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Appleton, Sir Edward Victor, 1892-1965 (physicist and principal of the University of Edinburgh)



  • Existence: 1892 - 1965


Appleton was born in Bradford and educated at local schools and St John's College, Cambridge where he was awarded first class honours and several prizes in both parts of the Natural Sciences Tripos (1913, 1914). He began research at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge with W.L. Bragg, but during his service in the Army Signals in the First World War he developed the interest in valves and 'wireless' signals which informed his subsequent research career. He returned to the Cavendish Laboratory in 1919, continuing to work on valves and, with B. van der Pol, on non-linearity, and on atmospherics. In 1924, in collaboration with M.F. Barnett, he performed a crucial experiment which enabled a reflecting layer in the atmosphere to be identified and measured; subsequent research indicated the existence of more than one reflecting layer. From 1924 to 1936 Appleton was Wheatstone Professor of Physics at King's College, London, directing research teams and, in 1932, heading an expedition to Tromsö in northern Norway as part of the programme of observations scheduled for the Second International Polar Year

He was President of the International Union of Scientific Radio (URSI), 1934-1952. In 1936 he succeeded C.T.R. Wilson in the Jacksonian Chair of Natural Philosophy at Cambridge, where he continued collaborative research on many ionospheric problems, including solar and lunar tides in the E-layer. From September 1936 he served on the re-constituted Committee for the Scientific Survey of Air Defence (the 'Tizard Committee'), and in October 1938 was appointed successor to Sir Frank Smith as Secretary to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). He remained at the DSIR throughout the Second World War and until 1948 when he was appointed Principal of Edinburgh University. He took up the appointment in May 1949 and remained in office until his death in 1965. Appleton was elected FRS in 1927 (Bakerian Lecture 1937, Hughes Medal 1933, Royal Medal 1950) and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1947 for his investigations into the ionosphere. He was knighted in 1941.

Found in 828 Collections and/or Records:

'Conductance Effects in Ionospheric Circuits', 1948

Identifier: Coll-37/C.395
Scope and Contents

'Conductance Effects in Ionospheric Circuits'. The material consists of a 5 page draft of a paper by Edward Appleton and W.R. Piggott, with a letter, dated 1948. Also included is a draft paper 'Electric conductivity of the ionospheric D region', 1948, author unknown.

Dates: 1948

Contents of Appleton's original folder labelled 'F2 Paper II', c. 1950-1954

Identifier: Coll-37/C.94-C.96
Scope and Contents

Contents of Appleton's original folder labelled 'F2 Paper II'. The material includes Appleton's own notes, correspondence exchanged with Mrs Pritchard, related data and graphs, mainly dated 1950-1954.

Dates: c. 1950-1954

Contents of bulky folder, inscribed by Edward Appleton ‘Ionised Air’, c. 1927-1935

Identifier: Coll-37/C.167-C.179
Scope and Contents

Contents of bulky folder, inscribed by Edward Appleton ‘Ionised Air’, dated c. 1927-1935.

Dates: c. 1927-1935

Copies of correspondence between Appleton and former graduates of University of Edinburgh, c 1955-1960

Identifier: Coll-37/A.29
Scope and Contents

Copies of correspondence between Sir Edward Appleton and former graduates of University of Edinburgh, c 1955-1960. The correspondence is with former graduates who were opposed to the George Square development. It consists of Appleton's carbon copies only.

Dates: c 1955-1960

Copies of correspondence between Appleton and the University Grants Committee, 1952-1960

Identifier: Coll-37/A.28
Scope and Contents

Copies of correspondence between Sir Edward Appleton and the University Grants Committee Correspondence with the University Grants Committee, dated 1952-1960. The material consists of Appleton's carbons copies only. The correspondence 1955-1960 deals mainly with the expansion of the University and the George Square development and it includes various briefings and submissions to the Committee.

Dates: 1952-1960

Copy of Journal of the Institution of Telecommunication Engineers, 12, April 1966

Identifier: Coll-37/C.322
Scope and Contents

Copy of Journal of the Institution of Telecommunication Engineers, 12, April 1966. This was a 'Sir Edward V. Appleton commemorative issue' and contains several articles referring to his work, including ‘A Wireless Visit to Tromsö (1932)' by C.M. Minnis, which quotes from Appleton's journals.

Dates: April 1966

Copy of letter from Appleton regarding Abden House and newscutting, October 1948

Identifier: Coll-37/A.25
Scope and Contents

Copy of letter from Sir Edward Appleton regarding Abden House, dated. This was the official residence of the Principal.The material also includes a press-cutting regarding Appleton's appointment as Principal.

Dates: October 1948

Copy of nomination of the International Council of Scientific Unions (I.C.S.U.) for The Nobel Peace Prize, 1959

Identifier: Coll-37/C.382
Scope and Contents

Copy of nomination of the International Council of Scientific Unions (I.C.S.U.) for The Nobel Peace Prize, 1959. The material contains carbon copies of Edward Appleton's letters on the subject.

Dates: 1959


Identifier: Coll-37/C.17-C.28
Scope and Contents From the Sub-Series:

The material consists of notes, drafts and correspondence. The early material was described by C. S. Gillmor as 'work on pulse characteristics of receivers, and problems of receiving atmospherics'. The later material (from c. 1929) is mainly on the effects of thunderstorms.

Dates: c 1918-1973

Correspondence, c. 1934-1938

Identifier: Coll-37/C.290
Scope and Contents

This sub-subseries consists of 7 files containing correspondence to Edward Appleton regarding research into recombination and attachment, dated 1934-1938 and no date.

Dates: c. 1934-1938

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Archival Object 827
Collection 1
Physics 663
Correspondence 190
Radio Broadcasting 45
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