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The Papers of Professor James Cassels

Reference Code: GBR/0014/CASS

Scope and Contents

The papers held at Churchill Archives Centre include a small amount of biographical and personal material, public or official correspondence, and material relating to government policy on energy (mainly in the 1980's).


  • Creation: 1967 - 1996


Conditions Governing Access

The majority of the collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. One file, CASS 1/6, is closed in line with the depositors wishes.

Biographical / Historical

James Macdonald Cassels was born in Penang, Malaya [later part of Malaysia] on 9 September 1924, the son of Alastair Macdonald Cassels and Ada White Cassels (nee Scott). His father was a bank manager of the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China.

Cassels was educated at Rochester House School in Edinburgh, then St Lawrence College, Ramsgate and Trinity College Cambridge where he obtained an honours degree in physics. At Cambridge, Cassels met his first wife, Jane Lawrence (daughter of A W Lawrence the youngest brother of T E Lawrence and Professor of Classical Archaeology). They married in 1947 and had a son and a daughter. Jane Cassels died in 1977. Cassels married Analesia Theresa Bestman in 1986 (the marriage ended in divorce in 1989).

In 1944, Cassels was drafted into the government atomic bomb project (code named "Tube alloys research"). In 1946, Cassels began to study for his PhD and worked on the inelastic scattering of slow neutrons by polycrystalline solids and the investigation of the frequency spectrum of lattice vibrations in a crystal. Cassels left Cambridge in 1949 to take up a Research Fellowship at Harwell and worked on the 110-inch cyclotron. He remained at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell as a Fellow and Principal Scientific Officer until 1953. He also became interested in the politics of science and advocated British participation in the establishment of a Centre Europeenne pour la Recherche Nucleaire (CERN). At Harwell he was involved with the experimental programme of the synchrocyclotron.

He moved to the University of Liverpool in 1953, initially as a lecturer, then Professor of Experimental Physics, a position he held from 1960-1982. Cassels was an Extraordinary Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge from 1959-1960. After a brief period 1959-1960 as Visiting Professor at Cornell University, Cassels became Head of Department at Liverpool, a position he held from 1960-1974.

The energy crisis of 1973 raised the prominence of the issue of energy conservation, and Cassels began to promote the idea of the transportation of warm water from power stations and its use to heat buildings. Cassels was a member of the Marshall Committee (chaired by Walter Marshall) later known as the Combined Heat and Power Group of the Department of Energy from 1974-1979. His interest in energy issues continued after his retirement from Liverpool University in 1982 and he sent many letters to the press on this and other topics. Cassels suffered from manic depression and from 1977 was a diabetic. He set up a company, Igitur Ltd, to promote the use of 'left-handed sugars'.

He died on 19 October 1994.


6 archive box(es) : paper

Language of Materials



The papers have been arranged in three series covering personal/biographical, correspondence and government and energy policy.

Other Finding Aids

The collection has been catalogued. A copy of the printed catalogue is available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre and at the National Register of Archives.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were deposited at Churchill Archives Centre in 1993. An additional deposit (1 file, CASS 1/6) was made in 2019.


The papers originally contained a small amount of ephemeral material (receipts, blank diaries, and 'house diaries' used for correspondence with Cassels' cleaner/housekeepers). This material is not in the catalogue. Duplicate material has been disposed of.


No accruals are anticipated.

Related Materials

The archives of the University of Liverpool are held at the University Library, where two poems by Cassels (ref D. 724) are also held. Contact: Special Collections and Archives, Sydney Jones Library, The University of Liverpool, PO Box 123, Liverpool L69 3DA.


The papers were catalogued by Natalie Adams of Churchill Archives Centre in February 2002, with an additional file (CASS 1/6) catalogued by Madelin Evans in 2019. Information for Cassels' biographical history was taken from his entry in Who Was Who (A and C Black) and from J R Holt's biographical memoir for the Royal Society (1996, CASS 1/1).


Cassels, James Macdonald, 1924-1994, physicist

2002-02-14 09:04:57+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