Papers and correspondence relating to Robert Spence, 1905-1976

Scope and Content

Comprises mainly recollections by colleagues. There are a few items relating to Spence's early career including his report of his tenure of the Commonwealth Fund Fellowship at Princeton, 1928-1931. Most of the material consists of recollections assembled by E. Glueckauf for his Royal Society memoir of Spence.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Spence was born in South Shields and educated at local schools and Durham University where he began his research career on oxidation reactions. After three years as a Commonwealth Fund Fellow at Princeton University, 1928-1931, he was appointed Lecturer in Physical Chemistry at Leeds University. He served during the Second World War as Chemical Warfare Adviser to the RAF. In July 1945 he joined the atomic research team in Montreal to lay the foundations for plutonium and fission product separation processes, becoming team leader in January 1946, playing an important part in the design of a chemical separation plant for the UK atomic energy programme and preparing staff and buildings for the opening of the research division at Harwell. Spence was head of the Chemistry Division from 1946, and was appointed Chief Chemist in 1948, Deputy Director in 1960 and Director, 1964-1968. In 1968 Spence accepted an invitation from the University of Kent at Canterbury to go there as Professor of Applied Chemistry and Master of Keynes College, retiring in 1973. He was elected FRS in 1959.


The material is arranged as follows: Biographical, Early career, Later recollections

Access Information

Access is unrestricted

Other Finding Aids

The contents are described in the handlist entitled 'Catalogue of papers and correspondence relating to Robert Spence CB, FRS (1905-1976) compiled by Jeannine Alton and Peter Harper for the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre, 1985. (CSAC catalogue no. 108/5/85; Special Collections handlist 119)

Custodial History

Deposited by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre, Oxford, December 1985. Received for cataloguing by CSAC from the Records Office, AERE Harwell, Oxfordshire, 1982