AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXIII , No. 1, Spring 2001


History of Science Documentation in the
Lyndon B. Johnson Library

by Mary Knill, Archivist

Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964, Mission Control, Cape Kennedy
President Lyndon B. Johnson on the telephone at Mission Control, Cape Kennedy, September 15, 1964. Photo courtesy of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library. Photo by O.J. Rapp. Click to see a larger version.

When Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office on November 22, 1963, the United States was in a race with the Soviets to put a man on the Moon, as well as embroiled in the Cold War. The race to accomplish a manned lunar landing by 1970 prompted advances in nuclear energy, jet propulsion, development of synthetic materials and computer technology. Other areas of science that grew in the 1960s were radiological health, irradiation in agriculture, meteorology, electronics, communications and communications satellites and supersonic transport.

Collections at the LBJ Library that are useful to researchers of science and science policy include the White House Central Files (the main filing unit for the White House) and the National Security File, which contains the majority of material pertaining to foreign policy issues. White House Central Files subject areas of possible interest include atomic energy, civil aviation, international organizations, outer space, peace, and science. Materials of particular interest in the National Security File include the Subject and Agency Files, the Files of Spurgeon Keeny and the Files of Charles Johnson. Spurgeon Keeny served concurrently on the National Security Council and with the Office of Science and Technology. Charles Johnson handled issues concerning arms control, atomic energy, space and other scientific matters, serving as liaison between the Atomic Energy Commission and NASA.

The Library contains many other materials documenting the interplay of science and public policy during the Johnson years. The Administrative History collection, created to document the history of executive agencies during the Johnson administration, includes histories of the Office of Science and Technology, NASA, the National Aeronautic and Space Council, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Other collections of interest are the Recordings of Johnson's Telephone Conversations, Office Files of White House Aides, papers of the President's Advisory Committee on Supersonic Transport, the collection of oral history interviews, and various Personal Papers collections, especially the papers of Donald Hornig, Director of the Office of Science and Technology and LBJ's science advisor.

Also of interest are Johnson's pre-presidential papers. The Senate Papers include documentation on LBJ's role as chairman of the Armed Services Preparedness Subcommittee, which investigated the U.S. satellite program following the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957, and his roles as chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Space and Astronautics and the Special Committee's successor, the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences. The Vice Presidential Papers and the Vice Presidential Security File document LBJ's role as chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council. Those searching for the official records of the Preparedness Subcommittee, the Space Committees, and the Space Council, however, should contact the National Archives at (301) 713-6800 or by e-mail at

For more information, researchers should refer to the Library's Web site at This site includes copies of relevant reference guides and some transcripts of oral history interviews. The Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum is one of ten presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. Scholars may inquire about research by writing the LBJ Library, 2313 Red River St., Austin, Texas, 78705, or by e-mail at

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AIP History CenterCenter for History of Physics
Phone: 301-209-3165
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