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Papers of Vivian Bowden, Lord Bowden of Chesterfield

Date range: 1930s–1989.

(Bertram) Vivian Bowden (1910–89) was a distinguished technologist and university administrator. After wartime work on radar, he joined Ferranti Ltd in 1950 as one of the first computer salesmen.

In 1953 he was appointed Principal of Manchester Municipal College of Technology. Bowden led the college through a period of rapid expansion, transforming it into one of the country’s leading technological universities, the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), founded in 1965.

Bowden was a prominent exponent of technocracy, in the era of the ‘white heat of technology’. Harold Wilson nominated him for a life peerage as Baron Bowden of Chesterfield in 1963 and appointed him minister for education and science after the 1964 general election.

After resigning from the Government in 1965, Bowden remained active in public life as a champion of higher education and advocate of the importance of science and technology.

Lord Bowden’s papers comprise his correspondence files and copies of his published writings.

The collection documents his involvement in higher education, politics and public life from the period of his appointment as Principal of Manchester Municipal College of Technology until his death.

It includes very little material on his life and work before this period, although there are some files on radar.

The Bowden papers are an important resource for a range of issues in post-war British history including:

  • debates on the nature and purpose of the universities, and relations between government and academe
  • government policies and practices on science and technology, and the politics of ‘technocracy’
  • the history of computing; aspects of the British economy, especially matters of industrial training, fiscal policy and inflation
  • wider political and economic conditions in Britain during the 1970s

Finding aids

Catalogue available online via ELGAR.


Main Library

Using the reading room in the Main Library