Biography and History

This collection contains documents dating from 1909, when the Physics Department was associated with the Engineering School, although the study of physics at Princeton University can be traced to the arrival of Professor of Natural Philosophy Joseph Henry in 1832. Under the leadership of Chairman William F. Magie (1908-1929), the Department gained independence from the Engineering School and increased its faculty to include noted professors such as Henry D. Smyth, Allen G. Shenstone, and Louis A. Turner. The Department became an international center for theoretical physics when Eugene P. Wigner and John von Neumann joined the faculty and when the University's association with the Institute for Advanced Study began in 1930. During the 1930s, the Department began to conduct research in the field of nuclear physics under Milton G. White and convinced the University to build a cyclotron in Palmer Laboratory. During World War II, most of the Physics Department faculty engaged in the war effort by joining the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Radiation Laboratory, becoming involved in the top-secret development of the atomic bomb, and teaching physics to servicemen who trained in Princeton. With the Nazi persecutions in Europe, eminent physicists such as Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, and Rudolf Ladenburg immigrated to the United States and became members of the Institute for Advanced Study, where they maintained close ties with Princeton's Physics Department. During the post-war years, the Department turned its attention back to theoretical physics and continued to expand its research with the help of generous government grants.

Source: From the finding aid for AC133

  • Physics Department Records. 1909-2015 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC133

    The records of the Physics Department document the scientific and teaching activities of Princeton University physicists from 1909 to 1962. While routine activities such as the hiring of faculty and the education of graduate and undergraduate students are recorded, these records also detail the Department's activities in early studies of theoretical physics, as well as its participation in World War II research activities. There is also a small amount of material that documents Milton White's efforts toward builing the cyclotron (1936).

  • Physics Department Records. 1909-2015 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC133

    The records of the Physics Department document the scientific and teaching activities of Princeton University physicists from 1909 to 1962. While routine activities such as the hiring of faculty and the education of graduate and undergraduate students are recorded, these records also detail the Department's activities in early studies of theoretical physics, as well as its participation in World War II research activities. There is also a small amount of material that documents Milton White's efforts toward builing the cyclotron (1936).

  • Selected Manuscripts of Rudolf Ladenburg. 1889-1953 (inclusive), 1935-1952 (bulk).

    Call Number: C0264

    Rudolf Ladenburg was a German-born scientist who became a nuclear physicist at Princeton University until his retirement in 1950. The collection contains some of Ladenburg’s manuscripts, lecture and course notes, and notes on nuclear physics.

  • Walker Bleakney Papers. 1920s-1961 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C0604

    Walker Bleakney was a renowned physicist who served as a Princeton professor of physics (1932-1969) and chairman of the physics department (1960-1967). This collection consists of Bleakney’s papers, including published and unpublished reports, drafts of articles, graphic data and photographs of experiments, and other material concerning Bleakney's defense-related research on shock waves at the Princeton Gas Dynamics Laboratory, as well as lecture notes and correspondence.

  • Valentine Bargmann Papers. 1908-1988 (inclusive), 1937-1979 (bulk).

    Call Number: C0657

    The Valentine Bargmann Papers consists of personal and professional correspondence, personal papers, awards, medals, lectures notes, drafts and published writings, and documents pertaining to the Einstein Papers Project. Valentine Bargmann was an assistant to Albert Einstein at the Institute for Advanced Study and later became a Princeton University professor of mathematical physics.

  • David Wilkinson Papers. 1957-2002 (inclusive), 1961-2001 (bulk).

    Call Number: C0945

    The David Wilkinson Papers consists of the scientific writings, professional correspondence, and subject and project files of David T. Wilkinson (1935-2002), the renowned experimental physicist and cosmologist who taught and conducted research in the Department of Physics at Princeton University from 1963 until his retirement in 2002. Wilkinson was a pioneer in the study and analysis of cosmic microwave background radiation, the nature and existence of which have yielded, through his lifetime's work, solid evidence for the Big Bang theory of the universe's birth. This collection contains the administrative (including his NASA and/or National Science Foundation funding and accounting paperwork) and background history of two of Wilkinson's main projects -- the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) and Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP) -- as well as evidence of the many and varied academic activities in his career.

  • William Francis Magie Papers. 1875-1920 (bulk), 1875-1945 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1122

    Consists of miscellaneous academic records and manuscripts of William Francis Magie, distinguished Princeton physics professor and dean.

  • Lincoln Gilmore Smith Collection. 1950-1966 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1205

    Consists of miscellaneous material of Lincoln Gilmore Smith, a physicist and professor of physics at Princeton University, relating to his construction and use of mass spectrometers.