AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area

Lonsdale Papers

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0103 LONSDALE
Held at: University College London
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: Lonsdale Papers
Date(s): c1914-1989
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 110 boxes
Name of creator(s): Lonsdale | Dame | Kathleen | 1903-1971 | née Yardley | chemist and crystallographer
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born Kathleen Yardley in Newbridge, southern Ireland, 1903; moved with her family to Seven Kings, Essex, 1908; attended the County High School for Girls, Ilford; attended Bedford College for Women and graduated in physics, 1922; finished first in the University of London BSc Honours exam; gained a place in W H Bragg's research team, first at University College London, and subsequently at the Royal Institution, 1923-1927; working with W T Astbury, began to apply space group theories to the study of X-ray diffraction patterns from crystals; with Astbury, published 'Tabulated data for the examination of the 230 space-groups by homogeneous X-rays' in the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions, 1924; married Thomas Jackson Lonsdale, 1927; worked at the University of Leeds, carrying out analyses of hexamethylbenzene and hexachlorobenzene crystals; returned to the Royal Institution, 1931-1946; concentrated on research on diamagnetic anisotropy; work on the magnetic anisotropy of benzil led to her studies of disorder in crystals caused by thermal motions, one of her principal research interests for the remainder of her career; a member of the editorial group concerned with the production of new tables for crystal structure determination, providing the structure factor formulae for each space group, resulting in the publication of the International Tables, 1935; became a Quaker, 1935; her pacifism led her to refuse to register for civil defence duties and, refusing to pay a fine imposed for non-registration, imprisoned in Holloway gaol for a month, 1943; one of the first two women to be elected Fellow of the Royal Society, 1945; Reader in Crystallography, University College London, 1946-1949; first Chairman of the Commission on Tables, 1948; Professor of Chemistry, University College London, 1949; established her own research school and introduced new courses in crystallography for undergraduates and for graduates; her diverse interests included methonium compounds, urinary calculi and synthetic diamonds, though work on the International Tables diverted considerable time away from research; principal editor in the production of the new volumes of International Tables, 1951; Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 1956; awarded the Davy Medal of the Royal Society, 1957; British Association General Secretary, 1959-1964, President of the Physics Section, 1967, and (first female) President, 1968; member of Council and Vice-President of the Royal Society, 1960-1961; Vice President of the International Union of Crystallography, 1960-1966, and President, 1966; received honorary degrees from several universities; Vice-President of the Atomic Scientists' Association; President of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom; attended several Pugwash Conferences on World Affairs and expressed her hopes for peace in numerous lectures and articles, including a Penguin Special Is Peace Possible?; her experience in prison led to an interest in penal reform and she was a member of the Board of Visitors, Aylesbury Prison for Women and Borstal Institution for Girls, and Deputy Chairman of the Board of Visitors of Bullwood Hall Borstal, Essex; her interests also included scientific ethics; travelled extensively in connection with her scientific career and peace interests; attended scientific conferences including Congresses of the International Union of Crystallography; undertook some foreign engagements on behalf of the Society of Friends; died, 1971.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers, c1914-1989, of Dame Kathleen Lonsdale.

Biographical material includes correspondence and papers relating to imprisonment in Holloway Prison, with Lonsdale's own accounts of her time there; diaries and personal notebooks, 1946-1969; letters of congratulation on election as Fellow of the Royal Society (1945); various photographs dating from school to her later years.

Papers relating to Lonsdale's teaching and administrative work at University College London include papers on teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses; significant documentation relating to laboratory personnel, research funding and general university administration; papers relating to the 'Round Table on Peace Studies', which proposed the establishment of a centre for research into international conflict at the University.

Research material, 1924-1970, consists of Royal Institution papers comprising notebooks, one dating from Lonsdale's first period there (1923-1927), correspondence with colleagues such as W H Bragg and J M Robertson, and Lonsdale's notes and drafts for various research topics; correspondence and papers from her University College years covering many different areas of research, including diffuse scattering of X-rays, thermal vibrations in crystals, methonium compounds and urinary calculi (the latter topic particularly well documented and including several case studies), and including a large group of photographs, mostly of X-ray diffraction patterns.

Papers on the preparation of volumes of the International Tables for crystal structure determination from Lonsdale's chairmanship of the Commission on Tables (1948) comprise drafts, notes and correspondence with colleagues and publishers.

Extensive papers relating to publications, lectures and broadcasts include drafts of articles, on subjects including peace and religious issues, also including obituaries and biographical articles on various individuals, books, book reviews, obituaries, and letters to newspapers and magazines, the latter principally on the issue of atomic weapons; general correspondence concerning publications; drafts of lectures, 1945-1970, including ethics and the role of science in society; a large series of lecture notes, 1933-1970; scripts for broadcasts, on topics ranging from crystallography to religion, 1945-1967.

Papers on foreign and domestic travel, 1943-1971, relating to conferences and lectures, on crystallography, science ethics, and work for the Society of Friends, including her visit to China (1955) and her world tour (1965).

Papers relating to organisations, notably the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) and the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr), including material relating to a number of International Congresses of Crystallography, also papers relating to participation in Pugwash Conferences on World Affairs, 1958-1970, and papers concerning prison reform and the running of Bullwood Hall Borstal, Essex.

Correspondence, 1927-1974, comprises two main sequences, one arranged alphabetically, the other chronologically; 'day files', principally carbons of outgoing correspondence, 1966-1969; a sequence of references and recommendations; also including correspondence relating to Lonsdale's period of imprisonment (1943). Correspondents include scientists such as Max Born, W H Bragg, W L Bragg, E G Cox, Dorothy Hodgkin, Judith Milledge, L C Pauling and A J C Wilson.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged by section as follows: Biographical; University College London (teaching and administration); Research (Royal Institution and University College London); International Tables for Crystal Structure Determination; Publications, lectures and broadcasts; Visits and conferences; Societies and organisations; Correspondence.

Conditions governing access:

Some parts of the collection are closed, for reasons of confidentiality, and pending conservation. Please contact the UCL Special Collections Team for further information.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Normal copyright restrictions apply.

Finding aids:

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Dame Kathleen Lonsdale (NCUACS catalogue no 106/5/02, 275pp). Index of correspondents. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were received from Dr H J Milledge, Dame Kathleen Lonsdale's former colleague at University College London, in 1998 and 1999.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Correspondence of Dame Kathleen Lonsdale is also held at Imperial College Archives; King's College London, Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives; University of London (Library - Senate House); Royal Institution of Great Britain; Cambridge University, Churchill Archives Centre; Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts; Leeds University, Brotherton Library; and in private hands. For further details see the National Register of Archives and other AIM25 entries.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Source: NCUACS webpage:

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:
Jul 2002

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Personal Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"

Related Corporate Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"

Related Placename Search

* To search for other records with similar placenames, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"