After attending Huish's Grammar School in Taunton [Somerset], Edward Shire came to Cambridge in 1928 as a scholar in Natural Sciences, graduating in 1931. After graduation he took on research work in atomic physics and low temperature physics, up to the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1939 he was asked by Professor John Cockcroft to take part in secret training in air defence, and at the end of that year took up a position at the Air Defence Experimental Establishment, working on research into radar. In 1940 he was one of two inventors of the proximity fuze [proximity fuse] (a detonator in a missile that employs radar to operate automatically when within a predetermined distance of the target).
Shire returned to Kings College, Cambridge in 1944 (having been granted leave of absence from his Fellowship for war duties) and resumed his academic career. He rewrote the syllabus for the Natural Sciences Tripos to include the scientific advances made during the war and in 1947 became Reader in Physics. He also returned to the Cavendish Laboratory, doing research into high energy physics. He remained a scientific adviser on Civil Defence for the Home Office throughout his life, especially on the organisation of defence in case of nuclear attack.
Shire's publications include two books, "Classical Electricity and Magnetism" (1960); and "Rutherford and the Nuclear Atom" (1972).
The papers include: physics notebooks; lecture and teaching notes, 1927-73; papers on the invention and patenting of the proximity fuze [proximity fuse]; copy of a paper by Professor John Cockcroft, "A General Account of Army Radar"; copy of the Los Alamos lectures on nuclear physics, 1943; journals from the Home Office Scientific Adviser's branch, 1961-66 and 1973; and a Home Office civil defence data book.
The papers were deposited at Churchill Archives Centre by Dr Alisoun Gardner-Medwin (daughter of Edward Shire) in 1992, 1997 and 2009. Further material was deposited in 2009 via King's College, Cambridge and in 2010 via Mrs Christine Bromwich (daughter of Edward Shire).
The papers are on loan.