Special Collections Receives Grant from the American Institute of Physics

March 25, 2013

The Stanford University Department of Special Collections and University Archives has been awarded a grant from the Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics (AIP), to process the papers of physicists Karl P. Cohen and Martin Packard, along with sizeable portion of the papers of William Shockley.

Dr. Cohen began his career in atomic physics at Columbia University where he earned his PhD in 1937. In 1940 he was named director of the Theoretical Division of the Manhattan Project at Columbia University where he and Harold Urey (who earned the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1934 for his work on isotopes) developed the now universally used method of centrifugal isotope separation. Dr. Cohen served as a physicist and advisor on atomic energy matters for the Standard Oil Development Company. He was also technical director of the H.K. Ferguson Company which constructed the Brookhaven reactor, synchrocyclotron, and radioactive laboratories. In 1952 he founded the Walter Kidde Nuclear Laboratories. Dr. Cohen joined the General Electric Company in 1955 and was appointed Chief Scientist in 1973. He taught intermittently at Stanford when he was head of nuclear reactor development for General Electric.

Martin E. Packard, born in 1921, received his B.A. in Physics in 1942 from Oregon State University. After working at Westinghouse Research from 1942-1945, he enrolled as a graduate student at Stanford University in 1945.  Working with professors Felix Bloch and William Hansen, Packard was the first to detect the nuclear magnetic resonance of protons in water in January 1946 (Bloch, together with Harvard physicist E. M. Purcell, shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1952 for their observation of nuclear magnetic resonance in bulk materials). After receiving his PhD in Physics in 1949, Packard remained at Stanford as an instructor until 1951. He then joined Varian Associates in Fall 1951 where he led the research and development of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology – technology that has greatly impacted fields beyond physics, including medicine (e.g. MRI machines) and chemistry. Packard remained at Varian until 1988 and subsequently joined the Institute for Genetic Disease Control in Animals in 1989 where he focused on the control of genetic diseases in dogs.

William Shockley (1910-1989) was educated at the California Institute of Technology (B.S., 1932) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Ph.D., 1936). He was employed at Bell Telephone Laboratories from 1936-1955; during World War II he served as Research Director of the Anti-submarine Warfare Operations Research Group. In 1955, Shockley left Bell Labs to head Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in Mountain View, California. The success of Shockley Semiconductor laid ground for the rapid growth of the Silicon Valley computer industry.

Shockley, along with collaborators John Bardeen and Walter Houser Bardeen, received the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics for research on semiconductors and transistors. In 1963, Shockley’s joined the faculty of Stanford University’s School of Engineering as Alexander M. Poniatoff Professor of Engineering Science. In the late 1960s, Shockley developed a strong interest in eugenics and racial theories of intelligence, believing this work to be important to the genetic future of the human species. His belief in what he termed “dysgenics” (i.e. accumulation and perpetuation of defective or disadvantageous genes and traits in offspring of a particular population or species) never gained wide acceptance or scientific credibility, and would forever tarnish his reputation.

Leading the AIP project is Franz Kunst. Prior to this project, Franz worked on the Riverwalk Jazz project at the Archive of Recorded Sound at Stanford University. Finding aids for the Karl P. Cohen papers and the Martin E. Packard papers will be published via the Online Archive of California by the end of the year, and will be included in the AIP’s Physics History Finding Aids site. Upon completion of this project, we anticipate continued work on the Shockley papers.

Photo by Christy Smith

Project Archivist, Franz Kunst