Papers and correspondence of Ronald George Wreyford Norrish, 1897-1978

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This small group of papers represents all that survives of the manuscript records of this distinguished chemist and Nobel Prize winner. It consists of correspondence received by Dainton and Thrush while they were working on the Royal Society memoir of Norrish, a few school and undergraduate diaries and notebooks, and some rather miscellaneous notes, drafts and correspondence. These include a complete draft for a very early (1922) unpublished paper 'Colour and Atomic Constitution ...' and some notes on disassociation which illustrate the basis of much of Norrish's classical photochemical work in the 1930s. The correspondence owes its survival to chance rather than merit and in any case is very sparse, although there are a few letters which reflect on Cambridge chemistry in the early 1900s.

Administrative / Biographical History

Norrish was born in Cambridge and educated at the Perse School, 1908-1915, and Emmanuel College, Cambridge where he read for the Natural Sciences Tripos, 1919-1921, specialising in chemistry for Part II. During the First World War he saw service in the Royal Field Artillery in Ireland and France and spent six months as a prisoner of war in Germany. In 1921 he began his research career in Cambridge under E.K. Rideal and remained there for the rest of his career. He was awarded his Ph.D. in 1924 and elected to a Research Fellowship at Emmanuel College the same year. He became University Demonstrator in Physical Chemistry in 1926 and H.O. Jones Lecturer in Physical Chemistry two years later. He was Professor of Physical Chemistry, 1937-1965. His research was mainly on various aspects of photochemistry. He was elected FRS in 1936 (Davy Medal 1958, Bakerian Lecture 1966) and in 1967 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry (with Manfred Eigen and George Porter) for their studies of extremely fast chemical reactions, effected by disturbing the equilibrium by means of very short pulses of energy.


By section as follows: Biographical and personal, Diaries and notebooks, Notes, drafts and lectures, Correspondence. Index of correspondents.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to holders of full Reader's Tickets for Cambridge University Library

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Ronald George Wreyford Norrish (1897-1978) by J. Alton and J. Latham-Jackson, CSAC catalogue no. 86/4/82, 9pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath

Separated Material

Norrish's school chemistry set is in the Science Museum, London.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1982 by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre from Sir Frederick Dainton and Professor B.A. Thrush, Royal Society memorialists. Deposited in Cambridge University Library in 1982.