AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXI, No. 1, Spring 1999

 

History of Physics Documented in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library
by James W. Leyerzapf, Archivist

The Eisenhower Library holds in its archives substantial documentation relevant to the history of science, particularly science and public policy. During the 1950's the Cold War defined not only national security policy but also, to a significant degree, social policy. As science assumed a larger role in American life, the federal government did much to shape that role. Not surprisingly, researchers will find in the library s archives materials relating to missiles, space satellites, and nuclear weapons, including the development of the hydrogen or "super" bomb. Historians of physical science should note, however, that the library also holds papers and records pertaining to many other subjects, including high-energy physics, radiation and its human effects, high-temperature research, solar energy, radar, radio astronomy, geophysics, meteorology, oceanography, seismology, space exploration, nuclear-propelled aircraft, computers, electronics, the Van Allen Belt, saline water conversion, industrial uses of atomic energy, basic research (including documentation of the debate between scientists and policy officials about how much of the R & D budget should go toward basic research) and the role of the federal government in promoting the education of scientists and engineers. Please note that some materials relating to the subjects listed above, particularly to the design and production of nuclear weapons, are still security-classified.

The White House Office of the Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology symbolized the expanded role of science in public policy. James R. Killian and George B. Kistiakowsky served, successively, in this post from its creation in 1957 through the end of the administration. Furthermore, in 1957 President Eisenhower transferred to the White House the Science Advisory Committee that had been an arm of the Office of Defense Mobilization. The President s science adviser (Killian or Kistiakowsky) served as chairman of the Committee. During the Eisenhower administration such prominent scientists as Alan Waterman, Herbert York, Edwin H. Land, Edward M. Purcell, Jerome B. Wiesner, Isidore Rabi, Hans Bethe and Lloyd Berkner comprised this advisory group.

The records of the Special Assistant for Science and Technology (18 linear feet) and the records of the President s Science Advisory Committee (3 linear feet) are central to research at the Eisenhower Library on the history of science, particularly to studying the interface of science and public policy. Augmenting these collections are the Records of the Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, the National Security Council Staff Papers, the Records of the White House Staff Secretary, the Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower as President (the "Ann Whitman File"), and such related collections as the records of the President's Committee on Scientists and Engineers, the papers of former Sandia Corporation president Donald Quarles who served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Development, the papers of Clifford Cook Furnas who also served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for R & D, and the papers of Atomic Energy Commission chairman John McCone.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Library is one of ten presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration, an independent agency of the U.S. Government. Scholars may inquire about research by writing the Library, 200 S.E. 4th Street, Abilene, KS 67410 or calling 785-263-4751. E-mail should be sent to library@eisenhower.nara.gov. The library's website address is http://www.eisenhower.utexas.edu/.


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AIP History Center Center for History of Physics
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American Institute of Physics 2003 American Institute of Physics, One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740-3843. Email: aipinfo@aip.org Phone: 301-209-3100; Fax: 301-209-0843