Papers and correspondence of Frederick Alexander Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell, 1886-1957

Scope and Content

Original material: The papers are very substantial and contain much material on Lindemann's career, professorship, scientific research, publications and correspondence, and his lectures and addresses. It includes such varied material as his pilot's log-books of 1916, correspondence with H.W. Nernst, F.W. Aston, G.I. Taylor (q.v.) and Albert Einstein, as well as family letters exchanged with his father and brother, and papers relating to negotiations for funding and research at the Clarendon Laboratory, and Lindemann's initiative in identifying and encouraging Jewish scientists wishing or obliged to leave Germany when the Nazis came to power. There is extensive documentation concerned with the Second World War. It includes some preliminary material about pre-war discussions on air defence (and the 'Tizard Committee') but deals essentially with the work of the Statistical Branch, formed at Churchill's request to assemble statistics and data and present them to him in accessible form, as minutes, diagrams and graphs. The papers preserve not only the final minute or graph but also the background documentation, correspondence or research on which they were based. A large number of topics of military, scientific and economic importance are represented in this way. There are also papers relating to the Conservative Party and Lindemann's political service and an extensive personal and social correspondence including members of the Churchill family. Supplementary material relates almost entirely to Lindemann's career as a physicist and date mainly from the years spent in the laboratory of H.W. Nernst, c 1910-1914. The papers are almost all autograph manuscript notes and drafts on specific heat, early quantum theory and the movement of electrons in atoms. There are also notes taken of contributions to discussions at a conference, probably the Second Solvay Conference of 1913, when X-ray spectroscopy and its impact on atomic theory was a principal topic.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lindemann, the son of a wealthy engineer who was a naturalised British subject of French-Alsatian origin, was born in Baden-Baden, Germany. He was educated at Blairlodge School at Polmont in Scotland, a gymnasium at Darmstadt in Germany and Berlin University where he studied with and later assisted the physical chemist H.W. Nernst. He took his Ph.D. at Berlin in 1910 with a dissertation on the atomic heat of metals at low temperatures. He continued his work in Berlin and Paris, returning to Britain at the outbreak of the First World War where he took up the directorship of the Royal Flying Corps physics station at Farnborough. In 1919 he accepted the Chair of Experimental Philosophy at Oxford University, and was instrumental in transforming the Clarendon Laboratory into an important research institution. His advocacy of the importance of air power and the role of science in its achievement was shared by his friend Winston Churchill who appointed Lindemann his personal assistant when he took office after the outbreak of the Second World War. Lindemann retained this position throughout the war with a remit to advise generally as well as on scientific matters. He was created Baron Cherwell in 1941 and was given ministerial rank as Paymaster-General, 1942-1945. When Churchill formed his government in 1951 Cherwell returned as Paymaster-General advising on atomic energy research and development and on scientific matters generally. After his resignation in 1953 he continued to provide personal advice to the government on similar topics. In 1954 he became a member of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. He was advanced to a viscountcy in 1956. Lindemann's main contributions to research were made in his early years at Berlin where he worked with Nernst on low temperature physics especially specific heats in relation to quantum theory. During the First World War Lindemann worked out from first principles why aircraft were liable to spin out of control, deduced a way of recovering from a spin and put it to the test himself. He was elected FRS in 1920.


By sections as follows: Personal and biographical, Oxford University, Scientific research, writings, conferences, Scientific correspondence, Publications, lectures and speeches, Second World War, Politics and the Conservative Party, Personal and social correspondence. Index of correspondents.

Access Information

By prior appointment only. Application in writing (letter or email) to the Assistant Librarian (Archives). See Nuffield College Archives location page for more details.

Other Finding Aids

The handlist for the Lord Cherwell collection can be found [online] Link:

Printed catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Frederick Alexander Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell (1886-1957) by J. Alton and J. Latham-Jackson, CSAC catalogue no. 80/4/81, 497 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath. Printed supplementary catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Frederick Alexander Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell (1886-1957) by J. Alton and P. Harper, CSAC catalogue no. 99/3/84, 6 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Custodial History

Original material received for cataloguing by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre in 1979-1980 from Nuffield College, Oxford. Supplementary material received for cataloguing by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre in 1983 from Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford.