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Archival Collections

Picture of Bell Telephone patents and papers
Bell Telephone Laboratories patents and papers of the George C. Southworth Collection.

The Niels Bohr Library & Archives is the official repository for the permanently valuable records of the American Institute of Physics (AIP). Otherwise, the Archives does not try to acquire collections for itself, but seeks to preserve them at the most appropriate repository. The Archives will at times accept an important collection for which a better repository cannot be found (if a more appropriate repository is later developed, such a collection may be transferred there). All the collections are housed in modern climate-controlled facilities, and they are cataloged online in the International Catalog of Sources for History of Physics and Allied Fields (ICOS). In addition, finding aids for many of our collections are online and indexed.

Among the Archives’ holdings of AIP records are the records of the Directors of the Institute and of divisions such as Statistics, Education, Public Information and Publications, and the magazine Physics Today. The Archives also includes some records from most of AIP’s Member Societies, such as the American Physical Society and the American Astronomical Society. Many activities of the world scientific community since the founding of the American Physical Society in 1899, and especially since AIP’s founding in 1931, are documented in these files.

Some major collections of personal and professional papers held by the Archives are those of :

  • Samuel A. Goudsmit, atomic scientist and editor of the Physical Review UPDATE: As of July, 2011, this collection is fully digitized.
  • Lew Kowarski, a major figure in European nuclear energy development
  • William F. Meggers, noted National Bureau of Standards spectroscopist
  • John Van Vleck, renowned theorist
  • Other important figures in the scientific and institutional development of modern physics, including Léon Brillouin, Karl Darrow, Isidor Fankuchen, Fritz Reiche and Robert W. Wood

In addition to the holdings of original materials, the Archives has a large number of unpublished collections on microfilm, including:

  • Archives for the History of Quantum Physics, which includes papers of Niels Bohr, Hendrik A. Lorentz, Ernest Rutherford, etc.
  • Sources for the History of Modern Astrophysics, including papers of Ejnar Hertzsprung, Edwin Hubble, Karl Schwarzschild, etc.
  • Collections of correspondence of many others, including James C. Maxwell, Robert A. Millikan, Henri Poincaré, etc.

Since the early 1960s, the Center has been collecting information on physics-related topics, including biographical and autobiographical information on physicists, subject files on physics, and institutions involved in physics.

Numerous American physicists, selected on criteria of honors, publications, and reputation, were asked to furnish biographical information on themselves, including a bibliography of their writings. Over the years, other names and nationalities were added to this list, and the collections now contain information on some 1,500 scientists.

As part of the initial project, a small number of individuals were asked to write autobiographies; others were written spontaneously. The manuscript biographies, ranging from a few pages to book-length works, now number well over 200.