Although there is significant material from Hanbury Brown's education and early career, including wartime service, the bulk dates from the 1960s to the late 1990s and there is thus a pronounced emphasis on Hanbury Brown's career following his departure for Australia. His war-time research, the transition to radio astronomy and the intense collaborations in the Jodrell Bank group are more sketchily documented, as is in fact his and John Davis's quest for an instrument to succeed the NSII.
There is a wide range of biographical material relating to Hanbury Brown's life and career. It includes the contents of a boxfile of biographical correspondence from the 1930s and 1940s documenting his education, wartime service and immediate postwar career. There are transcripts of interviews, proceedings of conferences to honour his achievements, and drafts (with correspondence) of his Royal Society/Australian Academy of Science Biographical Memoir and other tributes and obituaries. There are also some family papers including letters to his wife Heather before and after their marriage, certificates of education and of awards, and a run of diaries 1936-1998. There is also photographic material.
There is documentation of aspects of Hanbury Brown's war work on radar from early experiments at Martlesham airfield in Sussex to memorabilia (including a poem on the 'radar man'). Hanbury Brown's years with the Combined Research Group at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC are covered by memoranda and photostats of research reports. Of particular interest is the material relating to the claim on the part of the airborne radar team for an award for the design and development of metre-wave airborne radar. This section further includes reunion activities in the 1990s.
Jodrell Bank material is not extensive. It includes an early letter to J.A. Ratcliffe in which Hanbury Brown outlined a radio interferometer of high resolution, pen-recorded inscriptions of signals from Cassiopeia and Sirius, and a notebook with measurements on Sirius that provided practical vindication of the Hanbury Brown-Twiss effect. There are memoranda and proposals on instruments, notably the steerable radio telescope and the interferometer that was eventually built in Narrabri. The development of this latter instrument is further documented by a notebook containing detailed calculations and tests of sample equipment for the future NSII. A number of photographs show various Jodrell Bank individuals and apparatus. There is more Australian material, essentially covering three astronomical instruments and their genesis. Correspondence, notebooks, photographs and promotional materials document the NSII. The story of the successor instrument, the SUSI, is represented chiefly by photographs of an early model showing a Very Large Stellar Intensity Interferometer, a subsequent proposal of a Michelson interferometer, and discussions between Hanbury Brown and his long-time collaborator John Davis. There is also correspondence re the AAT and the future of science and engineering in the University of Sydney.
Hanbury Brown's 'Research Files' form a substantial component of the archive. They contain research materials, which Hanbury Brown accumulated over many decades. These files testify to three foci of enduring interest on his part, the story of radar, radio astronomy, and reflections about science. The history of radar is documented by original documents and pamphlets, correspondence with both fellow radar pioneers and younger radar buffs, memoirs, and drafts of equipment biographies. The radio astronomy group includes literature on various types of interferometers and on quantum theory, correspondence and draft publications on the behaviour of photons (these from the time of the controversy over the Hanbury Brown-Twiss effect), and a special section on Hanbury Brown's 'dear friend Sirius' (Letter to J.M. Bennett, 1 June 1994). A subgroup is dedicated to historical topics in radio astronomy. Material on reflections about science consists of Hanbury Brown's notes on science-historical literature; correspondence, notes and literature on science's relations with religion; and general articles.
There is extensive documentation of Hanbury Brown's publications and lectures, the largest component of this collection. A considerable variety of publications are represented including scientific papers, books, reviews and newspaper articles, starting with Hanbury Brown's 1935 paper on the cathode-ray oscillograph. Hanbury Brown's speaking engagements are documented by drafts, outlines and index card notes over almost five decades, and include his broadcasts. This material is qualitatively heterogeneous, ranging from expert conference papers to light-hearted dinner toasts. Sound recordings of some of these can be found with the non-textual media in the archive.
There is documentation of Hanbury Brown's involvements with only a few societies and organisations. These include the Astronomical Society of Australia, Institution of Electrical Engineers, National Centre for Basic Sciences in Calcutta, India and Royal Society. Material includes copies of reports (co-authored by Hanbury Brown) to the International Scientific Radio Union and to the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration.
There are several series of correspondence, which together span six decades. There are three alphabetical sequences, one dating from the 1940s to the early 1950s, the second consisting of named correspondents, the third dating chiefly from the 1980s and 1990s (with a few earlier letters). The first sequence includes family letters and correspondence about the Sir Robert Watson-Watt & Partners consultancy. Hanbury Brown's named correspondents in the second sequence are colleagues and friends from the days of radar and early radio astronomy, and his colleague John Davis. The third sequence ranges over a multitude of correspondents and topics. It reflects chiefly Hanbury Brown's activities after his return from Australia in 1991.
Non-textual media spans audiotapes, videotapes, visual material, and computer disks. The audiotapes date from 1973 to 1999 and include recordings of Hanbury Brown's wife Heather. Videotapes are principally of Hanbury Brown's contributions to television documentaries and interviews on his wartime work. The visual material ranges over photographs, graphs, transparencies and an extensive slide collection, which appears to have served Hanbury Brown as a store on which to draw for his lecturing activities. The computer disks reflect both Hanbury Brown's changing word processing equipment and his diverse activities, from his writings to his correspondence with colleagues, friends, institutions, businesses and so forth.