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The Papers of Dame Athene Donald

Reference Code: GBR/0014/DNLD

Scope and Contents

The majority of the collection relates to Donald's scientific career and research: including publications; academic conferences; papers relating to scientists collaborating and working for Donald; scientific findings and data. It also includes material, including articles, relating to Donald's role as a gender equality champion and a copy of her blog.


  • Creation: 1970 - 2016

Conditions Governing Access

Closed until listed.

Biographical / Historical

Athene Donald (née Griffith) was born on 15 May 1953, daughter of Walter Griffith and Annette Marian (née Tylor). She was educated at Camden School for Girls, a grammar school in North London, and then at Girton College, Cambridge where she obtained a BA in Natural Sciences, Theoretical Physics and in 1977 a PhD in Physics. Donald spent 4 years as a postdoctoral research associate in the USA at Cornell University in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (1977-1981) before returning to Cambridge. Initially holding an SRC fellowship in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy (1981-1983), she returned to the Cavendish Laboratory as one of the first generation of Royal Society University Research Fellows (1983-1985). Thereafter she was appointed a Lecturer in 1985, a Reader in 1995 and a Professor in 1998. A year later she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Donald was a Fellow of Robinson College from 1981 to 2014 (when she was awarded an Honorary Fellowship) and became Master of Churchill College in 2014. She has held several positions within the University of Cambridge: serving on Council (2009-14) and several of its dependent committees and was the Gender Equality Champion from 2010-14. She has served on a variety of committees at the Royal Society, chaired its Education Committee from 2010-14 and served on its Council from 2004-6 and again from 2011 to the present. She currently sits on the Scientific Council of the European Research Council.

Donald has been awarded prizes for her scientific and equality work including from the Institute of Physics (CV Boys Prize, Mott Medal and Faraday Medal) and was the Bakerian Lecturer of the Royal Society in 2006. In 2009 she was awarded the L'Oreal/UNESCO For Women in Science Laureate for Europe. She was appointed a Dame Commander of the British Empire for Services to Physics in 2010. She holds Honorary Doctorates from UEA, Exeter, Sheffield and Swansea Universities and UCL. She is a regular blogger, particularly about gender issues and on the Guardian Science blogs; she also is a regular tweeter.

Donald's research focuses on soft matter and biological physics, including polymers, biopolymers and cellular biophysics.

Athene married Matthew Donald, a mathematician, in 1976; they have two adult children, James and Margaret, and one grandchild.


126 archive box(es) : paper

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

The majority of the collection was collected from Athene Donald's office in the Cavendish Laboratory in 2016.


This collection level description was prepared by Natalie Adams using information from Athene Donald's entry in "Who's Who" (accessed 20 June 2017) and her biographical note on the Churchill College website.


Donald, Dame Athene (1953-), née Griffith, Professor of Experimental Physics and Master of Churchill College

2017-06-20 09:57:11+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