Physics and Astronomy » High Energy Physics »

UCL HEP Group History

18 Jun 2024

A History of Early High Energy Physics Research at UCL
Jim Grozier

The Emulsion Group

After the end of World War 2, the Ministry of Supply, with the encouragement of Patrick Blackett and Joseph Rotblat, placed contracts with the two leading suppliers of photographic emulsions, Ilford and Kodak, for the development of sensitive emulsions for particle detection. By 1948, both companies could supply emulsions with an enhanced silver bromide content, capable of detecting minimum ionisation. Cecil Powell of Bristol University described the new emulsions as revealing "a whole new world".[1]

At UCL, emulsion work had to wait for the completion of the cloud chamber work on Mount Marmolada. Burhop formed the Emulsion Group in 1956 with Stannard, now a research assistant, and another RA, Bill Lasich, together with three research students: R.C.Kumar, M.A.Shaukat and D.H.(Don) Davis. This group went to Bristol to meet with Powell's emulsion group there. Powell had obtained the first emulsions from the Bevatron at Berkeley which had been exposed to a beam of K- mesons; they shared these emulsions with several other institutions, and in 1957 the European K- Collaboration, incorporating Bristol, Brussels, Dublin, Milan, Padua and UCL, was formed. This was, according to Fox, "the first large international collaboration of its kind". In 1961, the Italian groups left, but were eventually replaced by groups from Westfield College, Warsaw, Prague, East Berlin and Belgrade - thus becoming the first collaboration to include physicists from both sides of the Iron Curtain.

One particular partnership that arose out of this collaboration ended up getting Don Davis into trouble. Davis had met the Pole Janusz Zakrzewski, a British Council scholar, at Bristol, where Zakrzewski was doing a PhD. They kept in touch after Davis moved to Chicago in 1961 as a Fulbright scholar and Zakrzewski returned to Warsaw, and even published a paper together. Unfortunately for Davis, his work at Chicago was partly funded by the US Air Force, which duly accused him of "collaborating with the enemy" and gave him a severe ticking off. Years later, Zakrzewski became one of the leading members of Solidarnosc, the independent trade union which presented the first real challenge to the Communist regime in Poland.

For further details of the Emulsion Group see extracts from Bill Fox's History.


  1. Peter Galison, Image and Logic, University of Chicago Press, 1997, p. 186ff