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National Radium Commission

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1970 NRC
Held at: British Institute of Radiology
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Full title: National Radium Commission
Date(s): 1929-1948
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: Approximately 30 volumes
Name of creator(s): National Radium Trust and Radium Commission | 1929
National Radium Commission | 1929-1948


Administrative/Biographical history:

The National Radium Trust and Radium Commission was established by Charter, 20 July 1929, to augment the supply of radium for use in the treatments of the sick, and to advance knowledge of the methods for rendering treatment. It was not a government department, most of the Trust's funds having been subscribed on the basis of its independence.
Its first meeting was held at the Ministry of Health on the 31 July, chaired by Lord Parmoor. Its initial duty was to make arrangements for the purchase of radium, and secure premises in London to house the administration of the Commission. Its initial purchase amounted to about 13 grams of radium. The trust occupied premises at 5 Adelphi Terrace, from 1929-1936, and when this building was demolished, moved to 18 Park Crescent, Portland Place until 1940.

Viscount Lee of Fareham, was the first chairman of the Commission, which worked independently from the Trust, but presented to it an annual report. Professor Russ was appointed Scientific Secretary. The Commission endeavoured to keep in touch with other bodies concerned with the radiation treatment of cancer., including the Ministry of Health, the Dept of Health for Scotland, the Radiology Committee of the Medical Research Council, the British Empire Cancer campaign and the National Physical Laboratory. It generally met at monthly intervals.

The Commission was operating in a context of little co-ordination between radium and X-ray departments of hospitals. The Commission decide not to undertake direct responsibility for experimental research with radium, but recognising the need for such work, allowed the Medical Research Council to make use of its radium for research, while maintaining its focus on the treatment of the sick and the evaluation of the results radium treatment of cancer. It established the designation 'national radium centres, in order to retain effective control over the distribution and use of the radium committed to its charge.

Radium insurance was also an issue addressed by the Commission, while the National Physical Laboratory took over responsibility of measuring, testing and issuing the national radium. The Commission established a National Postgraduate School of Radiotherapy in 1930, in cooperation with the Mount Vernon Hospital at Northwood, Middlesex, where the clinical and pathological work was carried out, and the Radium Institute, where the diagnostic and out-patient departments were located.

The Commission also undertook statistical research in order to establish the extent of the use of radium for treating disease, especially cancer, and ensure that adequate clinical records were kept. In 1932, a Registrar was appointed to the direct the compilation of annual statistics.

In 1938, the Cancer Bill was passed with the object of securing extended and improved provision for the treatment of cancer in Britain. It gave local authorities responsibility for making arrangements to secure facilities for treatment for persons suffering from cancer in their areas. The Radium Trust was granted a supplementary charter in 1939, granting it power to purchase in addition to radium, other radioactive substances and apparatus and appliances required for radiotherapeutic treatment, and the Radium Commission was instructed to make arrangements for the custody, distribution and use of radioactive substances and apparatus and appliances purchased by the Trust.

During the World War 2, the Commission was concerned about the protection of radium from loss due to enemy action. No radium was lost during the War however, the Commission's headquarters was demolished, though most of the collection of patient records were able to be retrieved. From 1941, the Commission was temporarily based at Westminster Hospital, moving to Manchester Square in 1943 where it remained until it was wound up in 1948.

The Commission had a number of committees. The Statistical Committee was established to assist the Commission's Registrar in the work of keeping accurate records of patients treated by national radium. The Technical Committee dealt with the distribution of radium in appropriate containers among a number of institutions where it was used for radiotherapy, while the Radon Committee was established to assess applications from hospitals for radon, and to bring uniformity to the use to which it was put. The Pathological Advisory Committee was appointed as an advisory body to which hospitals might submit material of particular difficulty or interest. An Executive Committee, and an informal Secretary's committee also met at various times.

The National Radium Trust was wound up in 1948, and the Commission abolished.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the National Radium Commission (NRC) comprising;

minutes of the National Radium Commission 1929-1948; NRC Executive Committee, 1934-1941; NRC Technical Committee, 1943-1948; NRC Statistical Committee 1933-1948; NRC Radon Committee, 1942-1948; NRC Emergency Measures Committee, 1939;

Index to minutes 1929-1943;

British X-ray and Radium Protection Committee, printed report, 1921-1937 Preliminary Report of the X-Ray and Radium Protection Committee, 1921;

The Radium Commission, a short history of its origin and work 1929-1948, compiled by F G Spear and K Griffiths, HMSO, 1951.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

Contact the Information Centre Manager, British Institute of Radiology, 36 Portland Place, London W1B 1AT

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies available at the discretion of the Archivist

Finding aids:

The collection is uncatalogued

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:


Allied Materials

Related material:

See also description for the British Institute of Radiology.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

The Radium Commission, a short history of its origin and work 1929-1948, compiled by F G Spear and K Griffiths, HMSO, 1951.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Historical Manuscripts Commission's On-Line National Register of Archives; The Radium Commission, a short history of its origin and work 1929-1948, compiled by F G Spear and K Griffiths, HMSO, 1951.
Compiled by Alison Field as part of the London Signpost Survey 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:
September 2003

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