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Porter, George, Baron Porter of Luddenham (b 1920)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0116 George Porter Collection
Held at: Royal Institution of Great Britain
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Full title: Porter, George, Baron Porter of Luddenham (b 1920)
Date(s): 1938-1999
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 121 boxes.
Name of creator(s): Porter, George, Baron Porter of Luddenham, born 1920. Knight. Chemist.


Administrative/Biographical history:

George Porter was born in Stainforth, Yorkshire, in 1920. He was educated at Thorne Grammar School 1931-1938, and was Ackroyd Scholar at the University of Leeds, 1938-1941. He served as a Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Radar Officer in the Western Approaches and the Mediterranean from 1941 to 1945. In 1949 he married Stella Jean Brooke and they had two sons, John Brooke and Andrew Christopher George. In 1945 he went to the University of Cambridge to research chemical kinetics and photochemistry. He stayed at Cambridge until 1954 when he became Assistant Director of the British Rayon Research Association in Manchester. He studied the problems of dye fading and phototendering of fabrics. He was Professor of Chemistry at the University of Sheffield from 1955 to 1963 and became Firth Professor of Chemistry there from 1963 to 1966. He was also Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution of Great Britain (RI) from 1963 to 1966. In 1966 he became Director of the RI as well as Fullerian Professor of Chemistry of the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory at the RI. He researched into applying flash photolysis to the problem of photosynthesis and extended it to the nanosecond and picoseocnd regions. He remained Director of the RI until 1985 and during this time, he gave many lectures including several broadcasts on television. He published many papers and also books such as Chemistry for the Modern World, 1962 and Chemistry in Microtime, 1996. He received many awards for his work, gaining the Davy medal in 1971, the Rumford medal in 1978, the Michael Faraday medal in 1991 and the Copley medal in 1992. In 1967 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry with M. Eigen and R. G. W. Norrish. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1960 and became President of the Royal Society in 1985 until 1990. He became Chairman of the Centre for Photomolecular Sciences, at Imperial College London in 1990. He was knighted in 1972, awarded the Order of Merit in 1989 and made a life peer in 1990.


Scope and content/abstract:

The papers of George Porter consist of sections relating to various issues: Section A, Biographical, relates to Porter's career, honours and awards from 1955 to 1992 including his appointment as Director of the Royal Instutution (RI)in 1966 and the award of the Nobel Prize in 1967; also includes his Nobel Lecture and the 1986 meeting held in his honour at the RI `Flash Photolysis and its Applications'.
Section B, Research, relates to Porter's research at Cambridge including notes, drafts and data which also includes periods at Sheffield and records the funding of his research arranged alphabetically by funding body from 1955 to 1987; also includes correspondence with suppliers from 1955 to 1979 and a miscellaneous section on the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory detailing its collaboration with the University of London and the Photochemistry Discussion Group meetings at the RI.
Section C, Royal Institution, documents the Director's involvement in the administration of the RI, its organisation, funding and finance, membership, building and maintenance; it also records the organisation of events such as Discourses and Christmas Lectures at the RI for example the correspondence between the Director and Discourse lecturers arranged alphabetically, discourse invitations declined, suggested lecturers and topics, discourse statistics, discourse dinner party records and correspondence with lecturers about their Christmas Lectures; there is also material on the history of the RI, its library, archives and developments of the academic study of the history of science at the RI.
Section D, Lectures, broadcasts and publications relates to Porter's role as a scientific communicator. There are drafts chronologically from 1955 to 1988 and alphabetically by folder title or topic, drafts of lectures at the RI for Schools Lectures, Discourses and Christmas Lectures, and research lectures on photochemistry; there is correspondence on BBC radio programmes, and with journals in Porter's editorial and advisory role; there are also records of his teaching at Cambridge, Sheffield and through the Open University as well as his student notes.
Section E, Societies, organisations and consultancies, relates to Porter's association with eighty-one organisations. Refers to Porter's membership and leadership of various organisations particularly those of science education and popularisation aspect. The Royal Society is well represented as well as the Paul Instrument Fund. There are also commercial organisations such as the General Electric Research and Development Centre.
Section F, Correspondence, consisting heavily of `Miscellaneous Correspondence Files' arranged alphabetically by correspondent and dating from Porter's time as Director of the RI. There is also correspondence of Early Scientific and Miscellaneous Correspondence form 1966 to 1987, as well as Soviet Scientists from 1970 to 1987 and Japanese Scientists from 1973 to 1985. There is also an index of correspondents.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In six sections, as outlined in the scope and content field.

Conditions governing access:

Access to bona fide researchers on a case-by-case basis according to various closure rules, by appointment with the Keeper of the Collections, Royal Institution.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Reproduction of material is permitted at the discretion of the Keeper of the Collections.

Finding aids:

NCUACS catalogue number 100/5/01 by P. Harper and T. E. Powell. There is an index of correspondents.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Transferred to the RI by Lord Porter from 1990.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Other correspondence of Porter can be found at: Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives (reference: G. 814-G. 815 and passim).

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: NCUACS catalogue number 100/5/01 by P. Harper and T. E. Powell. Description based on that created by NCUACS, University of Bath. Compiled by Mrs Ivone Turnbull.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
May 2002

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