inception in 1956 until 1982. He was elected FRS in 1962.


By section as follows: Biographical, Publications and lectures, Diamond consultancy, Scientific correspondence, Non-print material, Undergraduate notebooks. Index of correspondents.

Access Information

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check for contact details and opening hours.

Other Finding Aids

Printed catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Robert William Ditchburn (1903-1987), NCUACS catalogue no. 6/5/88, 61 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Separated Material

In his lifetime Ditchburn deposited scientific notebooks in Liverpool University Archives, Cambridge University Library and the Library, Trinity College, Dublin.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1988 by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists from Mrs Doreen Ditchburn, widow and Professor Series. Deposited in Reading University Library in 1988.