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Simon, Sir Francis Eugene (1893-1956)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0117 FS
Held at: Royal Society
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Full title: Simon, Sir Francis Eugene (1893-1956)
Date(s): 1919-1956
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 21 linear feet
Name of creator(s): Simon | Sir | Francis Eugene | 1893-1956 | Knight | physicist


Administrative/Biographical history:

Francis (Franz) Simon received a classical education, but developed a strong interest in science and went to Munich in 1912 to read physics. He was called up for military service in 1913, and from 1914-1918 served as lieutenant in field artillery. He resumed his studies at University of Berlin in 1919, and in 1920 started work for his Ph.D under Nernst who is known for his heat theorem or third law of themodynamics. Simon's research concerned measurement of specific heats at low temperatures, which remained the basis of his scientific interest throughout his life. He received his doctorate in 1921 and in 1924 became 'Privatdozent', then associate professor in 1927. In 1931 he was appointed to the chair of Physical Chemistry at the Technical University of Breslau, and spent part of 1932 as visiting professor at Berkeley. In June 1933 he resigned and accepted the invitation of FA Lindemann (later Lord Cherwell) (1886-1957) to work at the Clarendon Laboratory in Oxford, where KAG Mendelssohn (1906-1980), one of his former co-workers, had set up a helium liquefaction plant. He was accompanied by Nicholas Kurti (1908-1998), another member of his Berlin School. In 1935 he was appointed Reader in Thermodynamics, and Professor, 1945-1956. He succeeded Lindemann as Lee Professor of Experimental Philosophy, but died only a few weeks after his appointment. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1941, and received the Rumford Medal in 1948; received the first Kamerlingh Onnes Medal of the Dutch Institute of Refrigeration in 1950; and the Linde Medal in 1952. Also in 1952 he was elected a honorary foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. For his war work on atomic energy he received the CBE in 1946. He was knighted in 1955.


Scope and content/abstract:

Working papers and correspondence of Sir Francis (Franz) Eugene Simon. Scientific notebooks in the collection date from 1919-1934, largely the period of Simon's researches on low temperature physics at the Physikalisch-Chemisches Institut of Berlin University, and subsequently at Breslau. Other notes and manuscripts for lectures and articles are post 1930, while a large group of correspondence files are from the years 1922-1956, providing a full account of Simon's dealings with many fellow scientists and scientific organisations. Individual letter files concern V.M. Goldsmidt, Max Born, Gwyn Owain Jones and Nevill Mott among many other notable figures. Details of Simon's involvement in atomic energy development are to be found in papers on uranium isotope separation (MAUD Committee notes) and UK Atomic Energy Authority correspondence. Simon's professional appointments as head of the Clarendon Laboratory and as science correspondent to the Financial Times are represented by substantial groups of letters. There are twelve notebooks with some associated papers; the series also includes files of lectures, articles, cuttings and souvenirs, including photographs, with files of correspondence. Two later additions to the collection consist of correspondence and files highlighting Simon's contacts with industrial firms, universities and international organisations.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

By file number, title and chronological extent.

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

No publication without written permission. Apply to Archivist in the first instance.

Finding aids:

Handlist by Joan Pye at Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre in 1969. 1993 additions sorted by Raj Williamson, handlist amended. Detailed catalogue available at

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Lady Simon presented a collection of her husband's papers to the Royal Society in 1969; further material discovered at the Clarendon Laboratory in Oxford transferred to the Royal Society in 1993.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Nuffield College Library, Oxford University, holds correspondence with Lord Cherwell, 1933-1956; University of Bristol Special Collections holds correspondence with Sir Charles Frank, 1949-1955; Museum of Natural History, Oxford University, holds letters to Octavius Pickard-Cambridge.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Description produced by the Royal Society and revised by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

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:
Created 7/11/2001, modified 25/03/2002, revised Sep 2002

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