Sous-fonds UA 53 (A12-71) - University of Manitoba Cyclotron Laboratory sous-fonds

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University of Manitoba Cyclotron Laboratory sous-fonds

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  • Technical drawing
  • Textual record
  • Graphic material
  • Object

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  • Parallel titles and other title information: The Cyclotron Laboratory was also later known as the Accelerator Centre.

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CA UMASC UA 53 (A12-71)

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  • 1957-1989 (Creation)
    Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Manitoba

Physical description area

Physical description

0.03 m of textual records
1,261 technical drawings
5 artifacts
3 photographs

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Administrative history

One of the original departments created along with the Faculty of Science when it was established in 1904 was the Department of Physics and Mineralogy. However, it was only in 1911, that the Department of Physics was officially established. The department's faculty was composed of Prof. Frank Allen, Asst. Professor McClung, and a demonstrator named Mr. T.A. Neelin. The first graduate degree was awarded by the department in 1922 and the first doctorate in 1930. In 1950, the Department of Mathematical Physics was established and by 1956, the Physics department became the leading centre for nuclear spectroscopy and its application in the whole of Canada. The department acquired its own building, the Allen Physics Building, when it was completed in 1960. In 1965, the Departments of Physics and Mathematical Physics were amalgamated due to their overlapping mandates.

Concurrently, by 1910, the first two courses in astronomy were offered. The expansion gained by the astronomers led to an amalgamation with the Mathematics department due to its close research relations, and the two departments formed the Department of Mathematics and Astronomy in 1911. From 1920 until the mid-1940s, four undergraduate courses, along with one graduate course, were being taught by astronomy. In 1964, the astronomers moved into the newly constructed University College, complete with a small observation deck. With the finanical assistance of the Charles E. Merrill Trust of New York in April 1965, the University built a planetarium that became the first modern planetarium in Winnipeg and was opened in November of 1965. By the 1990s, the ties of cosmology to nuclear and particle physics played a part in the astronomers leaving the Mathematics department. The astronomers joined the Physics department in 1997, amalgamating into the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Custodial history

After the project came to an end in 1989, the Cyclotron Project records remained abandoned in storage within the Physics Department at the University of Manitoba. In 2012, the records were rediscovered and placed in the custody of Jasper McKee, who donated them to University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections to prevent their destruction.

Scope and content

The Cyclotron Laboratory sous-fonds documents the research and construction of the cyclotron as well as additional changes over the project’s lifetime. The sous-fonds contains four series: Cyclotron Technical Drawings, Research Materials, a cyclotron drawing index and Photographs.

The cyclotron was conceptualized in 1957 when the head of the Physics Department, B.G. Whitmore, proposed the construction of a cyclotron at the University of Manitoba based on the prototype at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). With a $70,000 initial grant release, the construction began underneath the parking lot adjacent to the Allen Physics building on the Fort Garry Campus in 1959. Although the original proposal of the design was based on the UCLA cyclotron, almost all the design detail was completed by the staff at the University of Manitoba. The cyclotron vault, the shielding and the two experimental areas together occupied 5,000 square feet, while the control room and the electrical room took up another 2,000 square feet of floor area. The cyclotron was officially opened in 1965. It was the second cyclotron in Canada and the first in Western Canada.

The U of M cyclotron was considered a pioneer model of cyclotron design during that period, it being a spiral-ridge or sector-focused cyclotron. The sector-focused cyclotron is one of the most useful tools of nuclear physicists. Being the only negative hydrogen ion cyclotron operating between 20 MeV and 50 MeV in North America, it could generate beams of high quality and intensity in order to tackle some of the physics problems in atomic and subatomic physics that require such facilities. Axial injection was introduced to separate the ion source from the cyclotron itself, the source being housed in a building at ground level while the cyclotron was situated two floors below. This made it possible to improve the performance of the ion source and to develop a source of polarized ions without having to deal with the high radiation environment at the centre of the cyclotron.

Over the next two decades after the cyclotron opened, it attracted various physicists, engineers and students to the university to help assist with the project and made it a major turning point within the department.

In 1986, under the directorship of Dr. Jasper McKee, the cyclotron’s uses expanded to other areas of research other than nuclear physics. The Cyclotron Laboratory changed its name to Accelerator Centre to serve as the University Research Centre where interdisciplinary and applied research could be carried out in conjunction with external laboratories and/or the private sector. The Accelerator Centre ceased operation in 1989.

Notes area

Physical condition

Blueprints faded.
Some technical drawings faded and in brittle condition.

Immediate source of acquisition

Acquired from Jasper McKee with the permission of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.


The sous-fonds is arranged into four series: photograph collection, textual records, technical drawings and objects. The technical drawings are numbered.

Language of material

  • English
  • German

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Restrictions on access

None. However, fragile, brittle materials should be handled with care.

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Finding aids

Index of the technical drawings available.

An online finding aid is available at the link below:

UA 53 (A12-71)

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No further accrual is expected.

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Created February 18, 2014 by Mary Grace Golfo and Nicole Courrier; Edited by Dr. Jim Birchall on August 26,2014.

Language of description

  • English

Script of description


Connor, R.D. The Expanding World of Physics at Manitoba: A Hundred Years of Progress Department of Physics and Astronomy University of Manitoba. Winnipeg: Department of Physics and Astronomy, 2004.

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