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A Visit to the Cavendish Laboratory Collection



On Tuesday, June 4, six members of our group toured the collection of historical instruments at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. This collection includes instruments used in early experiments by James Clerk Maxwell (electromagnetic equations, color theory, and the first director of the Cavendish), JJ Thompson (discoverer of the electron), James Chadwick (discoverer of the neutron), Francis Crick (structure of DNA), and other Cavendish scientists, including more than 25 Nobel Prize winners.

Since this collection is not open to the public, Ms. Leona Hope-Coles from the Cavendish arranged for Dr. Malcolm Longair, a former director of the laboratory, to guide us through their collection. What a treat for us! His enthusiasm and knowledge was evident, as the following video demonstrates. Here Dr. Malcolm is discussing Maxwell’s apparatus he used to demonstrate his theory of color, about which Dr. Malcolm has written extensively.

Our 1 1/2 hour tour included the storage room housing Thompson’s original glass experimental tube with which he discovered the electron, and a tour of the new Maxwell center and its historical artifacts.

For more history of the Cavendish please look here: https://www.phy.cam.ac.uk/outreach/museum

Dr. Longair told us of an important Cavendish PhD graduate, Dr. Norman de Bruyne, who developed several glues which made possible the construction of the wooden-framed de Havilland « Mosquito » fighter-bomber, also known as the « wooden wonder ». First manufactured in 1942, 7500 were produced during the war. It was acclaimed as the fastest and most versatile aircraft of the war due to its light weight and two powerful Merlin engines. At Duxford « The People’s Mosquito » group let us photograph their model of the Mosquito, shown below.


Model of de Havilland Mosquito

Model of de Havilland Mosquito

Coincidentally, the owner of Anstey Hall, where we stayed while visiting Duxford/Cambridge, happened to be the son of Norman de Bruyne! John de Bruyne regaled us with stories about his father, and many, many other stories that brought us all great enjoyment and mirth.

Lots of fond memories of our stay in England!!


Contributed by Gordon Hoffman

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