Archives of Brian Powell

Identity Statement [Top]

Reference code(s)



Archives of Brian Powell


1951 - 1989

Level of description


Extent of the unit of description

44 Items, 28 Boxes, 3 linear metres

Context [Top]

Name of creator

Brian Williamson Powell (1934 -)

Biographical history

Brian Williamson Powell was born at Welwyn Garden City (England) on the 18th March 1934.

He graduated in physics in 1954 at the University of Manchester. From 1954 to 1955, still in Manchester, he joined the Anthony Newth group in order to work in the field of Cosmic Ray Physics. After working in the same field for the Imperial College of Science and Technology (University of London). He was awarded a Research Fellowship by the DSIR in 1957 to continue working on equipment for the semi-automatic measurement of bubble chamber photographs. In 1959 he obtained the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Cosmic Ray Physics. For the period from 1959 to 1969, he joined in the development of the CERN IEPS (Instrument pour l'Evaluation des Photographies).

Also involved in the development of the future Hough-Powell device (the HPD), Paul Hough came to CERN at about the same period. At the end of 1959, together they talked about Hough's ambition to find better ways of measuring photographs. They came up with the idea of what was initially called IEP-X and later became the HPD. In 1960, they developed and presented the basis of a technique for the automatic exploration of photographs under on-line computer control. This method allows faster measurement and analysis of bubble chamber photographs. Its construction and programming developed form with the collaboration between the Laboratories of Berkeley, Brookhaven, CERN and Rutherford.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Received from Brian Powell, 27 September 1999.

Content & Structure [Top]

Scope and content

The documents in this collection were created or compiled by Brian Powell. They deal with the development of the Hough-Powell Device (the HPD). The period covered by these documents begins with the invention of the HPD machine and continues with its development and functioning.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information

Nothing was destroyed.


No further accruals are expected.

System of arrangement

All items have been kept in the order in which they were received from Brian Powell.They are arranged as follows in groups, and within the groups in chronological order.

The organization of the collection:


Correspondence, reports, notes, etc.
September 1959 to November 1989

CERN-ARCH-BWP-20 to 23

Reports and documents relevant to HPD
January 1951 to January 1988

CERN-ARCH-BWP-24 to 40

Books from Brian Powell's collection
July 1962 to April 1974

CERN-ARCH-BWP-41 to 43

Notebooks used during the HPD development
September 1960 to November 1962


Tape recording of Kowarski interviewing Paul Hough in 1975

Conditions of access and use [Top]

Conditions governing access

See file level description and the CERN operational circular No 3: rules applicable to archival material and archiving at CERN. In general, records on any subject that are over 30 years old, and all records of a purely scientific nature, may be consulted.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copyright is retained by CERN, no reproduction without permission.

Language / scripts of material

Most of the material is written in English, French or Dutch.

Finding aids

Listed to file level in the CERN Archive Database.

Allied materials [Top]

Related units of description

Files related to the Nuclear Physics Division (NP) and the HPD machine, and Bubble Chambers (CERN-ARCH-LK-107), HPD General. File 1 to 4 (CERN-ARCH-LK-102 to 105), DD (Data Handling Division) - File 3, 5, 8 (CERN-ARCH-LK-13, 15 and 8), Film Analysis Equipment II (CERN-ARCH-MGNH-3)

Description control [Top]

Archivist's note

Description prepared by Kieran Pavel.

Date(s) of description

Geneva, the 1st February 2001. Revised 2007.

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