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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:

Unused red notebook containing typed list and photographs, 1929, 1931

Identifier: Coll-37/H.1
Scope and Contents

The material consists of a small red notebook, unused, but with a typed list of points relating to Edward Appleton's research pasted inside first page, and enclosing photographs of results, dated 1929 and 1931.

Dates: 1929, 1931

Various data on ionospheric results on F1 and F2 Layers, at Tromsö, 1935-1950

Identifier: Coll-37/C.91
Scope and Contents

Various data on ionospheric results on F1 and F2 Layers, at Tromsö, dated 1935-49. The material was sent to Appleton with covering letters, 1950, and some bearing Appleton's manuscript note, 'Mrs. Pritchard'.

Dates: 1935-1950

Visit to Clydebank, 1951

Identifier: Coll-37/H.18
Scope and Contents

The material consists of a photograph relating to Edward Appleton's visit to Clydebank, dated 1951.

Dates: 1951

Visit to Liverpool, 1952

Identifier: Coll-37/H.19
Scope and Contents

The material consists of a photograph relating to Edward Appleton's visit to Liverpool, dated 1952.

Dates: 1952

Visitors Book listing visitors entertained at the British Empire Cancer Campaign Environment Unit, Easter Bush Estate, 1963-1968

Identifier: Coll-1057/3/4
Scope and Contents

The volume lists the menus for various guest and staff lunches and dinners hosted at the British Empire Cancer Campaign Environment Unit. Guests include various key figures in the City and University of Edinburgh, including Edward Appleton, George L. Montgomery and Duncan M. Weatherstone, as well as academics and visitors from research institutions all over the world. The volume also contains various 'thank you' letters.

The volume is only half-filled.

Dates: 1963-1968

'Wellenausbreitung in ionisierten Gasen unter dem Einfluss eines Magnetfelds', c.1925-1926, 1978

Identifier: Coll-37/C.215
Scope and Contents 'Wellenausbreitung in ionisierten Gasen unter dem Einfluss eines Magnetfelds'. The material consists of a manuscript narrative and calculations by Wilhelm Altar, variously paginated. Professor C.S. Gillmor described this document as 'very important for the history of the ionosphere' and gave its date as 'late 1925 - early 1926' in a private communication on 4 December 1978. The document was registered for copyright by Dr Altar, 1978. There are brief notes by Appleton on the title sheet and 2...
Dates: c.1925-1926, 1978

'Wilson's Theory of Thunderstorms', c. 1920

Identifier: Coll-37/C.192
Scope and Contents

The material consists of 5 pages of manuscript notes, probably taken c.1920 and with annotations added later in blue pencil. Also included is a sequence of manuscript notes by another, on the same subject, and a reprint of C.T.R. Wilson's Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Paper 'Investigations on lightning discharges and on the electric field of thunderstorms', 1920.

Dates: c. 1920

'Work of R.D.F. Application Committee' [Radar Direction Finding], c. 1945

Identifier: Coll-37/C.267
Scope and Contents

'Work of R.D.F. Application Committee' [Radar Direction Finding]. The material consists of a 5 page typescript for a speech or report. The author is unknown, but it has manuscript corrections by Appleton, no date and refers to study of 'angels' (radar echoes from unidentified objects).

Dates: c. 1945

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Archival Object 827
Collection 1
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Correspondence 190
Radio Broadcasting 45
Diaries 33
Magnetism 24
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Appleton, Edward Victor, Sir, 1892-1965 -- Correspondence 7
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