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Collection Level Description: Correspondence and Papers of Frederick Soddy

Reference: MSS. Eng. misc. b. 170-189
Title: Correspondence and Papers of Frederick Soddy
Dates of Creation: 1894-1958
Extent: 20 boxes
Language of Material: English

Administrative/Biographical History

Frederick Soddy was born at Eastbourne in 1877. He was educated at local schools and then Eastbourne College. He attended University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, in 1894-1895 and in 1895 he was awarded a Postmastership in Science at Merton College, Oxford.

In 1900, Soddy moved to McGill University, Montreal, where he collaborated with Ernest Rutherford, formulating the theory of radioactive disintegration. (For this work Rutherford was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908.)

In 1903 Soddy returned to England. There he worked with Sir William Ramsay at University College, London, continuing the work he had begun with Rutherford. Notable is their spectrographic proof of the production of helium from radium.

Soddy was appointed Lecturer in Physical Chemistry at Glasgow University in 1904, where he remained until 1914. Here he worked with Alexander Fleck on the chemistry of the radio-elements, leading to the formulation of the theory of isotopes. It was primarily for this work that Soddy was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1921. From 1914 to 1919 he was Professor of Chemistry at Aberdeen University. He did some minor research during the war years, but he was essentially finished as a research chemist.

In 1919 Soddy was appointed Dr. Lee’s Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University, a position he retained until his retirement in 1936. He published no more scientific work of any significance, although he did publish several mathematical papers, mainly on solutions of cubic equations with three real roots. His later writings were in the field of political economy and monetary theory, and his concerns about the role of science in warfare. He was deeply troubled by the use of atomic bombs in the Second World War.

Soddy was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1910 and was awarded the Cannizzaro Prize in 1913. He died in 1956.

Scope and Content

Section I: Biographical Material [MSS. Eng. misc. b. 170-171]

Section II: Material collected by Mrs. Muriel Howorth for Pioneer Research on the Atom...The Life Story of Frederick Soddy [MS. Eng. misc. b. 171]

Section III: Printed material [MSS. Eng. misc. b. 172-173]

Section IV: Laboratory notebooks [MSS. Eng. misc. b. 174-178 and MSS. Eng. misc. b. 186-188]

Section V: Lectures, articles, addresses

Section VI: Papers relating to Soddy's work in Aberdeen, 1914-1918 [MSS. Eng. misc. b. 181-182]

Section VII: Papers relating to work on mathematical problems [MSS. Eng. misc. b. 183-184]

Section VIII: Papers relating to The Story of Atomic Energy [MS. Eng. misc. b. 185]

Section IX: Correspondence [MS. Eng. misc. b. 189]

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Soddy bequeathed his papers, notebooks and manuscripts to Major and Mrs. Howorth as his literary trustees. In 1958 Mrs. Howorth published a biography, Pioneer Research on the Atom...The Life Story of Frederick Soddy.

The Laboratory Notebooks, now MSS. Eng. misc. b. 186-188, were received from the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory, Oxford.

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Finding Aids

A fuller description and detailed index are available in the Library and at The National Archives.

Access Points

Chemistry

Nuclear Physics

Soddy | Frederick | 1877-1956 | Chemist and Social Commentator

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