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The Papers of Edward Shire

Reference Code: GBR/0014/SHRE

Scope and Contents

The papers include: physics notebooks; lecture and teaching notes, 1927-73; papers on the invention and patenting of the proximity fuze [proximity fuse]; copy of a paper by Professor John Cockcroft, "A General Account of Army Radar"; copy of the Los Alamos lectures on nuclear physics, 1943; journals from the Home Office Scientific Adviser's branch, 1961-66 and 1973; and a Home Office civil defence data book, as well as correspondence with John Maynard Keynes, 1936-1944.


  • Creation: 1926 - 2009


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

After attending Huish's Grammar School in Taunton [Somerset], Edward Shire came to Cambridge in 1928 as a scholar in Natural Sciences, graduating in 1931. After graduation he took on research work in atomic physics and low temperature physics, up to the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1939 he was asked by Professor John Cockcroft to take part in secret training in air defence, and at the end of that year took up a position at the Air Defence Experimental Establishment, working on research into radar. In 1940 he was one of two inventors of the proximity fuze [proximity fuse] (a detonator in a missile that employs radar to operate automatically when within a predetermined distance of the target).

Shire returned to King's College, Cambridge in 1944 (having been granted leave of absence from his Fellowship for war duties) and resumed his academic career. He rewrote the syllabus for the Natural Sciences Tripos to include the scientific advances made during the war and in 1947 became Reader in Physics. He also returned to the Cavendish Laboratory, doing research into high energy physics. He remained a scientific adviser on Civil Defence for the Home Office throughout his life, especially on the organisation of defence in case of nuclear attack.

Shire's publications include two books, "Classical Electricity and Magnetism" (1960); and "Rutherford and the Nuclear Atom" (1972).


10 archive box(es)

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

A copy of this finding aid is available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge and the National Register of Archives, London.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were deposited at Churchill Archives Centre by Dr Alisoun Gardner-Medwin (daughter of Edward Shire) in 1992, 1997, 2009, 2015, 2017 and 2019. Further material was deposited in 2009 via King’s College, Cambridge and in 2010 via Mrs Christine Bromwich (daughter of Edward Shire).

Related Materials

Churchill Archives Centre also holds the papers of Sir John Cockcroft (GBR/0014/CKFT).


This collection (fonds) level description was prepared by Katharine Thomson at Churchill Archives Centre in October 2003. Biographical information was obtained from the papers themselves and from Shire's daughter, Dr Alisoun Gardner-Medwin. The collection was catalogued by Natalie Adams of Churchill Archives Centre in August 2005. A small addition was made in 2009 via King’s College, Cambridge and further additions were catalogued by Caroline Herbert of Churchill Archives Centre in December 2009, Natalie Adams in June 2015, and Allen Packwood in 2019.


Shire, Edward Samuel, 1908-1978, physicist

2003-10-21 11:31:34.670000+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