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PRICE, William Charles (1909-1993)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0100 KCLCA K/PP84
Held at: King's College London College Archives
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Full title: PRICE, William Charles (1909-1993)
Date(s): 1929-1993
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 48 boxes
Name of creator(s): Price | William Charles | 1909-1993 | physicist


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born in Swansea, 1909; educated at Swansea Grammar School and at the University of Wales, Swansea, 1927-1932; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, 1932-1935, where he contributed to pioneering work on the science of spectroscopy, and the absorption spectra of polyatomic molecules in the vacuum ultraviolet; attached to Physical Chemistry Laboratory, molecular structure group, at the University of Cambridge, 1935-1943, where his team worked to measure ionisation potentials of molecules and produced high resolution spectra. Employed at Cambridge and the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, from 1939, and Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), Billingham, 1943-1946, on applying spectroscopy to the war effort, in particular by determining the composition of alloys used in enemy aircraft and developing industrial uses for spectroscopy. Price was a Research Associate at the University of Chicago, 1946-1947, before being appointed to King's College London in 1948, where he was at first attached to the Medical Research Council Biophysics Unit and studied the structure of biological fibres including collagen and hydrogen bonding within DNA base pairs, in collaboration with Rosalind Franklin, and was active at this time in designing important new infrared spectroscopic apparatus. Price was appointed Reader of Physics at King's in 1949, was elected to the Royal Society in 1959, appointed Wheatstone Professor of Physics at King's College in 1962 and made Head of Department. During the 1960s, he played a leading role in developing the new science of photoelectron spectroscopy to examine the energies of molecular orbitals, and studying, in particular, the spectra of benzene, before retiring in 1976. He died in 1993.


Scope and content/abstract:

The papers of William Price, chiefly relating to spectroscopic analysis and photoionisation, comprise correspondence, lecture and teaching notes, notes compiled while reviewing scientific articles, original research notes, papers concerning Price's employment as an examiner, obituaries and reprints of journal articles, 1929-1993. These notably include correspondence with colleagues describing projects and experiments and sharing observations and data, 1942-1990; lecture notes and teaching papers compiled by Price on the theory of spectroscopy, theoretical and applied optics, especially microscopy, basic molecular chemistry, electron configurations and bond and dissociation energies of molecules, 1948-1978; notes compiled by Price for the peer review of articles and on Price's own published articles, including on the spectra of halogens, the structure of polyatomic molecules, on water and hydrides, the calculation of ionisation potentials, benzenes and hydrocarbons, the structure of the DNA molecule and natural fibres such as keratin, 1929-1977; original research notes on spectroscopic analysis, especially ultraviolet spectra of rare gases, ethylene, sulphur dioxide and other compounds, 1933-1986; papers relating to Price's work as an examiner including draft and complete examination question papers and correspondence, 1952-1978; papers concerning the membership by Price of various learned societies and attendance at scientific conferences and symposia, 1940-1992; obituaries and newspaper cuttings on Price and other distinguished scientists, 1976-1993; typescript copies and reprints of scientific journals containing articles by Price and others, on topics including spectroscopy, photoionization, ionisation potentials and electron configuration and bond and dissociation energies, 1945-1990.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged into sections as described in the Scope and Content field.

Conditions governing access:

Open, subject to signature of reader's undertaking form.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Director of Archive Services.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue available in hard copy in the College Archives reading room.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Collection received in March 1999.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Oxford University: Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts: Correspondence with Charles Coulson, 1946-1972 (Ref: CSAC60/4/78); Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives: correspondence with Sir Gordon Sutherland, 1956-1961 (Ref: CSAC89/7/82).

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Who's Who, obituaries on Price. Entry compiled by Geoff Browell.

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:
April 2002

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