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Nuclear History in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center

Historical primary sources on nuclear history and atomic energy

Selected Nuclear History Manuscript and Archival Collections in SCARC

Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers, Series 12, Peace: This section has been partitioned into eight thematic sub-sections that illustrate Linus Pauling's work and impact in topics of peace and humanism. The Peace holdings include:

  • materials on the 1st through 37th Pugwash conferences, as well as other international peace conferences
  • materials from hundreds of national and international activist groups working against nuclear testing and warfare, including SANE
  • correspondence and other materials related to several national and international petitions calling for an end to nuclear testing and nuclear war
  • correspondence, articles, and research materials related to the effects of radioactive fallout, radiation hazards, and nuclear waste and contamination
  • materials on civil defense and fallout shelters, including government publications, articles, pamphlets, and manuals
  • articles, typescripts, pamphlets, manuscripts, clippings, and booklets related to all aspects of nuclear issues

Notable items include the three-volume Bomb Test Petition to the United Nations, circulated by the Paulings and signed by 13,000 scientists worldwide, then submitted in 1958 to the United Nations; a mimeograph proof of the Smyth report; and unpublished manuscripts and typescripts from leading players in nuclear issues.

Within the Peace series of the Pauling Papers lies an important collection for studying the responses of scientists and the public to the atomic bomb and its potential for destruction. The Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists was founded by Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard in 1946, and was comprised of eight scientists, including Linus Pauling. The Committee's purpose was to educate the public on the dangers of nuclear warfare, while also promoting peaceful use of atomic energy and enabling peace in the world.

The collection held by the Special Collections and Archives Research Center contains public relations materials, financial records, internal committee files, and, most importantly, letters from everyday Americans responding to Einstein's appeal for funds. This correspondence demonstrates one angle of the public response to the possibility of nuclear war; writers often poignantly detail their personal, moral, or religious reasons for contributing funds to this effort. The ECAS also corresponded with social and political organizations, such as the United World Federalists and the League of Women Voters. Also included in the correspondence are materials to and from the National Committee on Atomic Information, showing the tense relationship between the two organizations.


The Charter Heslep Papers, 1932-1963 are primarily comprised of materials dating from Heslep's time as an employee of the Atomic Energy Commission. The collection includes correspondence, speeches, ephemera, photographs, and sound recordings relating to Charter Heslep's work with the AEC, with emphasis on his efforts to televise U.S. nuclear tests on behalf of the Commission.


The Barton C. Hacker Papers, 1955-1995 document Hacker’s career as a historian of radiation safety, and primarily consist of materials related to his service as historian to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Dosimetry Research Project, beginning in 1979. The collection also contains general research materials, committee documents, and conference proceedings and papers.


The Eugene Starr Papers, 1911-1988: Eugene Starr enjoyed a widespread reputation as a distinguished scientist and engineer. A 1923 graduate of Oregon Agricultural College, he achieved international recognition for his work in the fields of electrical engineering and nuclear physics. In 1958 Starr was awarded the Department of the Interior's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, for his work with the Bonneville Power Administration. Starr was selected to be one of twenty scientific observers at Operation Crossroads in 1946, and his papers include a folder of correspondence, ephemera, and other papers related to his attendance at and impressions of that event. A member of the Manhattan Project and later a member of the Atomic Energy Commission's Advisory Committee on Reactor Policy and Programs, Eugene Starr was closely acquainted with the development of nuclear power from its inception. The materials in Series 3: Nuclear Power reflect this life-long interest, and specifically detail his contacts with nuclear power interests in the Pacific Northwest. 


The How OSU Grew Nuclear Science Oral History Collection, 2009-2010 consists of interviews of Oregon State University faculty and alumni in the Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics Department that were conducted as part of the 50th anniversary of the graduate program in 2009.


The E. Dale Trout Papers consist of materials created and assembled by Trout and his colleague, John P. Kelley, regarding research on X-ray equipment, diagnostic radiology, and the administration of the X-Ray Science and Engineering Laboratory at Oregon State University. Trout and Kelley were faculty in the OSU Department of General Science beginning in the 1960s.


Radiation Center Records are comprised of materials generated between 1953 and 2008 documenting the creation and operation of the Oregon State University Radiation Center. The collection contains administrative correspondence; records of the construction, operation, and maintenance of the Center's facilities and equipment; documentation of research conducted by the Radiation Center on behalf of OSU and other academic institutions, the U.S. Army, Oregon law enforcement agencies, and corporate partners; and records of the Center's day-to-day operations including detailed annual reports and records from several advisory groups.


The Leonard M. Maki Nuclear Power Collection consists of books and archival materials related to the development of nuclear power systems in the twentieth century. Of particular note is a collection of documents, dating to the 1960s, which detail ideas and prototypes for nuclear power systems designed to operate in outer space. This collection would be of potential interest to those researching the history of nuclear power and engineering, applications of nuclear technology in space, and nuclear reactor design. 


The Chih H. Wang Papers are composed of materials created and assembled by Wang as a faculty member of the Oregon State University Chemistry Department, Director of the OSU Radiation Center, and Head of the Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering. Materials include professional correspondence, OSU Chemistry Department and Radiation Center research records, workshop, conference, and training program files, OSU administrative records, publications by Wang, and subject files related to chemistry, nuclear science, and nuclear power policy and legislation. The Wang Papers document Wang's career, the founding and development of the OSU Radiation Center, and the growth of nuclear science research and training during the 1960s and 1970s.


The Theodore Rockwell Papers document the life and career of Ted Rockwell, a member of the Manhattan Project, technical director for the U.S. Navy's nuclear propulsion initiative under Admiral H. G. Rickover, and co-founder of engineering firm MPR Associates, Inc. and nuclear advocacy group Radiation, Science, and Health, Inc. The collection includes correspondence, publications, research files, administrative documents, and memorabilia from his career. 


The Paul J. Persiani Papers document the career of Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) physicist Paul J. Persiani. The collection includes research data related to neutron radiation, reactor development, and fuel analysis; administrative files, photographs, and memorabilia from Persiani's time at ANL; records of his participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START); publications, lectures, and teaching materials generated by Persiani; and reference materials including conference proceedings and scientific publications.


The Nuclear Free America Records documents the activities of this nonprofit resource center throughout the lifetime of the organization. Nuclear Free America facilitated a worldwide antinuclear movement to create "nuclear free zones," or communities where nuclear production, testing, waste, and transportation activities were banned. During its 15 years of operation, more than 200 NFZ declarations were passed by 4,500 local governments in 26 nations worldwide. The collection includes administrative records, records of nuclear free zone declarations by localities around the world, and extensive files related to affliated antinuclear organizations.


The Hanford Site Forty-Year Environmental Data Collection, 1943-1986 contains a series of government documents and internal technical reports the focus of which is environmental monitoring at the Hanford Site, a nuclear production complex in southeast Washington that was constructed beginning in 1943 and fully decommissioned in 1987. Included among the collection's environmental monitoring reports are documents related to effluent releases into the environment, both planned and unplanned.


The Nuclear Science Technical Reports Collection, 1946-1979 includes papers issued by a variety of both government and government-contracted organizations focused on the research, application and development of nuclear energy and reactor design.


Paul Emmett Papers, 1921-2001: Paul Emmett (1900-1985), a friend and colleague of Linus Pauling, graduated in 1922 from Oregon Agricultural College and completed his doctoral work on heterogeneous catalysis at Caltech in 1925. A major figure in the history of catalysis chemistry, Emmett was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1955 and worked at a handful of institutions, including The Johns Hopkins University, where he chaired the Chemical Engineering Department until his retirement in 1971. Emmett was also part of the Manhattan Project and his collection contains correspondence and notebooks from this period. More generally, the collection houses Emmett's manuscripts, research notebooks, correspondence and awards.