Skip to main content



  • How to

This section illustrates exceptionally well the appropriateness of Peierls's title Bird of Passage for his autobiography, covering as it does principally the period after 1974 when he and Genia could indulge their love of travel and the nomadic life.


  • Creation: 1938, 1966-1994

Language of Materials

  • English

Biographical / Historical

There were a few fixed points, such as the part-time professorship which Peierls called 'one foot in Seattle' (dealt with in section H), regular visits to Orsay and Saclay, and attendance at the annual Pugwash Conferences which are documented in section C. Occasionally Peierls would accept longer commitments of several months, in Sydney, Leiden or Brazil for example, and he and Genia usually spent the summer months in their Oxford home. Generally speaking, however, they arranged a number of short visits in a careful sequence which allowed them to circumnavigate the world more or less annually. Many of these visits, especially as the Peierls got into their nomadic stride, required lengthy planning and correspondence extending over several years. They are also sometimes difficult to date precisely, and are certainly not all fully documented. In this respect Peierls's circular letters to his family and friends (MS. 11619/2/A.26-27) are invaluable in keeping track of their movements.

Genia Peierls's health gave cause for concern during the summer of 1985 and deteriorated rapidly in October. Peierls kept his engagement in Manchester (MS. 11619/54/J.66) without her but other plans had to be postponed. Her condition, diagnosed as a non-malignant brain tumour causing excess fluid pressure, was surgically relieved by draining. She made a rapid recovery and they were able to resume their nomadic life together until, in the following October 1986, an unexpected cerebral haemorrhage occurred from which she did not recover.

After her death there is a gap in the foreign engagements, but Peierls soon resumed his travels and continued them with little slackening until his own health became more frail.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom