Origin and Early History of the
Particle Theory "Christmas Meetings"
Gordon Moorhouse and David Morgan
The laboratory of the National Institute for Research in Nuclear Science (NIRNS), later to be successively renamed the Rutherford Laboratory and then the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), was founded primarily to build and host a 7 GeV proton accelerator. By late 1961, the buildings and organization, though smaller and different from now, were well advanced. The organization included an Applied Physics Division, mainly concerned with accelerator and computing applications, headed by the accelerator theorist W Walkinshaw.
By late 1961 the Division also comprised the only two particle theorists (R G Moorhouse and D Morgan) in the Laboratory and it was Walkinshaw's initiative to depute one of them (RGM) to invite and organise a small number of British particle theorists to an expenses-paid informal "Christmas" symposium at NIRNS with research talks on varied particle topics. The symposium was held from 18th to 20th December 1961 with 15 to 20 participants in a NIRNS meeting room and with non-local participants comfortably accommodated in the Randolph Hotel, Oxford. Among the speakers were: B H Bransden (Glasgow), D V Bugg (Cambridge), J Hamilton (University College London), A W Hendry (Glasgow), C Lovelace (Imperial), S Mandelstam (Birmingham), P T Matthews (Imperial), J E Paton (Birmingham) and J C Polkinghorne (Cambridge).
This 1961 event was the first Christmas Theory Meeting and sequels, with expanded participation, have been held every year since, with two possible exceptions, 1964 and 1966, for which we have presently no written record either public or personal. Throughout the 1960's (as indeed until recently) the meetings were organised by Rutherford Laboratory theorists, whose number increased somewhat through the decade. Also R H Dalitz (Oxford) was a particle physics consultant to the Laboratory from 1963; R J N Phillips was particle theory group leader from 1967. A brief record of the 1962-1969 meetings follows:-
History composed by R G Moorhouse and D Morgan, April 2004
Editor's Note: if you attended some of the early meetings and would like to add some information or comments, please send an email to James Stirling at IPPP, Durham. All comments received will be placed on this web page.
from Peter Landshoff:
I remember that the 1969 meeting was when I first heard about deep inelastic lepton-hadron scattering. Don Perkins talked about it, but one of the other speakers did too. From those on the list, I cannot imagine which it could have been, though. It made me go home and construct a Veneziano-like model for DIS which satisfied Bjorken scaling. John Polkinghorne says that a gap is not improbable in the early stages because "the RL management were apt to question the need for an annual theoretical junket (as they saw it)".
from Richard Roberts:
As a graduate student I gave a talk at the Christmas meeting in 1965. It was a very low key affair, Dick Dalitz gave a talk but there were several talks from students like me.
from David Bugg:
I remember the first 'Theory' meeting. I gave a 10 or 15 minute talk on fitting the real part of the nucleon-nucleon forward scattering amplitude using dispersion relations - work with Tony Carter. Paul Matthews was there and asked a question about the deuteron pole. To everyone's amusement, I had to write an elaborate formula on the blackboard, since we did not have transparencies in those days - only slides.
from David Fairlie:
I remember staying at the Randolph hotel for the first Christmas meeting with around some 20 participants. If my memory serves me correctly, Steve Weinberg was also one of the star speakers in 1961, but I may be wrong. We all expected Stanley Mandelstam to speak about some further developments of the Mandelstam representation, but he astonished us all by talking instead about a path integral approach to quantum gravity! Claude Lovelace presented one of the first, if not the first phenomenological fits using Regge poles.