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The Papers of Professor A.V. Hill

Reference Code: GBR/0014/AVHL

Scope and Contents

The first batch of papers of Professor A V Hill were deposited by him in September 1966 in two sections entitled "First World War Papers" and "Second World War' Papers". These titles were chosen since the papers clearly relate to A V Hill's work on anti-aircraft defence although the periods covered in both sections are wider than the durations of the first and second world wars.
Several further accessions including memoirs and pamphlets were added to the original deposit made by Professor Hill up until 1974. These papers, largely in the form of letters, were catalogued in Sections 3 and 4 being correspondence from 1919 to 1970 arranged alphabetically by correspondent in Section 3 and by subject in Section 4. Section 5 was made up largely of AV Hill's autobiographical writings with other miscellaneous items incorporated.
Some 768 pamphlets, the bulk of them containing articles by A V Hill, had also come into the Archives Centre during this period. The first 417 of these are bound into volumes and arranged chronologically from 1909 to 1935 and the remainder were sorted basically in numerical order until the final box which contains a miscellany of articles by A V Hill and others relating to muscular exercise. The pamphlets form Section 6 of the catalogue and are listed in detail in a full catalogue held at Churchill Archives Centre.
The papers in these first six sections, deposited between 1966 and 1974 have been designated AVHL I.
In 1977 after A V Hill's death, his son, Professor David Hill, made a further large deposit of papers to add to the above collection of his father's papers. This was designated AVHL II and catalogued in the 6 Sections under which Professor D K Hill had himself described the material in his accompanying letter of 20 September 1977. A seventh section was added to AVHL II to accommodate the Feng Effect papers given to the Archives Centre by Dr R C Woledge in June 1980; and an eighth for miscellaneous oddments: deposited by Professor David Hill in 1985, Polly Hill in 1995 and Katy Hill in 2004.
The most interesting and extensive material in the collection is probably the correspondence but the World War I and II material in AVHL I Sections 1 and 2 is of considerable importance and the articles in AVHL I Section 6, while most may be obtainable elsewhere, form a remarkably comprehensive collection. There are also interesting papers relating to the Journal of Physiology (in AVHL II Section 6) and papers on A V Hill's experimental work on the Feng Effect (muscle contraction) are also worthy of note.


  • Creation: 1873 - 1977


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is mostly open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical / Historical

Hill was born in Bristol in September 1886 and educated at Blundell's School and Cambridge University. He married Margaret Neville Keynes in 1913.

During World War One he was appointed Captain in charge of the Anti-Aircraft Experimental Section of the Ministry of Munitions Inventions Department; he subsequently served as Professor of Physiology, Manchester (1920-23); Professor of Physiology, University College, London (1923-5); Foulerton Research Professor, Royal Society (1926-51); and Chairman, Executive Committee of National Physical Laboratory (1939-45). He was also an attache to the British Embassy Washington (1940); an M.P. (Independent Conservative) Cambridge University (1940-5); Member of War Cabinet Scientific Advisory Committee (1940-6); and Scientific Adviser to Government of India (1943-4).

An outspoken critic of Hitler's wartime persecution policies against Jewish and dissident scientists, Hill helped found the Academic Assistance Council (later called the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning) to assist refugee scientists.

Much of his work concerned the physiology of muscle, especially the observation and measurement of thermal changes associated with muscle function, was later extended to similar studies on the mechanism of the passage of nerve impulses. His researches gave rise to an enthusiastic following in the field of biophysics, a subject whose growth owes much to him.

He was awarded the CBE and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1918; received the Nobel Prize in 1922; and in 1946 became a Companion of Honour. His publications included: "Living Machinery" (1927); "The Ethical Dilemma of Science" (1960); "Trails and Trials in Physiology" (1965); and "First and Last Experiments in Muscle Mechanics" (1970). He died in June 1977.


71 archive box(es)

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

A copy of this finding aid is available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were donated to Churchill Archives Centre by Professor A.V. Hill and his family between 1966 and 2004. Please note that some of the files in section II/5 have not been deposited at the centre. A further file was deposited by the Wellcome institute in 2007. Further material was deposited by Professor Nicholas Humphrey in April 2008, June 2009 and July 2015, and by Philipa Hill in June 2008.

Related Materials

See also interviews relating to A V Hill, at GBR/0014/MISC 89.

Related Materials

The Wellcome Library, London, also has 1 box of miscellaneous letters to A V Hilll [1908-1957] including some of his carbon copy replies.


This collection (fonds) level description was compiled by Andrew Riley of Churchill Archives Centre in June 2004 from an existing catalogue. Additional information was taken from Who Was Who (A & C Black). The remainder of the catalogue was converted by Sandra Marsh in April 2006, and further updated in October 2008. The catalogue was further updated by Caroline Herbert in July 2009 to incorporate a new accession.


Hill, Archibald Vivian, 1886-1977, Physiologist

2004-05-25 12:41:37+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087