Fonds 1675 - James D. Prentice fonds

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Reference code

UTA 1675


James D. Prentice fonds


  • 1936-2018 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

7.02 m of textual and graphic records (41 boxes)

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Biographical history

James Prentice came to the University of Toronto in 1959 upon completing his Ph.D. in Physics at Glasgow University. His early career concentrated in the area of nuclear physics that included numerous publications in collaboration with Kenneth McNeill (see B1994-0004) and a short stint at Chalk River in the summer of 1962. A sabbatical at the Rutherford High Energy Laboratory in 1963-64 marked a turning point as his research interests shifted to the study of particle physics.

Through the remainder of the 1960s up until about 1972, he, along with University of Toronto colleague Dick Steenberg, participated in the Bubble Chamber experiments at the U.S. Argonne National Laboratory, thus becoming Canadian pioneers in the experimental high energy physics. In 1969, they were responsible for having POLLY, an automatic measuring machine, the first of its kind in Canada, installed at the University of Toronto. By 1972, the high energy physics (HEP) group at the University of Toronto was growing and included T.S. Yoon, Tony Key and Ed West.

Prof. Prentice was a member of several international research teams. In the early 1970s, he conducted experiments at the National Accelerator Laboratory (later Fermi NAL, the world’s largest accelerator at Batavia Illinois). There, he was involved in an ongoing experiment to measure the scattering of high energy photons on protons (E25a), the results of which are still consulted in the Particle Data Table. In the late 1970s, he was part of a team that was the first worldwide to successfully measure the lifetime of charmed particles (E531). Throughout the 1980s he was active in the ARGUS Collaboration at the Deutsches Elekronen Synchrotrone (DESY) in Germany of which he published widely.

Apart from his research in high energy physics, Prof. Prentice also taught at both the undergraduate and graduate level, supervising nearly twenty doctoral graduates. He also taught popular physics courses through the School of Continuing Education. He has been an active member of several social and peace activist groups including Science for Peace, Canadian Concerned Scientists and Faculty Committee on Vietnam. In 1995, he retired as Professor Emeritus from the University of Toronto, moving to Victoria B.C. with his wife and historian Alison Prentice. He died 16 January 2018.

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Scope and content

Records in this fonds document Prof. Prentice’s career from his early years as a graduate student up until his retirement in 1995 with special emphasis on the 1960s to the mid 1980s. The bulk of the records (Series 1, 4, 5 and 6) focus on his pioneering research in physics and the various scientific collaborations in which he took part. These records, that include correspondence, notes, minutes of meetings and agenda of associations, papers and addresses not only document Prof. Prentice’s career but reveal much about the international co-operation among scientist in the world of experimental particle physics. They also document the various associations, committees and groups that facilitated this co-operation. Series 2, 3, 9 document his role as a teacher and faculty member of the Department of Physics. Records relating to his own education can be found in Series 7 while his activities as a social activist are documented in Series 8.

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Conditions governing access

The following series contain restrictions. See Series description of details. Please consult the University Archivist.
Series 2 B2005-0023/008 files relating to grievances and B2015-0019/003 are closed for 30 years of latest date of file activity
Series 9 Closed for 30 years from latest date of file activity.
Series 12 Closed until 2029.
All other records are open.

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Dates of creation revision deletion

-Original finding aids by Marnee Gamble
-Added to AtoM by Karen Suurtamm, May 2016
-Updated by Marnee Gamble, Summer 2016




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