Papers and correspondence of Cecil Reginald Burch, 1901-1983.

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers contain biographical and personal material, notably records of other members of Burch's family including his father, George James Burch, Professor of Physics at Reading University, 1882-1909, and his brother, Francis Parry Burch who worked with him at Metropolitan-Vickers. There is substantial research material relating to his university-based work in optics and mineral dressing and his late medical interests, especially vitamin B-group therapy and inositol. Almost all the surviving material from the Metropolitan-Vickers period relates to the work of Francis Parry Burch. There are conference talks and invitation lectures, 1932-1981 and some publications material. The surviving correspondence is not extensive though there is one relatively substantial sequence of letters on aspects of mineral dressing and mining.

Administrative / Biographical History

Burch was born in Oxford and educated at the Dragon School, Oxford, 1907-1914, and Oundle School, 1914-1919. He then entered Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (with his elder brother Francis) to read for the Natural Sciences Tripos, 1919-1922. On graduating Burch and his brother joined the Research Department of the Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company, Trafford Park, Manchester where he spent eleven years until, after the distressing death of his brother in 1933, he felt compelled to leave Metropolitan-Vickers. He moved to the Physics Department, Imperial College, London, as a Leverhulme Fellow in Optics, 1933-1935 and then Bristol University where he spent the rest of his life, first as a Research Associate, then as a Fellow of the H.H. Wills Physics Laboratory and from 1948 to 1966 as Royal Society Warren Research Fellow. He continued to do research in the laboratory to within the last few weeks of his life.

Burch made important research contributions in industry and university to a number of very different fields. His main activities lay in the industrial development of induction heating applied to electric furnaces; in the evaporative distillation of organic substances, leading to a range of low vapour pressure oils and greases, and its application to the pharmaceutical industry; and in the construction of vacuum pumps and of thermionic power valves. In university research he worked principally in optics, especially in the figuring of aspheric surfaces to extremely high degrees of accuracy, leading to the production of reflecting microscopes of wide aperture, and then, while continuing to make valuable contributions to this subject, he gave his primary attention to mineral dressing, inventing new classifiers and separators. He was elected FRS in 1944 (Rumford Medal 1954).


By section as follows: Biographical, Research, Lectures and talks, Publications, Correspondence, Bibliography. Index of correspondents.

Conditions Governing Access

No known closure or restrictions. Visits by appointment. Some form of identification required.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Cecil Reginald Burch (1901-1983) by J. Alton, P. Harper and M. Erskine, CSAC catalogue no. 110/1/86, 73 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath

Separated Material

The prototype Ultra-Violet Reflecting Microscope, made by Burch c 1946 for use with short wavelength ultra-violet radiation and used by R. Barer in the Department of Anatomy, Oxford University, is in the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford. The grinding and polishing machinery used in the manufacture of the aspherical mirror for the microscope is in the Science Museum, London. The tape-recording of Burch's lecture 'MetroVick Memories' is held at the Royal Society, London. Additional biographical material relating to George James Burch, including letters of condolence to Mrs Burch, is in the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1985 by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre via the Physics Department, Bristol University, from T.E. Allibone who had assembled the papers while preparing the memoir of Burch for the Royal Society. Deposited in Bristol University Library in 1986.

Related Material

Further material relating to Burch is held in Bristol University Library.