Catalogue description Catalogue of the papers of HENRY ALBERT HOWARD BOOT (b. 1917) principally relating to the invention and development of the cavity magnetron, 1939-45 (with J.T. Randall and others)

This record is held by Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Archives

Details of CSAC 68/6/79
Reference: CSAC 68/6/79
Title: Catalogue of the papers of HENRY ALBERT HOWARD BOOT (b. 1917) principally relating to the invention and development of the cavity magnetron, 1939-45 (with J.T. Randall and others)

The papers relate essentially to the design and development of the cavity magnetron 1939-45, though there is some later material and correspondence to 1979.


The collection contains laboratory notebooks and drawings associated with the design of the first cavity magnetron in 1939-40, and further notes, drawings, blueprints, reports, correspondence, committee papers, etc. relating to its subsequent development. There is also a series of reports of research teams in various universities, institutions and government departments in Britain and the USA, mainly concentrating on the theoretical problems posed by the magnetron. These teams included those led by D.R. Hartree at Manchester University and by E.C. Stoner at Leeds University; their reports appear at CSAC 68/6/79/D.5, CSAC 68/6/79/D.7, CSAC 68/6/79/D.9, CSAC 68/6/79/D.11, CSAC 68/6/79/D.13, CSAC 68/6/79/D.15, CSAC 68/6/79/D.17, CSAC 68/6/79/D.18, CSAC 68/6/79/D.19 and CSAC 68/6/79/D.6, CSAC 68/6/79/D.8, CSAC 68/6/79/D.10, CSAC 68/6/79/D.12 respectively.


SECTION A. Historical accounts of the development of the magnetron CSAC 68/6/79/A.1 - A.10


SECTION B. Laboratory notebooks, working notes, drawings and blueprints CSAC 68/6/79/B.1 - B.43


SECTION C. Progress reports, minutes of meetings, correspondence CSAC 68/6/79/C.1 - C.39


SECTION D. Reports on research in other laboratories CSAC 68/6/79/D.1 - D.32


The collection was received from Dr. Boot and his name therefore appears at the head of the catalogue, but other members of the team working on magnetrons at Birmingham also feature in the collection. In particular there is a substantial number of papers in Randall's hand or denoting his authorship


Compiled by Jeannine Alton Julia Latham-Jackson

Date: 1939-1979
Related material:

Some notes by Randall on the development of the magnetron have been deposited at the Royal Society, and the Bancroft Library, Berkeley, California, holds tapes and transcripts of interviews with Randall and Boot conducted during 1977. The original magnetron block was given to the Science Museum by Boot in 1946 (see CSAC 68/6/79/A.3).

Held by: Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Archives, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Boot, Henry Albert Howard, 1917-1983, scientist and physicist

Physical description: 124 files
  • Randall, Sir, John Turton, 1905-1984, knight, scientist and physicist
  • Radar
Administrative / biographical background:

The first cavity magnetron was built by J.T. (now Sir John) Randall and H.A.H. Boot at Birmingham University during the winter of 1939-40, and immediately proved capable of producing high power wavelengths of less than 10 centimetres (see A.1, B.1). Hitherto the only known source of centimetre wavelengths likely to be of sufficient power had been the klystron, on which the remainder of the team at Birmingham were working under the direction of Professor (now Sir) Mark Oliphant. The invention of the cavity magnetron made shortwave radar a practical possibility, and it was used extensively by the Allied Forces throughout the latter part of the Second World War. In 1948 A.P. Rowe wrote 'It is usually idle to talk of the greatest victory, the greatest general or the greatest invention of a war; these matters are beyond assessment. I suppose, however, that few in a position to judge would hesitate to name the cavity magnetron as having had a more decisive effect on the outcome of the war than any other single scientific device evolved during the war'. (See A.2.)


Randall and Boot were awarded the Thomas Gray Memorial Prize of the Royal Society of Arts in 1943 for 'improving the safety of life at sea' (shortwave radar enabled convoys to detect the presence of U-boats without revealing their own position). Further recognition followed with an Award by the Royal Commission of Awards to Inventors (1949), the John Price Wetherill Medal of the Franklin Institute, Pennsylvania (1958), and the John Scott Award of the City of Philadelphia (1959).

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