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The Papers of Professor William Burcham

Reference Code: GBR/0014/BCHM

Scope and Contents

The collection relates to Burcham's scientific career, especially his work in the high voltage laboratory under M L E Oliphant and P I Dee which was set up to pursue the findings of Sir John Cockcroft and E T S Walton in splitting atomic nuclei.


  • Creation: 1913 - 2004

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is 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 holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Biographical / Historical

Professor William Ernest Burcham was born in 1913, the elder son of Ernest Barnard and Edith Ellen Burcham. He was educated at the City of Norwich School then at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in 1937 becoming Stokes Student at Pembroke College, Cambridge. In 1942 Burcham married his first wife, Isabella Mary Todd, with whom he had two daughters. Isabella Burcham died in 1981. Burcham married Patricia Newton Marson in 1985.

Burcham's positions included: Scientific Officer at the Ministry of Aircraft Production (1940); Scientific Officer at the Directorate of Atomic Energy (1944); Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge (1944); University Demonstrator in Physics, Cambridge (1945); University Lecturer in Physics, Cambridge (1946); Oliver Lodge Professor of Physics, University of Birmingham (1951-80); Member of the Science Research Council (1974-8); Member of the Council of the Royal Society (1977-9); and Honorary Life Fellow of Coventry Polytechnic (1984).

Burcham's published works include: Nuclear Physics: an introduction (1963); Elements of nuclear physics (1979); (with M Jobes) Nuclear and particle physics (1994); and papers in Nuclear Physics A, Phys. Letters B, Phys. Rev. Letters.


16 archive box(es)

3 cassette(s) (3 VHS video cassettes)

Language of Materials



The archives were arranged by Burcham and files often contain his explanatory notes on the contents. The order has been preserved and the catalogue includes a note of the reference code used by Burcham in order that researchers may use Burcham's notes.

Other Finding Aids

The collection has been catalogued and paper copies of the catalogue are available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre and the National Register of Archives.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was deposited at Churchill Archives Centre in two stages by Professor Burcham in 1997 and 2001. A further accession consisting predominantly of Burcham's diaries was added in 2017.

Related Materials

Churchill Archives Centre also holds the papers of Sir John Cockcroft.

Related Materials

Burcham's biography published by The Royal Society (2011):


Burcham's work is described in his article "The Cavendish High-Voltage Laboratory" (Notes Rec. R. Soc. Lond. 53 (1), 121-134 1999), a copy of which can be found at BCHM 7/2.


Biographical information was obtained from Professor Burcham's entry in Who's Who and from the papers themselves. This catalogue was prepared by Natalie Adams 28 November 2000, and revised in February 2002 to incorporate further material deposited by Professor Burcham (BCHM 4/6, BCHM 7/4-7/5). In February 2002, three items (previously assigned references BCHM 5/5-5/6 and BCHM 6), which had been incorrectly incorporated into the Burcham papers, were removed and added to the papers of Sir John Cockcroft as CKFT 1/9, 1/10 and II 2/3). In 2019 further accessions were incorporated into the BCHM collection (BCHM 7/6 - 10/2). These largely consisted of Burcham's diaries, other varied writings and a small collection of VHS video cassettes. This catalogue was updated by Tom Davies in 2019.


Burcham, William Ernest, 1913-2008, nuclear physicist

2002-11-01 14:42:10+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