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This paper is primarily concerned with the development of high speed photomultiplier tubes designed for nuclear physics research applications. The significant characteristics and parameters influencing the performance of high speed tubes are discussed with particular emphasis to rise time, transit time fluctuations, high gain and linearity throughout a wide range of anode currents. The performance of the well-known types 56AVP and 58AVP are described and in addition, a new tube type XP1020 which provides many outstanding features with regard to high speed performance. Finally, standard types for gamma ray spectrometry, low energy beta particle and soft X-ray detection are briefly discussed.