University of Birmingham Staff Papers: Papers of Tony Hilton Royle Skyrme

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Material relating mainly to Skyrme's research at AERE Harwell and his teaching at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur and the University of Birmingham.

Section A Notebooks: 18 notebooks used by Skyrme to record his research, conferences attended and seminars at Harwell and Birmingham.

Section B Notes and Drafts: Notes covering his whole career from undergraduate notes at Trinity College Cambridge to records of his work at Birmingham at the end of his life. Although the section includes teaching material from his fellowship years at Birmingham, 1946-1948, and the visiting Professorship at the University of Pennsylvania, 1958, and a few draft publications, it is principally a collection of unpublished research materials.

Section C Malaya and Section D Birmingham: records of Skyrme's teaching at the Universities of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, 1962-1964 and at the University of Birmingham from 1965.

Section E Publications: reprints including the posthumously published talks on the origin of skyrmions and Dalitz's articles on his life and work.

Administrative / Biographical History

Professor Tony Hilton Royle Skyrme, 1922-1987, was educated at Eton (a King's Scholar) and Trinity College Cambridge where he studied for the Mathematical Tripos. After his final Cambridge examinations in 1943 he was assigned to work with the Tube Alloys Directorate (the UK atomic bomb project) and joined Rudolf Ernst Peierls' , (later Sir Rudolph Peierls) group at University of Birmingham which was working on theoretical questions posed by the bomb's design and construction. In March 1944 he was sent to the United States of America to work first in New York and then at Los Alamos on the atomic bomb project.

On his return to England in 1946 Skyrme was admitted as a research fellow at Trinity College Cambridge although he never actually lived there, choosing instead to work at the new Department of Mathematical Physics at University of Birmingham where he held a university research fellowship 1946-1948. In August 1948 he married Dorothy Millest, a lecturer in nuclear physics at Birmingham, and then spent two years in the USA as a Research Associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in the following year as a member of the the Institute of Advanced Physics at Princeton.

In 1950 Skyrme returned to England to take up the post of Senior Principal Scientific Officer in the Theoretical Physics Division of the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE) Harwell, where he was head of the Nuclear Physics Group. It was in his later years at AERE Harwell - he resigned in 1961 - that he did his most important scientific research, especially the four papers on non-linear meson theories published in the  Proceedings of the Royal Society 1958, 1959 and 1961 which, together with three related papers, propounded "a nuclear theory based entirely on meson fields, without particulate nucleons".

Skyrme spent 1958-1959 on leave from AERE Harwell. He was visiting Professor for a term at the University of Pennsylvania before travelling back to the United Kingdom via California (USA), Australia, Malaya and India. He resigned from AERE Harwell in September 1961 to take up a senior Lectureship in the Mathematics Department of the University of Kuala Lumpur. He remained there until 1964 when he returned to England to take up the Chair in Mathematical Physics at Birmingham in succession to Peierls. In 1982 his department was obliged to amalgamate with the Mathematics Department and his Chair was redesignated a Chair in Applied Mathematics.

Reference: Compiled by Peter Harper and Timothy E. Powell, Catalogue to the Papers and Correspondence of Tony Hilton Royle Skyrme (National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists, 1989).

For further information on the life and career of Skyrme see: R. H. Dalitz ' Professor Tony Hilton Royle Skyrme: 1922-1987. A Brief Biography', in Dalitz and R.B. Stinchcombe eds. A Breadth of Physics  (1988).

R. H. Dalitz, 'An Outline of the Life and Work of Tony Hilton Royle Skyrme: 1922-1987', International Journal of Modern Physics A  (Volume 3, No. 12, 1988).

For further reading about the University of Birmingham see: Eric Ives, Diane Drummond, Leonard Schwarz The First Civic University: Birmingham 1880-1980 An Introductory History (The University of University of Birmingham Press. 2000).


The collection is arranged in the following categories: Notebooks, notes and drafts, Malaya, Birmingham, publications.

Conditions Governing Access

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

This collection was received in 1989 per the National Cataloguing Unit for Archives of Contemporary Scientists, University of Bath. The NCUACS received the collection in May 1988 from Dr J. E. Bowcock, a colleague of Skyrme in the Department of Mathematics, University of Birmingham. The collection was offered to the University of Birmingham as an appropriate place of deposit and it was transferred after cataloguing in Apr 1987.

Other Finding Aids

A paper catalogues item level is available in the Special Collections Department and at the National Register of Archives in London. A catalogue is available in electronic form on the Access to Archive (A2A) web site:

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

University of Birmingham Information Services, Special Collections Department also holds the archives of the University of Birmingham and archives of other former staff, officials and students.