John Desmond Bernal: Scientific and Personal Papers

Scope and Content

A. Scientific Writings (24 boxes)

1.1-1.2. Books; 2.1-2.10. Contributions to books; 3.1-3.225. Periodicals; 4.1-4.60. Unpublished writings.

B. Non-scientific Writings (33 boxes)

1.1-1.12. Books; 2.1-2.21. Contributions to books; 3.1-3.392. Periodicals; 4.1-4.115. Unpublished writings; 5.1-5.69. Broadcasts.

C. Birkbeck College (1 box)

1-11. Correspondence, photographs, visitor's books, lectures, annual reports, etc.

D. War (2 boxes)

1-13. Diaries, correspondence, photographs, maps, reports, notes, etc.

E. Peace (8 boxes)

1-17. Correspondence and papers dealing with various countries; congresses and meetings; World Peace Council; conferences; press; and other papers.

F. Science Policy (2 boxes)

1-14. Correspondence and papers.

G. Special Activities (1 box)

1.1-1.5. Ghana, University Education; 2.1-2.7. Meteorite Research; 3. Crystal Data Centre.

H. Scientific Organisations (6 boxes)

1-33. Papers of organisations to which Bernal belonged or was closely associated.

I. Non-scientific Organisations (3 boxes)

1-47. Papers of organisations to which Bernal belonged or to which he was closely associated.

J. Correspondence (9 boxes)

1-269. Correspondence with individuals and with organisations to which Bernal did not belong.

K. Publishers (1 box)

1-35. Correspondence.

L. Meetings and Visits (5 boxes)

1-87. Correspondence concerning the organisation of meetings and visits.

M. Scientific Notes and Ideas (2 boxes)

1-24. Notes found at Birkbeck and among other papers, arranged alphabetically by topic.

N. Non-scientific Notes and Ideas (2 boxes)

1-12. Notes arranged alphabetically by topic where possible.

O. Personal (10 boxes)

1-24. Biographical material, family letters, last illness, greetings, certificates, diaries, and miscellaneous other material.

P. Material collected after 15.9.1971 (3 boxes)

1-17. Correspondence; obituaries; papers of Anita Rimel, Bernal's P.A., 1940s-1969; and other material.

Q. Miscellaneous

1-4. Scrolls (7); analysis of a Picasso drawing (1 envelope); the 1948 plans of Riley House (1 packet); and an album containing press cuttings (1 volume).

R. Restricted material (6 boxes)

Administrative / Biographical History

John Desmond Bernal (1901-1971) was born on 10 May 1901. He attended Cambridge University, 1919-1923, before working in the Davy Faraday Laboratory, London, 1923-1927. He was appointed Lecturer in Structural Crystallography at Cambridge in 1927, and Assistant Director of Research in Crystallography, Cambridge, 1934. He was made Professor of Physics at Birkbeck College, University of London, in January 1938. During the War Bernal worked in the Ministry of Security, as a member of the Civil Defence Research Committee, 1939; at Bomber Command, 1941; and in Combined Operations, April 1942. He returned to Birkbeck in 1945, and carried out research at the Davy Faraday Laboratory, before working at the Biomolecular Research Laboratory, Torrington Square, opened in 1948. He was made Professor of Crystallography at Birkbeck College in September 1963. Bernal retired from Birkbeck in 1968, and died on 15 September 1971.

Access Information

Section R is closed to readers until 2021. The rest of the collection is open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Presented by Mrs Eileen Bernal and deposited on permanent loan by the Governors of Birkbeck College, London, 1972-1973 and 1979.


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

Other Finding Aids

Additional Manuscripts Catalogue.

Custodial History

The collection was drawn from papers left at Birkbeck College after Bernal's death, which were concerned mainly with his published works, and papers received from the London Office of the World Peace Council and from former members of Bernal's staff.

Geographical Names