Papers and correspondence of Sir Frederick Charles Frank, 1911-1998.

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers cover almost all aspects of Frank's professional career. His research is documented from the early 1930s and the material covers a wide range of his scientific interests, including dielectric loss, crystal dislocations, properties of polymers, liquid crystals and geophysics. Wartime research is also represented, particularly work on rockets. There are notes, drafts and correspondence relating to Frank's published work, 1935-1988, records of visits and conferences, 1939-1987, and of the University of Bristol Physics Department, 1946-1986. A particular feature of the papers is their documentation of Frank's association with a large number of British, overseas and international organisations, including the Faraday Society, the Institute of Physics, the International Organisation of Crystal Growth, the Pugwash movement, the Royal Society and the Science Research Council. Also represented are local Bristol institutions, including Badminton School, Bristol Municipal Charities, and Queen Elizabeth's Hospital school. There is considerable material relating to Frank's extensive consultancy work for commercial organisations. The best documented is Frank's work for De Beers, for whom he served on the Diamond Research Committee which oversaw De Beers-funded diamond research in UK universities and which organised the Diamond Research Conferences. There are also records of consultancy work for British Rail, the US General Electric Company and IBM. Finally, there is a substantial scientific correspondence with friends, colleagues and former students, including N. Cabrera, J.D. Eshelby, R.V. Jones and F.R.N. Nabarro.

Administrative / Biographical History

Frank was born in Durban, South Africa, although his parents returned to England very shortly afterwards. He was educated at Thetford Grammar School and Ipswich School and in 1929 entered Lincoln College, Oxford to read chemistry, graduating B.A. with first class honours in 1932 and receiving his B.Sc. a year later. Frank did D.Phil. research on dielectric loss in organic materials at the Oxford Engineering Science Laboratory and then continued his study of dielectric loss at Berlin-Dahlem under P. Debye, 1936-1938. On his return to England Frank worked with E.K. Rideal in the Colloid Science Laboratory, University of Cambridge but his research there was cut short by the outbreak of war and in June 1940 he joined the Chemical Defence Experimental Station, Porton Down, Wiltshire. In November 1940 Frank was transferred to the Air Ministry's Assistant Directorate of Intelligence (Science) at the request of its Assistant Director, and Frank's friend from Oxford, R.V. Jones. He spent the rest of the war with the Air Ministry.

In 1946 Frank took a post in the University of Bristol Physics Department for research in solid state physics. Through sharing a room with W.K. Burton and N. Cabrera, however, Frank switched to research on crystal dislocation and his work with Burton and Cabrera was to demonstrate the role dislocations played in the growth of crystals. Apart from crystal defects Frank's wide-ranging research interests at Bristol included the mechanical properties of polymers, the theory of liquid crystals and the mechanics of the interior of the Earth. Frank was appointed Reader in 1951, Melville Wills Professor in 1954 and Henry Overton Wills Professor and Director of the H.H. Wills Physics Laboratory in 1969. Frank continued his research after formal retirement in 1976.

Frank was elected FRS in 1954 (Bakerian Lecture 1973, Royal Medal 1979) and was knighted in 1977. He died on 5 April1998.


By section as follows: Biographical, Bristol University, Research, Publications, Lectures and broadcasts, Societies and organisations, Consultancies, Visits and conferences, Correspondence, References and appointments. Index ofcorrespondents.

Conditions Governing Access

No known closure or restrictions. Visits by appointment. Some form of identification required.

Other Finding Aids

Printed catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Sir Frederick Charles Frank (1911-1998) by T.E. Powell and P. Harper, NCUACS catalogue no. 15/8/89, 284 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

NCUACS no. 127/13/03.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1988 by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists from Frank. Placed in Bristol University Library in 1989.

Additional materials received from Lady Frank and colleagues, and placed in Bristol University Library in 2004.

Related Material

Other papers held by Bristol University Library consist of:

  • Papers of a Diamond conference, 1 box (DM 1139)
  • Additional papers collected from Frank's home and the Physics Department following Frank's death, 65 boxes (DM 1837) with additional medals and academic gowns.