We’ve seen the launch of the Leeds General Cemetery Company resources in November, a new catalogue for the Hey family archive material, and have so far digitised thousands of pages of manuscript volumes. It’s been an exciting and busy first 15 months!

There’s still lots more to do, and cataloguing is continuing. This week I’ve been preparing a new catalogue for the Bragg Family Collection (ref no: MS 81). A small collection of items with great significance, it centres on a notebook kept by Sir William Henry Bragg and his son, Sir (William) Lawrence Bragg.

Both of the Bragg’s were physicists; William Henry Bragg was Cavendish Professor of Physics here at the University of Leeds between 1909 and 1915. In the summer of 1913, father and son joined forces in Leeds to carry out experiments on the structure of crystals, using an X-ray spectrometer designed by William Henry Bragg. The notebook records the results of their experiments.

L0059138 Bragg X-ray spectrometer
Bragg X-ray spectrometer, England, 1910-26. Credit: Science Museum London, Wellcome Images. Copyright: work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Their pioneering research in establishing the nature of X-ray spectra and the principles of crystal analysis was recognised with the award of a joint Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915. Their work formed the basis of X-ray crystallography as a field of research – which laid the foundations for some hugely significant discoveries, such as the DNA double-helix in 1953, and the structures of haemoglobin and insulin.

The notebook was presented to the University by Lawrence Bragg on 20th June 1945, at a ceremony to unveil a tablet to commemorate their work. The tablet is displayed on the wall at the entrance to the Brotherton Library.

A digital copy of the notebook is available on the catalogue entry, and an online resource providing a more in-depth history of the Bragg’s work and analysis of the notebook can be found on our website.

Sources: Talal Debs, ‘Bragg, Sir William Henry (1862-1942)’,Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2011 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/32031, accessed 21 Feb 2017]

University of Leeds website, News, ‘Plaque marks birthplace of X-ray crystallography’, 5 July 2013, https://www.leeds.ac.uk/news/article/3417/plaque_marks_birthplace_of_x-ray_crystallography [accessed 21 Feb 2017]