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The Papers of John Seddon

Reference Code: GBR/0014/SDDN

Scope and Contents

This collection includes copies of Seddon's scientific publications; technical drawings and plans of aircraft; and papers relating to his work at the Royal Aircraft Establishment and notes for the lectures on aerodynamics and design he delivered at Bristol University.


  • Creation: 1950 - 1987


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

John Seddon was born near Wigan on 29 September 1915. He was educated at Leeds Modern School then Leeds University where he was awarded a First in Mathematics (BSc 1937) and obtained a PhD in 1939. In 1940 he married Barbara Mary Mackintosh with whom he had one son and two daughters.

In 1939, Seddon joined the wind tunnel section at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) at Farnborough as a Scientific Officer. He specialised in the aerodynamics of engine cooling systems and improved the performance of fighters and bombers (including the Spitfire, Typhoon, Stirling, Lancaster and Mosquito).

In 1955, Seddon was awarded a Harkness Fund Fellowship and went to the California Institute of Technology where he researched shock wave boundary layer interactions. From 1956-1959, Seddon was Head of Experimental Supersonics at the RAE, Farnborough and moved to the RAE at Bedford as Superintendent of the Tunnels II Division (1959-1966) where his work contributed to the development of combat aircraft. From 1966-1968, Seddon was the Director of Scientific Research (Air) at the Ministry of Technology rising to the position of Director-General of Aircraft Research at the Ministry of Defence (a position he held from 1969 until his retirement in 1975). After his retirement, Seddon acted as a consultant to several companies and organisations including: Westland Helicopters (1976-1984) and Rolls Royce (1985-1986). He was a senior research fellow at Bristol University (1976-1982) and a visiting professor at Nanjing Aeronautical Institute in China and at the Middle East Technical University in Turkey.

Seddon was closely involved with the Anglo-French development of Concorde and also worked on the Spey engine intake for the Phantom fighter.

Publications: Intake Aerodynamics (with E. L. Goldsmith), 1985; Basic Helicopter Aerodynamics, 1990; papers on air intakes and other aerodynamic subjects, in ARC Reports and Memoranda Series and other scientific media.

Seddon died on 13 July 1991.


11 archive box(es) (11 boxes and 2 rolls of plans) : paper

2 rolled item(s) (11 boxes and 2 rolls of plans)

Language of Materials



The papers have been arranged in 6 series.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were deposited at Churchill Archives Centre by John Seddon's widow, Mrs Barbara Seddon.


This collection (fonds) level description and catalogue were prepared by Natalie Adams at Churchill Archives Centre. The collection was sorted, arranged and listed by Natalie Adams, Louise King and Ruth Hammond. Information was obtained from John Seddon's entry in Who Was Who (A and C Black) and from his obituary in the Daily Telegraph.


Seddon, John, 1915-1991, aeronautical engineer

2001-08-29 16:16:18+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