Skip to main content

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:

Ring-back loose-leaf notebook, labelled 'Tromsö', c. 1932-1935

Identifier: Coll-37/C.310
Scope and Contents Ring-back loose-leaf notebook, labelled 'Tromsö', both ends of book used. The material consists of the following: at front of the book there is a sequence of runs at Tromsö, 23 July- 13 August by Edward Appleton, 30 August-6 September by G. Builder. It continues with typescript data of critical frequencies at Slough October-November 1932, Appleton's manuscript notes on the literature, Chapman, Lormor, etc. At the rear of the book is a journal by Appleton, beginning on a train from London, 9...
Dates: c. 1932-1935

Ring-back notebook, with a few loose pages inserted, c. 1934-1951

Identifier: Coll-37/C.256
Scope and Contents Ring-back notebook, with a few loose pages inserted. The material consists of typescript and manuscript notes, mainly on radar, reflection coefficient and similar topics, including notes on the literature, summaries of wartime research reports and committee meetings, notes of discussions, visits to laboratories and research stations, ideas for research, etc. It mainly runs from 1941-1943, but also includes a few references from 1939, and press-cuttings on 'Radar and the weather', dated...
Dates: c. 1934-1951

S, 1965

Identifier: Coll-37/A.54
Scope and Contents

Letters of condolence received on Sir Edward Appleton's death, "S", 1965.

Dates: 1965

Seasonal Anomaly, c. 1930s-1945

Identifier: Coll-37/C.301-C.303
Scope and Contents

The material in this sub-series, little of which is dated, is scanty and refers mainly to work done in the 1930s with data up to 1945. Edward Appleton did further research on the subject of seasonal variation in the 1950s with the assistance of A.J. Lyon and C.P. Bell. It consists of 3 files.

Dates: c. 1930s-1945

Sequence of drafts, data and correspondence exchanged chiefly with R. Naismith, 1936-1940

Identifier: Coll-37/C.39-C.43
Scope and Contents

Sequence of drafts, data and correspondence exchanged chiefly with R. Naismith, mainly on research, analyses of results and drafting of collaborative papers on E-layer. Naismith's material is usually dated and Appleton's notes, comments and suggestions have been tentatively assigned a place on internal evidence.

Dates: 1936-1940

Sequence of three small hardbacked notebooks, numbered 1, 2 and 3, c. 1923-1932

Identifier: Coll-37/B.6-B.8
Scope and Contents

This sub-series contains a sequence of three small hardbacked notebooks, numbered 1, 2 and 3 by Appleton. The first is dated 'April 2nd 1923' and the third has an indistinct date of 1925. All three books were used on and off for several years and contain similar material. They may well be the origin of the description 'little black books'.

Dates: c. 1923-1932

Sequences of manuscript notes by Edward Appleton and related publications, c. 1930s and c. 1950s

Identifier: Coll-37/D.70
Scope and Contents

The material consists of sequences of manuscript notes by Edward Appleton and related publications. It related to phase velocity, circuits, V.H.F., absorption, etc. It is probably dated c. 1930s with some dated c. 1950s.

Dates: c. 1930s and c. 1950s

Short and fragmentary notes and calculations by Edward Appleton, c. 1925-1943

Identifier: Coll-32/C.212
Scope and Contents

Short and fragmentary notes and calculations by Edward Appleton, no date, c. 1925-1943.

Dates: c. 1925-1943

Shorter correspondence to Edward Appleton to accompany data or reports, c. 1920-1965

Identifier: Coll-37/E.151
Scope and Contents

The material consists of shorter correspondence to Edward Appleton to accompany data or reports. It is not indexed.

Dates: c. 1920-1965

Shorter exchanges between A.G. Turnbull and Edward Appleton, 1952, 1962, 1963

Identifier: Coll-37/C.126
Scope and Contents

Shorter exchanges between A.G. Turnbull and Edward Appleton. Some of them are dated 1952, 1962 and 1963.

Dates: 1952, 1962, 1963

Additional filters:

Archival Object 827
Collection 1
Physics 663
Correspondence 190
Radio Broadcasting 45
Diaries 33
Magnetism 24
∨ more
Radar 17
Norway 14
Absorption 13
Astronomy 11
Meteors 11
Magnetic Storms 8
Oscillations 8
University of Edinburgh 8
University of Edinburgh -- Principals 8
Appleton, Edward Victor, Sir, 1892-1965 -- Correspondence 7
Science 7
Mathematics 6
Electricity 5
Television broadcasting 5
World War, 1914-1918 5
Belgium -- Brussels 4
History of Science 4
Tides 4
Atmosphere 3
Nuclear Energy 3
Aurora 2
Edinburgh -- Scotland 2
Electronics 2
Guest books 2
Industry 2
Johannesburg (South Africa) 2
Nuclear Physics 2
Obituaries 2
Peru 2
Prizes 2
Seasonal variations 2
United States -- D.C. -- Washington 2
United States -- Ohio -- Cincinnati 2
Waddington, Conrad Hal, 1905-1975 -- Correspondence 2
Weather 2
Academic Writing 1
Air Force 1
America 1
Architecture 1
Architecture, Designs and Plans 1
Army Personnel 1
Atmospheric Pressure, Measurement 1
Atomic bomb 1
Auroras 1
Australia 1
Australia -- New South Wales -- Sydney 1
Baking 1
Bibliography 1
Biography 1
Body temperature--Regulation 1
Calculus Integral 1
Cambridge (England) 1
Campus Planning 1
Canada 1
Chemistry 1
City Planning 1
Civil Servants 1
Clydebank (Scotland) 1
Coal 1
College Buildings 1
Collisions (Nuclear Physics) 1
Communication 1
Communication and Technology 1
Copenhagen (Denmark) 1
Copenhagen, Denmark 1
Eclipses 1
Electric Circuits 1
Electrical engineering 1
Electromagnetic Waves 1
Encyclopedias and Dictionaries 1
England -- Merseyside -- Liverpool 1
England -- West Yorkshire -- Bradford 1
Eschatology 1
Falkland Islands 1
Fuel Technology 1
Funeral Rites and Ceremonies 1
Germany -- Lower Saxony -- Hanover 1
Glass 1
Honorary Degrees 1
Iceland 1
Insurance 1
Ionosphere 1
Italy 1
Madagascar 1
Manchester (England) 1
Massachusetts -- Harvard 1
Medicine | History | 1
Memorials 1
Microscopes 1
Netherlands -- The Hague 1
New Zealand 1
Nuclear Weapons 1
Photographs 1
Physical Sciences 1
Postal Service 1
+ ∧ less