Lorna Arnold has led a remarkable life. Born in 1915, at the age of 96, she has just release her memoirs, My Short Century.   After a childhood on a farm in rural England, in 1934 she received a scholarship to study English Literature at Bedford College, University of London. She graduated from Bedford College, London in 1937. After graduation, she trained as a teacher at Cambridge University, and spent one year teaching in secondary school. She was called to serve in the government during World War II, and did not return to teaching.  She first served in the War Office, working as part of Army Council Secretariat. There she took on increasing responsibilities, many related to supply and logistics for the war effort. During this time, she lived in London, and like many Londoners, experienced the hazards of the German air raids on London.

In 1944, she transferred to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as their first woman diplomat and worked with the guidelines the European Advisory Commission (EAC), making arrangements for the postwar administration of Germany. In August 1945, Lorna posted to Berlin as part of the Allied Control Council, a hazardous undertaking just after the fall of Germany. For a time, she slept with a pistol under her pillow.

Lorna worked with her counterparts from France, the US, and Russia to coordinate administering the districts and supplying foods to the population. Britain had very limited resources at the end of World War II, and in 1946, Britain and the US agreed to administer their districts jointly, under a scheme called Bizonia. In 1946, Lorna transferred to British Embassy in Washington, D.C., and worked with Americans to administer Bizonia. During her time in Washington, she had a desk at the Pentagon.

In 1949, she returned to England, and married Robert Arnold, an American musician and recording engineer, whom she had met in Washington, DC. She had two sons, Geoffrey and Stephen Arnold. In 1955, her husband returned to the United States, and she became a single parent. She returned to work, and after a variety of jobs, including a brief stint at a biscuit factory, she joined the UKAEA in 1959.
She worked on the Windscale Accident Commission. Later, she would write a book about the Windscale accident.

In 1967 Lorna joined the UKAEA Historian’s Office, initially working with the official historian, Margaret Gowing. Lorna jointly authored the second part of the UKAEA official history with Professor Gowing. The monumental two volume treatise, Independence and Deterrence: Britain and Atomic Energy, 1945-1952, which examined in detail the policy and execution of the UK atomic bomb project during 1945-1952 – the official history of the development and production of the first atomic bombs in this country was published in 1974. Lorna Arnold took over the role of official historian of the UKAEA, and wrote various books and articles on British nuclear programs, both civil and military.

Lorna was first introduced to Scilla Elworthy, one of the the leaders of the Oxford Research Group, one of the UK’s leading of advocates for alternatives to global conflict, in the 1980s by her friend, physicist Rudolph Peierls. She was active in the movement for the nuclear freeze. She has more recently participated in a series of video presentations on issues of nuclear weapons and energy for Talkworks [1], an organization focused on dangers associated with nuclear weapons.

In 2012, Lorna, at age 96, published her memoirs, entitled My Short Century, in which she describes her remarkable life from living on a rural farm, to friendships with noted figures in the world of nuclear research and development such as William Penney,Christopher Hinton and Rudi Peierls.

Lorna Arnold died on March 25, 2014. She had been able to live in her own home in Oxford until a week before her death, thanks in part to the support of her many friends and family members.


In 1976, Lorna was honored as an Officer of the  Order of the British Empire(OBE). She is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and a Fellow of the [[Institute of Contemporary British History]]. She is a recipient of an Honorary Fellowship of the Society for Radiological Protection.

In 2009, she received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Reading, for her work in nuclear history.


One response to “Bio

  1. Thanks to Graham Farmelo for sending me here. I have fond memories of working with Lorna on various projects at New Scientist, and reading the masterworks with Margeret Gowing. Time to write a history of the fusion adventure?

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