Skip to main content

The Papers of Sir William Hawthorne

Reference Code: GBR/0014/HATN

Scope and Contents

The papers in this collection relate to Sir William's personal life and to his business, research and University interests.


  • Creation: 1910 - 1999

Conditions Governing Access

The permission of Sir William's family is required before access can be given to this collection - please contact Churchill Archives Centre about this. Please note that files HATN 3/6, 6/4, 7/15/23, section 8 (apart from HATN 8/24/1-3) and some files in HATN 13 remain closed.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical / Historical

William Rede Hawthorne was born in Benton, Newcastle upon Tyne, on May 22 1913. After attending Westminster School, he read mathematics and engineering at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in 1934. He spent two years as a graduate apprentice with Babcock and Wilcox Ltd, then went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where his research in laminar and turbulent flames earned him a ScD two years later. In 1939 he married Barbara Runkle (died 1992, grand-daughter of MIT's second President), they had one son and two daughters. After MIT he returned to Babcock and Wilcox. In 1940, he joined the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. He was seconded from there to Power Jets Ltd at Lutterworth, where he worked with Frank Whittle on combustion chamber development for the jet engine. In 1941 he returned to Farnborough as head of the newly formed Gas Turbine Division and in 1944 he was sent for a time to Washington to work with the British Air Commission. In 1945 he became Deputy Director of Engine Research in the Ministry of Supply before returning to America a year later as an Associate Professor of Engineering at MIT. He was appointed George Westinghouse Professor of Mechanical Engineering there at the age of 35 and in 1951 returned to Cambridge as the first Hopkinson and ICI Professor of Applied Thermodynamics. The oil shortage following the Suez crisis and Hawthorne's interest in energy matters led to his invention and development of Dracone flexible barges for transporting oil. Hawthorne was active on many committees and advisory bodies concerned with energy matters, in particular the Advisory Council on Energy Conservation, of which he was chairman from its inception in 1974. Hawthorne was elected to the fellowship of the Royal Society in 1955. He was knighted in 1970. He became Head of the Department of Engineering in Cambridge in 1968 and was appointed Master of Churchill College, Cambridge in the same year. He retired as Master in 1983 and died in September 2011.


241 archive box(es)

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

A copy of this finding aid and copies of a more detailed catalogue are available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge and the National Register of Archives (NRA), London.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These papers have been deposited in 22 accessions since 1980. 26 boxes of personal/family material were removed from the Hawthorne Papers and returned to the Hawthorne family.

Related Materials

Churchill Archives Centre also holds the papers of Sir Frank Whittle (GBR/0014/WHTL).

Related Materials

Papers relating to Hawthorne's period of office as Master of Churchill College are held in the College Archives, which are administered separately.


This Collection (fonds) and Series Level description was compiled by Louise King of Churchill Archives Centre, July 2004 using text from the original catalogue compiled by Joan Bullock-Anderson (then Churchill College Archivist) in 1995. The 2001 additional material was incorporated into the collection and added to the catalogue by Natalie Adams, Louise King and Ruth Hammond.


Hawthorne, Sir William Rede, 1913-2011, knight, professor of Applied Thermodynamics

2004-07-19 16:19:52+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