Papers and correspondence ofFrederick Sydney Dainton, Baron Dainton of Hallam Moors, 1914-1997

Scope and Content

There is significant personal and biographical documentation from childhood tothe end of his life. There is a draft of his autobiography, together withautobiographical and biographical accounts. Schooldays are well documented bymaterial relating to the Central Secondary School for Boys, Sheffield and itsShakespeare Society in particular. There is material on his undergraduateeducation, chiefly notes on lectures and experiments, and a significantsequence of material covering Dainton's career and some of the many honours andawards he was accorded. Other material documents Dainton's family background,his interest in the history of his discipline and some of the key figureswithin it, and his continuing devotion to the City of Sheffield. There arealso photographs, taken at various stages in Dainton's life from boyhood to the1990s, and audio and video tape recordings.

There are records of Dainton's own research work 1937-1972. Though they includenotebooks and research notes from his periods at Cambridge, Leeds and Oxford,coverage of Dainton's research interests is nevertheless patchy. There is gooddocumentation of early work on photochemistry from the late 1930s to early1950s, photochlorination and polymerisation from the period at Leeds, and laterresearch work (1965-1970) at the Cookridge High Energy Radiation Centre. Dainton's wartime research on incendiaries is represented by significantmaterial, including a set of reports. There are also records of the researchwork of D.H. Lea, 1943-1949. Lea was based at the Strangeways ResearchLaboratory, Cambridge and Dainton became interested in his work after readinghis book Actions of Radiations on Living Cells, 1946.

There are records of Dainton's principal academic affiliations: Oxford where hewas an undergraduate in the mid 1930s and where he returned in 1970 as Dr Lee'sProfessor: Cambridge where he went as a research student in 1937-1938; Leedswhere he was Professor of Physical Chemistry for fifteen years from 1950;Nottingham as Vice-Chancellor; and Sheffield as Chancellor. There are teachingrecords for the Cambridge and Leeds periods and the second Oxford period and forLeeds there is also material relating to the administration of research in theDepartment of Physical Chemistry and correspondence and papers relating toDainton's Honorary Directorship of the Cookridge High Energy Radiation Centre. At Nottingham the Vice-Chancellorship coincided with prolonged student unrest inthe UK and worldwide and most of the material reflects this. There iscorrespondence and student and university papers relating to protests atNottingham and the response of the University administration. There isextensive background material organised by geographical region on unrest atuniversity campuses in the UK and beyond. There is also material relating tothe establishment of the University Medical School, which Dainton regarded asone of his principal achievements. The Sheffield material includes papersrelating to Dainton's appointment and installation as Chancellor in 1978 andgood documentation of his speeches at degree congregations.

Dainton's chairmanship of the UGC, 1973-1978, is represented by significantdocumentation. There are correspondence and papers relating to the cuts inuniversity expenditure imposed by the government and the consequentdifficulties of maintaining long-term planning, and relations with theCommittee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, trades unions, individualuniversities and the four Secretaries of State for Education and Science withwhom he had to deal (including Margaret Thatcher and Shirley Williams). Thereis a good record of the many visitations to higher education institutionsthroughout the UK conducted by Dainton and other members of the UGC, includingformal reports and Dainton's own manuscript notes. There is also documentationof his encouragement of industrial sponsorship of new undergraduate engineeringcourses.

There is good coverage of Dainton's work as a member of the House of Lords from1986. Documented here is his service on the Select Committee on Science andTechnology and on its Subcommittees especially those chaired by him - theAcademic Research Careers Sub-Committee, the Systematic Biology ResearchSub-Committee and Forensic Science Sub-Committee. There is also excellentcoverage of his interest in Education Bills (both school and universityeducation) and Health Bills passing through Parliament. Material includesnotes and drafts for Dainton's contributions to debates, correspondence withcolleagues and other interested parties on issues under discussion, annotatedcopies of Parliamentary literature, briefing notes and backgroundmaterial.

In addition to those already mentioned, the collection documents Dainton'sinvolvement with a further 49 UK, overseas and international organisations,representing some of Dainton's most significant contributions to public life. Documentation of his advisory role to government includes the Central AdvisoryCouncil for Science and Technology, the Working Group on Manpower ParametersFor Scientific Growth, the Council for Scientific Policy and the Enquiry intothe Flow of Candidates in Science and Technology into Higher Education. Thereare minutes of meetings, draft and final reports, correspondence with othermembers, Dainton's manuscript notes and background material. Also welldocumented are his contributions to the library world including chairmanship ofthe National Libraries Committee, 1967-1971 and the British Library Board1978-1985. The British Library material includes Dainton's own collection ofkey papers from the period, such as the plans for the new library, oppositionfollowing the Conservative election victory in 1979 and Dainton's verysuccessful advocacy of the project, including his meeting with MargaretThatcher.

There is also documentation of many of Dainton's other posts andresponsibilities. These include service as a Trustee of the Wolfson Foundation1979-1988, the Prime Wardenship of the Goldsmiths' Company 1982-1983 andservice on the London School of Economics Court of Governors 1980-1997. Hechaired the Library Panel, to which most of the material relates. Dainton wasalso Chairman of the Royal Postgraduate Medical School 1980-1989 and Presidentto 1997. Much of the material concerns the proposed establishment of anational centre for clinical research. Dainton's interest in medical trainingis also represented in material of the University of London City and EastLondon Medical Education Group, which he also chaired.

International and overseas commitments documented include the establishment ofthe International Federation of Associations for the Advancement of Science andTechnology; Dainton was Chairman of the Inaugural Meeting in Hong Kong in 1991. In 1978 Dainton was personally requested by the Prime Minister of Singapore LeeKuan Yew, to undertake a review of higher education in the country. He visitedthe universities of Singapore the following year and advised the creation of theNational University of Singapore. Dainton made a number of return visits toreview progress. The material includes his notes on higher education inSingapore, reports, background material and speeches delivered during hisvisits.

Publications material includes a set of Dainton's offprints and a sequence ofdrafts and related material for publications or works intended for publication. These cover articles on science policy, higher education and library policy aswell as scientific articles in the field of physical chemistry. The largestsingle bodies of material relate to a planned but unpublished book on radiationchemistry (with E. Collinson) and to Dainton's guide Choosing a BritishUniversity A Guide for Candidates in the United States for Fulbright Awards andMarshall Scholarships (London, 1981). There are drafts and other materialrelating to obituaries and memoirs of scientific colleagues and othersincluding G.B. Kistiakowsky, N.N. Semenov and S. Zuckerman. Dainton's lecturesmaterial is presented as a chronological sequence of notes and drafts relatingto his invitation and public lectures, 1942-1996. These lectures cover notonly his scientific work but all aspects of public life with which he wasinvolved including higher education, libraries, medical research and education,research and development, scientific education and manpower, and science policy.There is also a separate sequence of notes for shorter speeches and addresses1957-1997. Also preserved is Dainton's collection of photographic slides usedto illustrate his lectures. Visits and conferences material records some of thevisits Dainton made and conferences attended 1946-1997. It includes visits thatwere primarily scientific in nature, such as those to Canada and the USA in the1940s and 1950s (including his Arthur D. Little Visiting Professorship at theMassachusetts Institute of Technology), and others that bore more on hisinterest in education policy and libraries, such as his visit to Japan in1973.

Dainton's correspondence files were not extensive since much of Dainton'scorrespondence was kept by him with the material to which it related, and muchearlier correspondence, for example with scientific colleagues, was notretained by him. The remaining files are presented in a chronological sequencewhich is weighted predominantly to the last years of his life. It reflects awide range of Dainton's interests including scientific research, highereducation, libraries and the House of Lords.

Administrative / Biographical History

Frederick Sydney Dainton was born in Sheffield on 11 November 1914. He waseducated at the Central Secondary School for Boys, Sheffield, winning anExhibition scholarship to St John's College Oxford in 1933 (Goldsmiths' CompanyExhibition 1935), from where he graduated with First Class Honours in Chemistryin 1937. Dainton then moved to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge forpostgraduate research on reactions of simple gases, studying under R.G.W.Norrish. He was a Goldsmiths' Company Senior Student, 1939 (Ph.D. 1940),before being appointed University Demonstrator in Chemistry 1944 and H.O. JonesLecturer in Physical Chemistry 1946. He was elected a Fellow of St Catharine'sCollege Cambridge in 1945.

In 1950 Dainton returned to Yorkshire as Professor of Physical Chemistry at theUniversity of Leeds. He stayed in Leeds for fifteen years, a periodparticularly productive both in terms of building up the department into aleading centre of research in physical chemistry and in pursuing his ownresearch. Although Dainton's initial research field had been photochemistry,he broadened his studies thereafter to the study of combustion, chain reactionsand polymerisation kinetics. In his own estimation his main contributions were:the kinetics and thermodynamics of addition polymerisation, the kinetics ofcationic and anionic polymerisation, redox reactions, photochlorination, thereactivity of oxygen atoms in singlet state, photochemical electron transfer,quantum mechanical tunnelling and radiation chemistry.

In 1965 Dainton accepted an invitation to serve as Vice-Chancellor of theUniversity of Nottingham. He took up the post at a particularly turbulent timefor universities worldwide and the student disturbances at Nottingham proved aconsiderable challenge. Of his achievements during this period, Dainton wasparticularly proud of the establishment of the University's Medical School,which was opened in 1970. Throughout his time at Nottingham Dainton maintainedhis links with active research work through his Honorary Directorship of theCookridge Radiation Research Centre at Leeds. In 1969 Dainton was asked tobecome Chairman of the Council for Scientific Policy (CSP), of which he wasalready a member. While not a full-time post, Dainton felt its demands couldnot be combined with those of the Vice-Chancellorship. He accepted theChairmanship of the Council, resigning from Nottingham, and also took theopportunity to return to academic research and teaching as Dr Lees' Professorof Chemistry at Oxford. He held the Chair for three years.

The CSP was abolished in 1972, Dainton becoming the first Chairman of itssuccessor body the Advisory Board for the Research Councils 1972-1973. He wasthen invited by the Secretary of State for Education and Science (MargaretThatcher) to become Chairman of the University Grants Committee (UGC). Daintontook up this post shortly before a change of government and during a worseningeconomic crisis. His term was marked by the introduction of governmentausterity measures that markedly constrained the ongoing expansion ofuniversities. Despite the difficulties facing the higher education sector thenumber of medical students increased significantly during Dainton'sChairmanship, and he successfully encouraged industrial sponsorship ofengineering courses through new undergraduate courses with an emphasis on theneeds of manufacturing industry. Dainton retired from the UGC in 1978.

Dainton was appointed to the National Radiological Protection Board in 1977,serving to 1985 (from 1978 as Chairman). In 1978 he became Chairman of theBritish Library Board. His association with the national library can be saidto date from his Chairmanship of the National Libraries Committee, 1967-1969. Dainton arrived at the British Library at a crucial moment. A site for theLibrary had been acquired on Euston Road at St Pancras but there was stillconsiderable opposition to the move. The difficulties were exacerbated whenthe Labour party lost the 1979 election, as the incoming ConservativeGovernment was not committed to the project. Dainton met Margaret Thatcher,the Prime Minister, in September 1980 and this face-to-face meeting wasimportant in persuading her of the case for the new site. Dainton served asChairman of the British Library until 1985 and remained in touch withdevelopments thereafter. Also in 1978 Dainton had been invited to becomeChancellor of the University of Sheffield, a post he held to 1997. As anative of the city of Sheffield this appointment was particularly appropriate. Dainton took a keen interest in the University and was particularly conscious ofhis responsibilities at the University degree congregations, delivering adifferent address at each. Dainton held many other positions and was activewell into his ninth decade. These included the Chairmanship of the RoyalPostgraduate Medical School 1980-1989 (serving as President from 1989 to 1997)and membership of the Court of Governors of the London School of Economics1980-1997 (Chairman of the Library Panel from 1986). Dainton had joined theGoldsmiths' Company's Court of Assistants in 1973 and in 1982-1983 he served asPrime Warden of the Company. He also chaired its Education Committee. It isinteresting to note that Dainton's association with the Goldsmiths' Companydated from his undergraduate days in Oxford when the Company awarded him ascholarship, with a postgraduate scholarship following in 1939.

This brief outline of Dainton's career gives some indication of the range of hisactivities in the fields of science, university administration, academicstandards and public service. However, he made a great many contributionsadditional to those principal commitments set out above. In the 1960s, forexample, he served on two significant working parties examining issues relatingto the 'swing Away from Science'. The first was the Enquiry into the Flow ofCandidates in Science and Technology into Higher Education, established by theCSP under the chairmanship of Dainton in February 1965, to examine the causesof and remedies for the shortage of young people studying science andengineering at university. It reported in February 1968. He was also a memberof the Working Group on Manpower Parameters for Scientific Growth, establishedunder the chairmanship of Lord Swann in December 1965, which reported inSeptember 1968. As Chairman of the CSP Dainton was involved in formulatingpolicy fundamental to the planning and organisation of government-fundedscience in the following decade and beyond. He also chaired the CSP WorkingGroup on Research Organisation which contributed to A Framework for GovernmentResearch and Development (the Rothschild Report), and the CSP's Working Groupwhich advised on how the recommendations in this report (and thecustomer/contractor principle in particular) should be applied.

After Dainton was created a Life Baron in 1986 he became an active member of theHouse of Lords. He served on the Select Committee on Science and Technology,chairing three influential sub-committees, the Academic Research CareersSub-Committee, the Systematic Biology Research Sub-Committee and the ForensicScience Sub-Committee. As a member of the House of Lords, he also madesignificant contributions to the consideration of education policy and medicalteaching and training.

Dainton was accorded many honours and awards including over 25 honorary degreesfrom universities worldwide. He was elected FRS in 1957 (Davy Medal 1969,Faraday Medal 1974), knighted in 1971 and elevated to the peerage as BaronDainton of Hallam Moors in 1986. Dainton died on 5 December 1997. He wassurvived by his wife, Barbara Dainton with whom he had a son and two daughters.


By section as follows:Biographical and personal, Research, Universities of Oxford and Cambridge,University of Leeds, University of Nottingham, University Grants Committee,House of Lords, Societies and organisations, Publications, Lectures, Visits andconferences, Correspondence, Photographic slides. Index of correspondents.

Access Information

Available to researchers, by appointment

Acquisition Information

The papers were received from LadyDainton, widow, in 2000 and from Sheffield University Library, on various dates2002.


Description compiled in March 2005 by Dr Tim Powell, NCUACS

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papersand correspondence of: NCUACS catalogue no.112/11/02, 414 pp. Copies availablefrom NCUACS, University of Bath