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Thompson (William) Papers
MSS 0410  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Biography
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • OFF-SITE STORAGE

  • Descriptive Summary

    Languages: English
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla 92093-0175
    Title: William Thompson Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0410
    Physical Description: 9.6 Linear feet (23 archives boxes and 2 oversize file folders)
    Date (inclusive): circa 1930-1995 (bulk 1965-1990)
    Abstract: Papers of William Bell Thompson, physicist, researcher, professor, editor, and administrator. Thompson did pioneering work in plasma physics and established the field at Oxford University and the University of California, San Diego. He did theoretical and applied work in controlled thermonuclear research and brought several of his other interests together with research on tethers in space. The papers document Thompson's career at UCSD and include correspondence, journal articles, reports, notes, lectures, grant proposals, teaching material, and subject files.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Papers of William Bell Thompson, physicist, researcher, professor, editor, and administrator. Thompson did pioneering work in plasma physics and established the field at Oxford University and the University of California, San Diego. He did theoretical and applied work in controlled thermonuclear research and brought several of his other interests together with research on tethers in space. The papers document Thompson's career at UCSD and include correspondence, journal articles, reports, notes, lectures, grant proposals, teaching material, and subject files. The collection provides a representative selection of his work in physics as researcher, teacher, editor, and administrator, principally during his twenty-five years (1965-1990) with the UCSD Physics Department.
    Arranged in eight series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS, 4) LECTURES AND TALKS, 5) CONTRACTS, GRANTS AND PROPOSALS, 6) TEACHING MATERIAL, 7) SUBJECT FILES, and 8) FRAGMENTS AND UNIDENTIFIED MATERIAL.
    SERIES 1: BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL
    Most of the items in the BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL series relate to Thompson's academic career and include standardized forms and statements, reports on research and sabbatical activities. There are newspaper articles on his departure from the United Kingdom and an account of genealogical research into the Ginniff side of the Thompson family written by H. Stanley Thompson.
    SERIES 2: CORRESPONDENCE
    The majority of letters in the CORRESPONDENCE series are from Thompson's graduate students and colleagues and date from the period 1980-1990. Thompson had worked under Leopold Infeld as a graduate student in Canada and later followed the news of Infeld's problems with the Canadian government, referred to in correspondence with Infeld's son. Leopold Infeld sent Thompson the satirical "Aftermath Script."
    SERIES 3: WRITINGS The WRITINGS series is arranged in two subseries: A) Journal Articles, Reports and Papers and B) Notes.
    A) The Journal Articles, Reports and Papers subseries contains many of Thompson's research articles, review articles, book chapters, research reports, and unpublished papers, all interfiled alphabetically by title. Among these are numerous reports written for the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE) in the United Kingdom. Chronological lists of Thompson's work at UCSD and for the AERE are located at the beginning of the subseries.
    B) The Notes subseries contains notes on lectures and conferences he attended, books and articles he read, and topics related to his research. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by title.
    SERIES 4: LECTURES AND TALKS
    Thompson gave presentations on his research and teaching interests to audiences of peers, students in disciplines other than physics, and the general public. These materials are arranged alphabetically by title and consist of outlines, notes, overhead transparencies, and texts.
    SERIES 5: CONTRACTS, GRANTS AND PROPOSALS
    This series documents the core areas of Thompson's research in plasma physics and tethers in space. The material is arranged in six subseries: A) Cal Space/Martin Marietta, B) National Aeronautics and Space Administration, C) National Science Foundation, D) United States Atomic Energy Commission, E) United States Department of Energy, and F) Proposals. Spanning a decade (1981-1991), each subseries is arranged chronologically. Material in the first five subseries generally consists of a copy of the proposal, progress reports on research and correspondence. The final subseries, Proposals, contains drafts that were not submitted or not funded.
    SERIES 6: TEACHING MATERIAL
    The TEACHING MATERIAL series is arranged in two subseries: A) Course Outlines and Lecture Notes and B) Slides. The first subseries is arranged by course number and then chronologically. In addition to a range of physics courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, Thompson also taught in interdisciplinary programs making connections between science and current social concerns. The Slides, unlabeled, illustrate laboratory facilities, equipment and fusion reactors.
    SERIES 7: SUBJECT FILES
    The SUBJECT series contains Thompson's topical files on tethers, tsunamis, the Society for Scientific Exploration, and a conference entitled "Evaluation of Current Trends in Fusion Research;" he was an editor for the conference papers.
    SERIES 8: FRAGMENTS AND UNIDENTIFIED MATERIAL
    Untitled fragmentary writings and notes, instructional material lacking course numbers and unassociated overhead transparencies are gathered in this series.

    Biography

    William Bell Thompson was born February 27, 1922, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He was trained at Canadian universities, receiving his B.A. in physics and mathematics in 1944 and his M.A. in physics in 1947 from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. In 1950 he received his Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of Toronto, Ontario, and went to England to take up an appointment as Senior Fellow in the Theoretical Physics Division at Harwell, the laboratory of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. When a separate facility, Culham Laboratory, was set up for fusion studies, Thompson moved there and remained until his election to the Chair of Theoretical Plasma Physics at Oxford University in 1963.
    Thompson first came to the University of California, San Diego, in 1961 as a visiting professor from Culham. In 1965 he was invited to join the new San Diego campus as a founding member of the Physics Department. He spent the next twenty-five years at UCSD, combining research, supervision of doctoral research, teaching, and administrative responsibilities; he was chairman of the department from 1969 to 1972. He retired in 1990.
    Thompson's career focused on the development of the theory of plasma physics and its applications in controlled thermonuclear research. He worked in the areas of magnetic fusion, magnetohydrodynamics, the calculation of transport coefficients, heating, instabilities, diffusion, relativistic kinetic theory, counterstreaming plasmas, resonances, toroidal systems and guiding center plasmas in two dimensions. He was also interested in other fields: terrestrial magnetism, planetary dynamics, antimatter, space science, and oceanography. He combined many of these areas in research projects on tethers.
    Thompson extended his commitment to teaching beyond his physics laboratories and classrooms. He gave talks and lectures to a range of audiences, participated in interdisciplinary seminars for undergraduates and wrote review articles for his colleagues in other areas of physics.
    William B. Thompson died in 1995.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Preferred Citation

    William Thompson Papers, MSS 410. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 1996.

    OFF-SITE STORAGE

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. ALLOW ONE WEEK FOR RETRIEVAL OF MATERIALS.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Magnetohydrodynamics
    Diffusion
    Tethered satellites
    Physicists -- Biography
    Physics -- Study and teaching
    Plasma dynamics
    Fusion
    Morrison, Philip J.
    Domínguez, Homero Jiménez
    Infeld, Leopold, 1898-1968