Joseph Stanley Mitchell: Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection covers almost all aspects of Mitchell's career. Correspondence, biographical items, his work in the Department of Therapeutics/Radiotherapeutic Centre, lecture and broadcast notes, academic and medical societies, research funding, faculty papers, medical school files, notebooks and bibliographical references, research at the Colloid Science Laboratory, and research into the biochemistry of ionising radiations are all well represented. So too is Mitchell's principal research activity: his continuing efforts to find a cure for cancer.

Section A: Biographical

Mitchell's own biographical records of his career, with family and personal correspondence. The section includes summaries by Mitchell of his research activities, and an album used for newspaper cuttings and other memorabilia relating to the Radiotherapeutic Centre and Department of Radiotherapeutics.

Section B: Cambridge

The largest part of the collection, divided into four subsections: (1) The Department of Radiotherapeutics/Radiotherapeutic Centre - the establishment and general administration, accommodation, staffing and equipment, the funding of Mitchell's research, and the future of the Department after his retirement in 1976; (2) Addenbrooke's Hospital - Mitchell's wide-ranging involvement in hospital affairs; (3) University of Cambridge - Mitchell's Faculty Board of Medicine/Faculty Board of Clinical Medicine papers and his extensive Medical School files, which document the development of the Postgraduate Medical Centre, as well as the documentation of miscellaneous university boards, committees, departments, colleges and societies, and Mitchell's university examining; (4) Lectures - Mitchell's departmental lectures and documentation of courses and symposia for general medical practitioners and medical students, organised in conjunction with the hospital and Medical School.

Section C: Notebooks

Research notes, bibliographical notes, notes taken during visits and conferences, and other material. The notes include Mitchell's research notebooks, 1926-1981, which contain substantial additional related material, such as correspondence, reprints, photographs, figures and graphs, and manuscript and typescript notes.

Section D: Research

Material documenting all aspects of Mitchell's research, other than that recorded in his notebooks, running up to his final clinical research project in 1985. There are three subsections: Mitchell's early (1930s) research; his research into the biochemistry of ionising radiations, particularly with reference to the health risks involved (mainly 1941-1949); and his efforts to find a cure for cancer (the largest subsection).

Section E: Publications, lectures and broadcasts

Material for Mitchell's published papers, public lectures and broadcasts. There are also drafts, background material and correspondence relating to the planned book 'Principles in Radiotherapeutic Oncology', which was started but never completed.

Section F: Societies and organisations

Material documenting Mitchell's association with 38 British, overseas and international organisations. The organisation for which there is most material is the Medical Research Council. There is also comprehensive documentation of the establishment of the Anglo-German Medical Society. Other societies and organisations represented include the International Union Against Cancer, the Ministries of Health and Supply, and the World Health Organisation.

Section G: Visits and conferences

Material relating to Mitchell's engagements in the U.K. and abroad, 1946-1986, including his attendance at the first four United Nations Conferences on the Peaceful Use of Atomic Power (1955, 1958, 1964 and 1971), and his many visits to Germany.

Section H: Correspondence

Correspondence files arranged alphabetically, and subsections of shorter scientific correspondence arranged chronologically. The principal alphabetical sequence includes extended exchanges with friends, colleagues and former students. There is also correspondence and lecture material of C.L. Smith, assistant director of research in the Radiotherapeutic Centre.

Administrative / Biographical History

Joseph Stanley Mitchell (1909-1987) was born in Birmingham on 22 July 1909. He was educated at schools in Birmingham, before attending Birmingham University and St John's College, Cambridge, where he took the natural sciences tripos, specialising in physics in part II. He was awarded the Cambridge MB and B.Chir. in 1934. After a period as a house physician at Birmingham General Hospital, he began research for his Ph.D. at Cambridge, on the irradiation of thin protein films. He was awarded his Ph.D. in 1937, and then elected to a research fellowship at St John's College.

In 1938 Mitchell began his first clinical work in radiotherapy, initially in Manchester, then as an assistant in research in radiotherapy in the Cambridge University Department of Medicine. This post became permanent following the opening of a Radiotherapeutic Centre at Addenbrooke's Hospital in 1943. In 1944 he joined the British and Canadian Atomic Energy Project at Chalk River, Canada, where he was asked to investigate the radiobiological hazards to those working with radiations and to direct the Project's medical programme. He returned to Cambridge at the end of 1945 to take up the chair in radiotherapeutics within the new School of Clinical Research and Postgraduate Teaching, and the Directorship of the Radiotherapeutic Centre at Addenbrooke's Hospital.

In 1957 Mitchell became regius professor of physic at Cambridge. He was instrumental in this role in building up the School of Clinical Research and Postgraduate Teaching. He also argued for the establishment in Cambridge of a complementary pre-graduate clinical school to provide Cambridge medical students with an opportunity to receive clinical training. His efforts helped lead to the establishment of the School of Clinical Medicine in 1976. Mitchell resigned from the regius chair in 1975, and resumed his professorship of radiotherapeutics for a year. Throughout his working life he investigated techniques for treating cancer, and he continued to be an active researcher until his death, in Cambridge on 22 February 1987.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to a small number of items is restricted at the discretion of the Keeper of Manuscripts and University Archives. Otherwise, material may be consulted by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Received in 1987 and 1988 from Professor Mitchell's estate.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives.

Other Finding Aids

A detailed handlist to the collection is available in the Manuscripts Reading Room.