Columbia University Archives
 

Department of Physics Records, 1870-1983

Summary Information

Abstract

This collection contains records of the Physics Department of Columbia University and several of its affiliated research laboratories: the Columbia Radiation Laboratory, the Pupin Cyclotron Laboratory, the Nevis Cyclotron Laboratory, and the Pegram Nuclear Physics Laboratory.

At a Glance

Call No.: UA#0021
Bib ID 5849320 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Columbia University. Department of Physics
Title Department of Physics Records, 1870-1983
Physical Description 38 linear feet (38 record cartons)
Language(s) English .
Access

There are no restrictions on this collection.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Arrangement

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in 7 series.

Description

Summary

This collection contains records of the Physics Department of Columbia University and several of its affiliated research laboratories: the Columbia Radiation Laboratory, the Pupin Cyclotron Laboratory, the Nevis Cyclotron Laboratory, and the Pegram Nuclear Physics Laboratory. The records of the Columbia Radiation Laboratory comprise more than half the collection as a whole; and more than one quarter consists of the lab notebooks kept by Columbia physicists, including Nobel laureate Polykarp Kusch, Chien-Shiung Wu, their colleagues, associates, and students. This collection includes laboratory notebooks, blueprints and diagrams, correspondence and memoranda, contracts, grant proposals, research reports, classroom materials, reprints, subject files, and miscellaneous items.

  • Series I: Department Records

    This series consists of documents and materials of the Physics Department itself, as distinct from those of its associated research laboratories. Series I is divided into two sub-series.

  • Series II: Columbia Radiation Laboratory

    This is by far the largest series in the collection, comprising more than half of the total. It is also the most comprehensive, in that it broadly covers many aspects of the Columbia Radiation Laboratory's operations. Series II is divided into five sub-series.

  • Series III: Pupin Cyclotron Laboratory

    This short series, contained in record carton 28, is organized alphabetically by subject. Most of these materials relate to infrastructural problems relating to the laboratory. For example, folder 28.26 relates contracting work done in the mid-1950s to supply the laboratory with sufficient electrical power; folder 28.31 relates efforts to procure a spectrometer for the lab around the same time. These subject files include correspondence, notes, blueprints, diagrams, and other office records.

  • Series IV: Nevis Cyclotron Laboratory

    This short series, in record cartons 28–29, contains primarily of blueprints, photos, and photo negatives. These are organized in three groups. A first group, folders 28.34–29.11, consists of undated photos and photo negatives, organized by the physics researcher who ordered them. They are, for example, charts and diagrams prepared as figures in published research papers; in no case, however, is a record of their intended use preserved. A second group, folders 29.12–29.21, consists of blueprints organized by subject. Representative is a blueprint for "Plunger Assembly, H2 Bubble Chamber." The third group, folders 29.22–29.25, consists of blueprints, together with related correspondence, reports, and notes, related to the construction of a neutron velocity spectrometer at Nevis Laboratory, Irvington-on-Hudson, in the late 1950s.

  • Series V: Pegram Nuclear Physics Laboratory

    This short series, in record cartons 35–36 consists solely of a set of laboratory notebooks that recorded experimental results from research done at the Pegram Nuclear Physics Laboratory. All but one of the notebooks were identified by the researcher's name, the largest group being the four notebooks of Nickola Nickolic.

  • Series VI: Physics Research

    This series, spanning record cartons 29–35, collects together research materials from the Physics Department not connected to one of the affiliated research laboratories. Many of these materials seem to have been the research files of Professor Emerita Wu and her associates.

    This series contains three main groups of files. The first main group (folders 29.26–30.36) consists of lose-leaf laboratory notes foldered by research subject and organized alphabetically. For example, folder 29.38, "Cu64 Research," contains notes, charts and tables of figures related to research on Cu64.

    The second main group (folders 30.37–32.13) consists of paper and cloth bound lab notebooks similar to those described in sub-series II-c. The first nine of these (all cloth bound) belonged to Professor Wu herself, and date from 1944–1954. The next fourteen belonged to named associates of Wu, and are sorted alphabetically by the name of the owner. Some of these are additionally given topical titles, as for example "Beta Ray Spectroscopy." The remaining dozen were also owned by Wu associates, but were not labeled with the owner's name. Some of these are titled, as for example "He3, d Reaction," but some are not.

    The third and largest group of folders in this series (folders 32.14–35.8) consists of a lengthy set of "diagram files." These "diagrams" are blueprints, tables, graphs, flow charts, electrical schematics, and so on. The diagrams are often labeled, but only sporadically dated. Each of diagram is stamped "Columbia University Nuclear Physics Research" and assigned a "DWG. NO." The diagrams number (with some gaps) from 1197 to 5581; the number order is only very loosely chronological. Representative diagrams (from folder 33.2) are "Graph-H. Brown," "Temp'y El. Storage Sys.," "Gas Handling Schematic Layout." There is no obvious connection between the diagrams (except that they were all presumably produced for the Physics Department), and there is no general index or other supporting material for the collection of diagrams.

  • Series VII: Reprints

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

There are no restrictions on this collection.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Department of Physics Records; Box and Folder; University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.

Accrual

Additions are expected.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Dr. Marilyn H. Pettit; Frank Lovett (GSAS 2004). Finding aid written by Frank Lovett in February 2004. Finding aid was reformatted by Elizabeth Nolte (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 2009) in October 2008.

Revision Description

2020-04-08 Word finding aid encoded. (JR)

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Genre/Form

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Laboratory notebooks Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

Subject

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Columbia University Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University. Department of Physics Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Wu, C. S (Chien-shiung), 1912-1997 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Columbia University's Graduate Department of Physics was founded in 1892, and from 1925 has been housed in Pupin Laboratory (named after Michael Idvorsky Pupin on his death in 1935). It was there, under the direction of physicists George Pegram, Isidor I. Rabi, and Enrico Fermi that the preliminary scientific investigations eventually leading to the development of the atomic bomb in America took place.

The Columbia Radiation Laboratory was established under the direction of I.I. Rabi and J. M. B. Kellogg (Jerome Merle Blake Kellogg, b. 1905; Library of Congress states middle name as "Blakely") in 1942 to participate in the development of radar and related research critical to the United States in the Second World War. The Radiation Laboratory continued its government-sponsored research after the war under the direction of Polykarp Kusch and Robert Novick in the 1950s and 1960s while also expanding into new areas of research. In the mid-1970s, the Radiation Laboratory was subsumed under a broader materials science program; in 2001 it was renamed the Center for Integrated Science and Engineering.