Papers and correspondence of Sir John Sealy Edward Townsend, 1868-1957

Scope and Content

The papers are not extensive, consisting of patents and contracts from Britain, France, Italy and USA, 1914-1925. There are some manuscript notes and drafts of publications, including an extensively corrected typescript of 'Theory of waves in gases', the book on sound on which Townsend was working during his last years.

Administrative / Biographical History

Townsend was born in Galway, Ireland and educated at Corrig School and Trinity College, Dublin where he read mathematics, mathematical physics and experimental science, 1885-1890. During the following four years he was a Fellowship Prizeman engaged in teaching, particularly mathematics. In 1895 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge and became one of the research students of J.J. Thomson at the Cavendish Laboratory. In 1898 he was made Clerk Maxwell Scholar and a year later Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1900 he was elected to become the first holder of the Wykeham Chair of Physics at Oxford University, a position he held until his retirement in 1941. He was also Fellow of New College, Oxford, 1900-1941. Townsend's research field was the kinetics of electrons and ions in gases. During the First World War he worked for several years at Woolwich, researching on wireless telegraphy for the Royal Navy Air Service. He was elected FRS in 1903 (Hughes Medal 1914) and knighted in 1941.


By section as follows: Biographical, Publications, Correspondence and Patents and contracts.

Access Information

Entry permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card or an Oxford University Card displaying the Bodleian logo. All applicants for new or replacement cards must apply in person, with a recommendation and payment if required, and with proof of their identity.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Sir John Sealy Edward Townsend (1868-1957) by J. Alton and H. Weiskittel, CSAC catalogue no. 8/2/74, 3 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1973 by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre from the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Returned to the Bodleian Library in 1974.