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Alan Hodgson

The value of collaboration for historical research

The recent Historical Group Research Day opened new avenues of research for Dr Alan Hodgson

Screenshot 2022 04 18 110100

The recent RPS Historical Group Research Day held in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University, presented a series of research papers of new and in-progress projects. In this blog piece Dr Alan Hodgson reports back on his presentation and why such days are valuable.

On the 2 April I presented this 1910 image as an item of work in progress. I had started to research the photographic work of two individuals in this image and I shared an initial hypothesis of the influences within this group. One specific area of interest was how knowledge of process work - the workflow of images for illustration in publications - had come into this group, apparently from nowhere. The subsequent discussion revealed a whole new avenue to research, illustrating the value of collaboration at events like the Research Day.

During the Q+A session Michael Prichard asked me about the lone female in the portrait. The image source labelled her as Miss M White but I had so far found no further mention of her in my preliminary studies. Michael correctly labelled her as Margaret White from an Imperial College archive and I was subsequently able to confirm this as I found a Margaret White in a listing of laboratory staff in 1912.

Michael’s Imperial College link provided me with some biographical detail which may prove to be pivotal to my research, and place Margaret at the centre of this story. Without this discussion I may well have missed this as it came from an unexpected direction. The benefit of sharing the initial thoughts early on in a project.

Margaret married Richard Bertram Fishenden (RBF), a name I recognised as an editor of the Penrose Annual, a printing journal that I have read for process work. A little digging revealed that in 1910 RBF was Head of Printing at the Manchester College of Technology so would be well acquainted with Process work. Margaret may have been the link that brought this Process work knowledge into the Rutherford group.

Michael’s input also revealed Margaret as a meteorologist, a link I had not made to the Rutherford group. Doing a search down this avenue revealed that Walter Makower (the Process plate user) and Margaret White published together in 1910, not on photographic technique but meteorology. As they were working together, and she had access to Process knowledge I suspect she may be the link I have been looking for.

The links through RBF and meteorology is something I may well have missed. I certainly plan to share more like this in the future and my thanks got to Michael Prichard for his help on this.

Alan Hodgson is continuing his research into process plates and the specialist plates used in the nuclear industry. He can be contacted at:

The next RPS Historical group Research Day, in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University, will be held in the autumn. Contact Janine Freeston for more information by email at:

Combined HG SHU Branding

Image: Ernest Rutherford and members of the Manchester University physical and electro-technical laboratories staff. From left to right, back row: W Eccles, S Kinoshita, R Rossi, W Kay (Rutherford's lab steward), G N Antonoff, E Marsden, W C Lantsberry. Middle row: F W Whaley, H C Greenwood, W Wilson, W Borodowski, Miss M White, E J Evans, H Geiger, T Tuomikoski. Sitting: S Russ, H Stansfield, R F Slade (in front), H Bateman, Professor A Schuster, Professor Ernest Rutherford, R Beattie, W A Harwood (in front), J N Pring, W Makower. Photographer unidentified. 

Ref: 1/2-072022-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22315619.