Skip to main content

The Papers of Egon Bretscher

Reference Code: GBR/0014/BRER

Scope and Contents

The papers comprise diaries, correspondence, notebooks, official reports, articles, lectures, press cuttings and photographs, 1918-73. The collection also contains recordings of lectures given by Ernest Rutherford in Göttingen, 1931-8.


  • Creation: 1918-73


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

Egon Bretscher was born on 23 May 1901 in Zürich, the second son of Julius Bretscher and Anna Bretscher (née Martin). He married Hanna Greminger, 31 July 1931, with whom he had two daughters and three sons.

He was educated at Gymnasium Zürich and Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH Zürich), where he gained his diploma in chemical engineering in 1925. He then studied at the department of chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, where he was taught by Sir James Walker and received his PhD in 1927. In 1931, he married Hanna Greminger, with whom he had three sons and two daughters.

Egon Bretscher started his career as an Assistant and Privatdozent für Physik at the ETH Zürich, where he worked from 1929 to 1936. He became a Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation and was based at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, 1934-5. Bretscher returned to Cambridge as a Clerk Maxwell Scholar, 1936-9, and lecturer in Nuclear Physics, 1949-44. Through his work on nuclear physics, he was involved in the British atomic bomb research project 'Tube Alloys' and became a member of the Maud Committee as well as of the British Mission to the Manhattan District Scientific Laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico. He worked at Los Alamos in Fermi’s Advanced Development Division, 1944-6. After the war, Bretscher returned to Britain and joined the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell, as head of the Chemistry Division, 1947-8, and then as head of the Nuclear Physics Division, 1948-66. He retired in 1966.

Egon Bretscher was awarded a CBE in 1966. He died on 16 April 1973.


34 archive box(es)

Language of Materials


Former/other reference

CSAC 115.6.86 (Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were deposited in Churchill Archives Centre by his wife Hanna Bretscher (Acc 686), 1986, and transferred via the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre, then in Oxford, which had added material to the collection from the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell and had been in possession of the collection, 1984-6. Later accessions were made by his son Mark Bretscher (Acc 938, 1401, 1626, 1665, 1875 and 2300), 1993-2024.

Related Materials

Churchill Archives Centre also holds the papers of Egon Bretscher's son Mark Bretscher (BRTS).


This collection level description was prepared by Julia Schmidt of Churchill Archives Centre, August 2017, using biographical information from Who's Who and an existing catalogue created by Jeannine Alton and Peter Harper for the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre n 1986.


Bretscher, Dr Egon, 1901-1973, nuclear physicist

2017-08-17 11:42:31+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