D56 - Fröhlich, Herbert FRS (1905-1991), Physicist - 1930 - [1996]

The archive is presented in the order given in the arrangement section of this list. Although it covers an extended period, 1930-c.1996, the great bulk dates from the last twenty-five years of Fröhlich's life with a strong focus on his interest in applying the ideas of modern theoretical phy...

Full description

Main Creator: Fröhlich, Herbert
Archive level description: Sub-sub fonds
Physical Description:32 boxes [1,150 items]

The archive is presented in the order given in the arrangement section of this list. Although it covers an extended period, 1930-c.1996, the great bulk dates from the last twenty-five years of Fröhlich's life with a strong focus on his interest in applying the ideas of modern theoretical physics to biology.

Section A, Biographical, is slight, comprising obituaries of Fröhlich and articles by G.J. Hyland on his scientific work.

Section B, Research, is the most substantial in the archive. It covers the period 1934-1990 and presents a particularly good record of Fröhlich's later biological interests. There is a little material relating to funding applications in the 1970s (NATO Scientific programme, Leverhulme) but the bulk of the material comprises Fröhlich's topic folders, series of offprints by others, and theses supervised by him or in which he acted as adviser or examiner. The topic folders are presented in alphabetical order by folder title. The contents of the folders may include offprints and copies of papers sent to Fröhlich, correspondence, Fröhlich's manuscript notes, experimental data and transparencies. Topics include 'ATP', 'Biology', 'Bio Magnetics', 'Bone Healing (Electricity) Bioelectricity & Regeneration', 'Cell Water …', 'Coli', 'Dielectrics …', 'Electricity' and 'Enzymes …'. There are two major sequences of offprints, preprints, duplicated typescript copies of papers and similar by others, an alphabetical sequence arranged by author, covering the period, 1959-1987, and a chronological sequence, 1934-1990. There may be annotation and marginal emphasis and underscoring by Fröhlich and an occasional manuscript note or letter found with the papers. A number of bound copies of theses were found with Fröhlich's archive. Those supervised at Liverpool, copies of which are already available at the University, have not been retained with the archive. Nine theses have been retained with the archive including a number supervised by Fröhlich at the University of Bristol.

Section C, Publications, covers the period, 1930-1992. There is a copy of the full bibliography prepared by G.J. Hyland after Fröhlich's death, correspondence and papers relating to his own publications and editorial and advisory work undertaken by him for publishers and journals. The great bulk of the material relating to Fröhlich's own publications is for Biological coherence and response to external stimuli published by Springer-Verlag in 1988. Fröhlich acted as editor of this volume and contributed the opening chapter on 'Theoretical Physics and Biology'. The material includes Fröhlich's correspondence with publisher and contributors, drafts of his contribution, copies of contributions of others, and background material including offprints. The most substantial group of editorial correspondence is with Oxford University Press, 1967-1989, for whom Fröhlich was an editor for the series Physics and Chemistry of Materials. There is also a folder of correspondence relating to Collective Phenomena, 1971-1985. Fröhlich was Editor-in-Chief of this 'international journal of discussion and speculation'.

Section D, Lectures, includes both lectures by Fröhlich and others, 1946-1983. The characteristic representation of Fröhlich's lectures is duplicated typescript notes taken by members of the audience, for example graduate students, or transcribed from a sound recording. Examples are lectures on 'The Many Body Problem' Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, Fall semester 1956, 'Lectures Macro/Micro', Instituut-Lorentz for theoretical physics, University of Leiden, The Netherlands, 1966 and 'The Connection between Microscopic and Macroscopic Physics', University of Alberta, Edmonton, November 1968. Other physicists whose lectures are represented by a similar record include J. Bardeen, C. Møller, L. Tisza, W. Weidlich and C.N. Yang.

Section E, Visits and conferences, presents a substantial but not comprehensive record of visits during the last twenty-five years of Fröhlich's life. Of particular interest are a series of multi-destination visits to North America, which included regular stays at the University of California, San Diego and the University of Alberta, Edmonton and a sequence of conferences organised by the Institut de la Vie on Theoretical Physics and Biology initiated in 1967 (10th conference 1988). By contrast his regular visits to Germany, for example to the University of Stuttgart and the Max Planck Institute, Stuttgart, are not very well represented in the documentary record.

Section F, Correspondence, is a significant record of Fröhlich's scientific connections, especially in the last two decades of his life. There is a substantial alphabetical sequence of scientific correspondence covering the period 1952-1990, though few of the individual correspondents are represented by more than a handful of letters. Miscellaneous sequences of correspondence include 'an original deposit' of papers made by Fröhlich to Liverpool University in 1973, the contents of a bulky folder inscribed 'Miscellaneous', 1963-1990, and the contents of a folder inscribed 'Bio Correspondence', 1973-1986. The 'original deposit' of papers comprised just three letters including a characteristic letter from R.P. Feynman, September 1954, which Fröhlich described as laying 'the foundation to what is now a very wide line of research'. There is also a group of references and recommendations, 1974-1990.

There is also an index of correspondents available in the hard copy list provided by NCUACS.

Date:1930 - [1996]
Reference Number:D56
Access Conditions:Some material in this collection is closed access.

Arranged into the following sections:

  • D56/A Biographical
  • D56/B Research
  • D56/C Publications
  • D56/D Lectures
  • D56/E Visits and Conferences
  • D56/F Correspondence
Custodial History:The papers of Professor Herbert Fröhlich were received for cataloguing from Special Collections and Archives, Sydney Jones Library, University of Liverpool in September 2007. Returned to Liverpool, March 2008.
Finding Aids:A finding aid is available for consultation in the Special Collections and Archives Reading Room.NCUACS catalogue no. 159/2/08
Related Material:Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Dept of Western Manuscripts - Correspondence relating to the Society for Protection of Science and Learning
Access Restrictions:Reproduction and licensing rules available on request
Bibliography:[Book] Herbert Fröhlich A Physicist ahead of his timeedited by G. J. Hyland and Peter Rowlands Published by The University of Liverpool, 2006.
Biographical/Administrative Information:

Fröhlich was born in Rexingen in the Black Forest in Germany on 9 December 1905, and grew up in Munich. After leaving school at 15 he spent a brief period in commerce. In 1927 he entered the University of Munich as an undergraduate where, under Arnold Sommerfeld's direction, he obtained his D.Phil (for work on the photoelectric effect in metals) after only three years and without taking a first degree. He then became Privatdozent at the University of Freiburg where his role was to introduce modern physics. He was dismissed from his post on the election of Hitler to power and left Germany for the USSR in 1933 to work as a 'foreign expert' in A.F. Joffe's Physico-Technical Institute in Leningrad. Here he worked on his book Elektronentheorie der Metalle (Springer 1936, 1969). In 1935 the political situation obliged him to flee the USSR and he found refuge in the Bristol Physics Department where A.M. Tyndall obtained for him a stipend from the Academic Assistance Council. Here he collaborated with fellow refugee W. Heitler in work on nuclear forces and with N.F. Mott and others on solid-state physics. One of his principal areas of activity was dielectrics in which he was supported by the Electrical and Allied Industries Research Association, and in which he became an acknowledged world authority. This led to his book Theory of Dielectrics (1949, 1958). Fröhlich remained at Bristol, where he was promoted to a Readership, until 1948. He then accepted an invitation from Sir James Chadwick to move to Liverpool where he directed an independent research department of theoretical physics to 1973. Here his main achievements were in our understanding of nuclear physics/elementary particles, polarons, the theory of superconductivity, the connexion between micro- and macro-physics, and biology. After his retirement he served for three years as Professor of Solid State Electronics at the University of Salford. Also in retirement, from 1979 until his death, he was a foreign member of the Max Planck Institut für Festkörperforschung in Stuttgart, where he regularly made extended visits, as he did also to many other parts of the world, lecturing and discussing physics.

Fröhlich's career in theoretical physics spanned some 60 years. Although he made many fundamental contributions, the most influential was his introduction around 1950 of methods of quantum field theory into solid-state physics, which revolutionised the development of the subject. One of the key theoretical challenges of the time was to explain the origin of superconductivity. From his earlier experience (with Heitler) with the meson theory of nuclear forces, Fröhlich realised that there could be an attraction between electrons arising from their mutual interaction (mediated by an exchange of virtual phonons) with the metal's lattice vibrations. This interaction immediately accounted for the isotope effect and formed the basis of a complete understanding of superconductivity somewhat later by others.

Later Fröhlich introduced some of the concepts of modern theoretical physics to biology. 'In 1967 he introduced to biology the quantum mechanical concept of coherence, which in superconductivity manifests itself in macroscopic wave functions. Coherence, he discovered, can be imposed upon the dipolar field associated with the vibration of cell membranes provided energy is provided to the system above a certain rate. These coherent excitations entail a novel mechanism of long-range selective biological control with possible implications for understanding the mechanisms involved in cancer. Much supportive experimental evidence from microwave spectroscopy has already accumulated and continues to do so. Fröhlich's novel ideas are now being developed by others and have most recently been invoked in connection with consciousness'. (Obituary by G.J. Hyland, Physics World, March 1991).

Fröhlich was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1951, was awarded the Max Planck Medal of the German Physical Society in 1972, and received numerous honorary degrees worldwide.

In 1950 he married an American postgraduate philosophy student, and later artist, Fanchon Aungst. He died on 23 January 1991.

A more detailed account of his career and research may be found in N.F. Mott's memoir in Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, vol. 38 (1992), 147-162. See also Herbert Fröhlich, FRS. A physicist ahead of his time edited by G.J. Hyland and P. Rowlands (2006).