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Collection Overview

Rauch, Lawrence Lee, 1919-
Lawrence Rauch Papers
Princeton University Archives
Permanent URL:
circa 1932-1951
3 boxes
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-3


Lawrence Rauch was a Princeton University graduate student (Ph.D. Mathematics, 1949) and a pioneer in the field of radio telemetry. The bulk of the collection consists of letters written home by Rauch during his time as a graduate student at Princeton from 1941 to 1949, which document Princeton academics and student life as well as Rauch's work in radio telemetry, and include references to his defense work for the United States government.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection consists of letters written home by Rauch during his time as a graduate student at Princeton from 1941 to 1949, which document Princeton academics and student life as well as Rauch's work in radio telemetry, and include references to his defense work for the United States government. Additionally, there are photographs which include portraits of Rauch and his family, Princeton era snapshots, and about a dozen photographs of Operation Crossroads atomic blasts. A significant amount of the work described in the letters relates to radio telemetry, about which Rauch co-wrote a book with Dr. Myron Nichols. There is also a group of Princeton-related ephemera including course notes for a class Rauch taught and other academic items.

In the correspondence, which forms the bulk of the collection, Rauch describes his academic and social life at Princeton to his family, and includes details on his World War II defense work. From the beginning of his time at Princeton, Rauch was passionate about his studies in mathematics and physics. This work had the added benefit of providing deferral from the military draft. His letters include copious details regarding his academic work, social life, living quarters, eating situation, interest in radio telemetry, and war-time jobs.

In the 1941 letters, Rauch describes attending seminars given by Professor Einstein, a growing relationship with Dean Eisenhart and the Eisenhart family, as well as "secret defense work" that he promptly becomes involved in. A description of exams, type of work, and types of courses are a quotidian part of the letters. Not only does Rauch consistently mention his heavy course load at Princeton, he also talks about traveling throughout the east coast for defense work. Of special note are trips to Hotel Niagara and the Pentagon, and he also traveled to New York, Vermont and North Carolina. He frequently admonishes his parents that the work is "top secret" and must not be discussed with anyone.

His mentorship under Professor Tukey increases during these years and their friendship progresses as well. Effects of the war present themselves in the letters: rationing, friends leaving to fight, a Japanese Princeton professor forced to repatriate after Pearl Harbor. The correspondence covers several historically important events to both the country and the University such as Pearl Harbor, military in residence on the Princeton campus, and the fire in the University Gym.

Until 1943, Rauch wrote home nearly every Sunday. Rauch tells his parents about his social activities, including frequent teas with other students and faculty at Dean Eisenhart's, beer parties with other students, learning ping pong, dates with the Dean's daughter Anna Eisenhart, going to picture shows, and more. There is a lacuna in the letters from the time he started dating his first wife, Yvonne, until he married her (July of 1943 to January of 1944). After his marriage, the letters were more sporadic.

A significant amount of the work described in the letters relates to radio telemetry, about which Rauch co-wrote a book with Dr. Myron Nichols. His work on "secret defense projects" during the war involved radio telemetry, as did his work on Operation Crossroads after the war.

Collection Creator Biography:

Rauch, Lawrence Lee, 1919-

Lawrence Rauch was a Princeton University graduate student (Ph.D. Mathematics, 1949) and a pioneer in the field of radio telemetry.

Rauch was born on May 1, 1919 in Los Angeles, California. He was the first child of Mable Chalfont Thompson and James Lee Rauch. His parents had moved to California from Southern Illinois around 1910, and his father worked as an electrician in the burgeoning Hollywood film industry. His mother, a vaudeville performer in her youth, later wrote and published articles and novels on a variety of subjects.

Rauch attended public schools in Los Angeles. He was highly interested in electronics at a young age and built his own amateur radio station with a short wave receiver and a transmitter while in junior high school. In high school he took the usual courses in the sciences, never distinguishing himself. In later years Rauch relished telling the story of how his high school math teacher advised him not to study mathematics in college, due to lack of talent.

In 1937 Rauch enrolled in the University of Southern California (USC). By his own admission, he "really wasn't much interested in people, I was interested in things." He had a double major at USC in mathematics and physics. He excelled in his studies and was invited to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year, a rare honor. He completed his coursework at USC a semester early, in January 1941. He obtained a fellowship as an entering graduate student in the Department of Mathematics at Princeton. Since his course work at USC was finished in January of 1941 and he would not go to Princeton until the fall, he obtained a teaching fellowship at Cornell in the physics department for the spring term.

In the early years at Princeton, Rauch lived in the Graduate College's Fourteenth Entry. John Tukey, Rauch's mentor during this time, lived nearby as did Richard Feynman. World War II affected Rauch's academic experience at Princeton. He was granted the JSK fellowship in 1942, but due to his involvement in war research had to turn it down. Throughout the war, Rauch worked on defense related projects-- which had the added benefit of keeping him out of the draft.

In 1942 and early 1943, Rauch was involved with the electronics work in the investigation of a more stable way to split an atom. In the latter part of 1943 Rauch started his long term war project at Princeton which involved radio telemetry. He worked with Dr. Myron Nichols of the Princeton Physics Department on this project, and the two became pioneers in the field of radio telemetry as well as life-long friends. Nichols and Rauch led the development of the first high speed electronic telemetry system ever built and were the first to use it in connection with jet aircraft flights.

In July 1946, Rauch took the telemetry system he developed at Princeton to Bikini Atoll for the Operation Crossroads test of atomic bombs. During his time at Princeton, Rauch was appointed instructor in the mathematics department. He taught a number of undergraduate courses as well as special courses for military programs. Rauch did his doctoral research and thesis under Solomon Lefschetz. He received his PhD in mathematics in 1949.

During his time at Cornell and Princeton, Rauch wrote regularly to his family in Los Angeles. Over 210 of these letters, dozens of photographs, and Princeton ephemera were saved by Rauch and his parents. The letters and other materials reveal Rauch's personality, his academic ambitions, and his day to day life at Princeton.

After Princeton, Rauch went to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he provided leadership in a number of vital positions. He was chairman (1950-52) of the Nuclear Engineering Program and chairman (1958-59) of the Management Science Program. He was a founder and first chairman (1952-63) of the Instrumentation Engineering Program, and became chairman (1971-76) of its prestigious successor, the Computer, Information and Control Engineering Program.

In 1977 Rauch retired from Michigan, assuming the post of chief technologist, Telecommunications Science and Engineering Division, at Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). He retired again from this position in 1985 to his home in Los Angeles yet he remained active as a consultant for JPL on many NASA related projects until 2000.

Rauch co-wrote the first book on Radio Telemetry with his former Princeton associate, Myron Nichols, in 1954. He also authored many publications and articles in the field.

Rauch's awards included Outstanding Contribution to the Telemetering Field at the National Telemetering Conference/London in 1960; the Donald P. Eckman award for Distinguished Achievement in Education; and the Pioneer Award at the International Telemetering Conference/USA in 1985. His achievements include a patent for the development of the first electronic time-division multiplex radio telemetering system, of pre-detection recording.

Rauch married his first wife, Yvonne Randall, in 1944 while at Princeton. They were divorced ten years later. No children were born to their marriage. In 1959, Rauch married Norma Cable in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They had two sons: Lauren and Maury. Rauch died in 2007 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Collection History


Gift the Rauch Family in September 2011 .


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Lynn Durgin in 2011. Finding aid written by Ada Rauch in 2011.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Lawrence Rauch Papers; Princeton University Archives, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-3