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Churchill contains:
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LEVN The Papers of Jack Le Vien
LKEN The Papers of Aubrey Leo Kennedy
LSPC The Records of the Labour Spain Committee
LUNG The Papers of Hugh Lunghi
LWIN "Naval mutineer", memoirs
LWSN The Papers of John David Lawson
MACD The Papers of Sir Donald MacDougall
MACL The Papers of Commander A. A. Fraser Macliesh
MADD Papers Relating to the Tube Alloys Project
MALK The Papers of Sir William and Margaret Malkin
MALT The Papers of Sir Victor Mallet
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The Papers of John David Lawson

Title The Papers of John David Lawson
Reference GBR/0014/LWSN
Creator Lawson, John David, 1923-2008, nuclear physicist
Covering Dates 1945–2009
Extent and Medium 7 archive boxes
Repository Churchill Archives Centre
Content and context

John David Lawson was born on 4 April 1923. He was educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School before going on to St John's College, Cambridge to study for the short (two year) Mechanical Sciences degree, including a special wartime radio course. He graduated BA in 1943 and then joined the Telecommunications Research Establishment, Malvern, where he was assigned to work on microwave antenna design under D.W. Fry, as part of the ongoing work on development of radar. At the end of the war Lawson continued to work at Malvern, although in 1947 he was made a member of the staff of the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE). He undertook experimental work with the new 30 MeV synchrotron.

In 1951 Fry's group was transferred to the General Physics Division of the AERE at Harwell. Lawson was assigned to working on the klystron, a device for producing high-power microwaves, in a group led by Peter Thonemann. Thonemann was also in charge of the ZETA (Zero Energy Toroidal Assembly) fusion work, and it was through Lawson's association with Thonemann that he became interested in the topic of nuclear fusion. Lawson also worked with the 1980 MeV cyclotron and on early accelerator proposals. He remained on the staff of the AERE to 1961, spending 1959-1960 as Research Associate at the W.W. Hansen Laboratories at Stanford where his work included the study of the properties of caesium plasma.

In 1961 Lawson transferred to the newly established National Institute for Research in Nuclear Science, based very close to Harwell, an institution shortly to become the Rutherford Laboratory and then the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. He continued his work on accelerators and led the project to build the Variable Energy Cyclotron (for AERE Harwell). He had responsibility for building up the superconducting magnet programme and retained an interest in new accelerator concepts. In the 1970s he moved onto the study of very high current beams and in 1977 his book The Physics of Charged Particle Beams was published (second edition 1989), which became a classic textbook on particle accelerators. In 1975-1976 Lawson returned to fusion research with a two year sabbatical at the Culham Laboratory, working on a design study of a conceptual fusion power reactor based on the reversed field pinch principle.

He returned to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in 1977 where he continued working on free electron lasers and accelerator design, and also played a leading international role in promoting and critically examining ideas for future accelerators. In the early 1980s he recognized the potential that high-power lasers could have for particle acceleration, and set up a small research group in laser plasma accelerators. He retired in 1987.

Lawson was awarded the University of Cambridge Sc.D. in Physics in 1959 and made a Fellow of the Institute of Physics in 1970. In 1983 he was elected a Fellow of Royal Society 'for his contributions to the field of applied electromagnetism, in particular the physics of charged particle beams and high temperature plasmas'. He is particularly remembered for the Lawson Criterion, a general measure of a system that defines the conditions needed for a fusion reactor to achieve net power. Formulated in 1955, it was first published in 1957, in 'Some criteria for a power producing thermonuclear reactor', (Proc. Phys. Soc. vol. 70, pt. 1, no. 445, B, 6-10).

Lawson died on 15 January 2008.

This is a small collection covering aspects of Lawson's professional career as a physicist in government laboratories from immediately after the Second World War to his death.

Lawson gave his papers to the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists (NCUACS) in 2007 where they were catalogued. They were deposited at Churchill Archives Centre in 2009.

Access and Use

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. Churchill Archives Centre is open from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. A prior appointment and two forms of identification are required.

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Please cite as Churchill Archives Centre, The Papers of John David Lawson, LWSN

Further information

Churchill Archives Centre also holds a separate collection of papers on the early days of controlled thermonuclear fusion research in the UK collected by Lawson, reference GBR/0014/HIFU.

Copies of the catalogue are available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, and the National Register of Archives, London. A description of the collection and the series within it is available on on the Janus website http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk.

The catalogue was compiled by Timothy E. Powell and Peter Harper of NCUACS supported by funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Information from the catalogue was copied into the cataloguing system at Churchill Archives Centre by Natalie Adams of Churchill Archives Centre.

Index Terms
Lawson, John David (1923-2008) nuclear physicist
Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell
Churchill/LWSN contains:
A Biographical. Includes autobiographical and biographical accounts, including material assembled for an interview by C.A. Muldoon in the course of her Ph.D. research on visualisation, analogy, insight and communication in physics. There is also a little material relating to Lawson's career, including the inauguration of the Variable Energy Cyclotron in 1966.
B Papers and publications. This section chiefly contains memoranda and reports prepared by Lawson from his time at the Telecommunications Research Establishment, Atomic Energy Research Establishment and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, as well as reports produced during his periods in the USA and Japan. There is also a set of offprints and photocopies of published papers, including many conference papers. The section concludes with a few book reviews, short articles for the New Scientist and reviews relating to The Physics of Charged Particle Beams.
C Lectures. This section is principally the contents of Lawson's two folders labelled 'Informal lectures notes' and 'Copies of lecture note transparencies' (many later lecture notes are in the form of photocopies of Lawson's overhead projector transparencies). However, the distinction between material presented in this section and the 'as published' lectures in section B is not absolute. A number of the papers there were given as lectures and conference papers. This section also includes some illustrative material - photographs and transparencies, and notices and abstracts of lectures and talks given by Lawson.
D Visits and conferences. This section includes Lawson's material (chiefly reports) on visits made over the period 1957-1989. It is the contents of two folders labelled 'Conferences' and 'More interesting visits made', though as the material contained therein overlapped in terms of both content and date, they are presented in a single sequence. Not all Lawson's travel and conference attendance is represented in this section; evidence of other travel is represented by drafts of lectures in both sections B and C.
E Correspondence. This section consists of the contents of Lawson's two folders of correspondence. It is a very partial record, for although both incoming and (copies of) outgoing correspondence are included, many of the letters record only one half of an exchange or are individual pieces from a clearly more extended sequence of correspondence. Correspondents represented include Ch'en Chia-erh, Martin Reiser, A.M. Sessler and D.H. Wilkinson.

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