Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Department of Scientific and Industrial Research

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Before the twentieth century the government was little concerned with scientific enquiry.

By 1914 there were a number of small governmental bodies with specialised scientific interests but little organised effort towards the application of discoveries made in fundamental research and no public organisation concerned with the application of science to industry.

1915 The President of the Board of Education presented to Parliament a white paper on the establishment of a permanent organisation for the promotion of scientific and industrial research. A Committee for Scientific and Industrial Research was set up, assisted by an Advisory Council. A scheme was devised for encouraging groups of firms to set up co-operative industrial research associations.

1916 The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research was created as a separate entity funded by the public purse.

The department was responsible for the organisation, development and encouragement of scientific and industrial research and the dissemination of its results. It worked by encouraging and supporting scientific research in universities, technical colleges and other institutions, establishing and developing its own research organisations for investigation and research relative to the advancement of trade and industry, and taking steps to further the practical application of the results of research. It could make grants for the purposes of any of these functions.

Large areas of research remained the responsibility of other bodies - aviation, atomic energy, agriculture, defence, health and medicine, meteorology.

Over the years that followed DSIR assumed responsibility for existing institutions:

It also created a number of research organisations, including large laboratories for special fields of work:

From 1941 to 1945 the department was responsible for atomic energy research, in an organisation known as the Directorate of Tube Alloys.

1947 A Scottish branch office of the department was opened in Edinburgh in September 1947

In the 1950s the department embarked on research in the human sciences in relation to the needs of industry, undertaken from 1953 to 1957 in collaboration with the Medical Research Council; in 1958 the department's research programme was transferred from its Headquarters Office to the new Warren Spring Laboratory.

1953 A Welsh branch office of the department was opened in Cardiff

1956 The advisory council was abolished and executive power was vested in a new Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

1959 The 3 food research establishments (the Pest Infestation Laboratory, Low Temperature Research Station and Ditton Laboratory) were transferred to the Agricultural Research Council.

1963 A Northern branch office was opened at Newcastle upon Tyne.

1965 The department was abolished by the Science and Technology Act 1965, which dispersed its functions over a number of government departments and other bodies.

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Sources of Information

  • National Archives [1]