A Guide to the Working Inventory of the Robert E. Marshak Papers, 1900-1993 (bulk 1947-1992) Marshak, Robert Eugene, Papers working inventory Ms1988-060

A Guide to the Working Inventory of the Robert E. Marshak Papers, 1900-1993 (bulk 1947-1992)

A Collection in
Special Collections and University Archives
Collection Number Ms1988-060


[logo]

Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech

Special Collections, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061
USA
Phone: (540) 231-6308
Fax: (540) 231-3694
Email: specref@vt.edu
URL: http://spec.lib.vt.edu/

2020 (CC0 1.0)

Processed by: Special Collections and University Archives Staff, Kira Dietz, Archivist, and Laurel Rozema, Archivist, Special Collections and University Archives

Repository
Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.
Collection Number
Ms1988-060
Title
Working Inventory of the Robert E. Marshak Papers, 1900-1993 (bulk 1947-1992)
Physical Characteristics
92.5 Cubic Feet; 66 boxes, 1 oversize folder
Creator
Marshak, Robert Eugene, 1916-1992
Physical Access
Please note: This collection is in off-site storage and requires 2-3 days notice for retrieval. Oversize materials are on-site. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives for more information.
Language
The materials in the collection are primarily in English.
Abstract
The collection consist of Marshak's professional and personal papers, detailing his career as university professor in physics at the University of Rochester and Virginia Tech, member and leader in several scientific institutions, and president of the City College of New York. Materials include Marshak's files on the Shelter Island Conferences (1947-1949) and his administrative and correspondence files on the Rochester Conferences on High-Energy Physics (1950-1957), which he founded. The papers also includes correspondence, notes, reports, files, speeches, proceedings, newsclippings, autographs, photographs, interviews, transcripts, and other personalia related to his career at the University of Rochester, City College of New York, and Virginia Tech. Some materials relate to his work in international science and physics organizations, including USSR-US relations, Soviet science, the American Physical Association, International Center of Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, and the International Foundation for Science in Sweden. Of special note are several items and files with other well-known physicists, including Hans Bethe, George Sudarshan, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Susumu Okubo, Abdus Salam, Victor Weisskopf, Enrico Fermi, Isidor Isaac Rabi, Mildred Dresselhaus, Richard Feynman, and a letter from Albert Einstein. Please note: This is a working inventory and, except boxes 1-5, may not reflect all the contents of a particular box or folder.

Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Some boxes may contain confidential information, which is restricted and must be removed before the boxes can be reviewed by a patron. Restricted folders are indicated in the inventory.

Please speak to an archivist if confidential information is found in the collection.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials. Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: http://bit.ly/scuareproduction. Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: http://bit.ly/scuapublication. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives (specref@vt.edu or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: [identification of item], [box], [folder], Working Inventory of the Robert E. Marshak Papers, Ms1988-060, Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.

Source of Acquisition

The Robert E. Marshak Papers were acquired by the Special Collections Department of the Virginia Tech University Libraries in two separate donations. Boxes 1-5 in Series I, also known as the Rochester Conference Papers, were donated in 1989. These papers are primarily about the Rochester Conferences on High Energy Physics (1950-1970), which involved thirty-five Nobel Prize winners, twenty-seven of whom were conference participants.

The remainder of the collection (Series II-X) was given to Special Collections in 1994. It includes items such as correspondence, notes, reports, speeches, news clippings, photographs, and other personalia from Dr. Marshak's high school days in the 1920s to his death in 1992. This second donation is unprocessed.

Processing Information

The 1989 donation (Series I) was processed and described prior to 1994. Additional description for these materials was completed in 2005, 2010, and 2020. The 1994 donation (Series II-X) is unprocessed. A print inventory was created in 1994 and incorporated into the finding aid in 2010 and 2020, with additional arrangement and description in 2020.

Please note: This is a working inventory and, except boxes 1-5, may not reflect all the contents of a particular box or folder.


Biographical Note

Robert E. Marshak was born in 1916 in the Bronx, a borough of New York City. Marshak's academic ability was recognized early, and despite their poverty, his family encouraged his studies. As a result, he finished James Monroe High School at the age of 15. From high school, he enrolled in the City College of New York (CCNY), a tuition-free university that served as an exit from poverty for generations of immigrants. After one semester at CCNY, he received a Pulitzer Scholarship which provided full tuition and a stipend which allowed him to continue his education at Columbia University. College appears to have been a profound intellectual experience for Marshak. He initially majored in philosophy and math, and served as the dance critic for the school newspaper. In his senior year, he switched to physics, and came into contact with Nobel Laureate I.I. Rabi. Rabi was initially skeptical of his commitment to physics, but later became a friend.

Marshak graduated from Columbia in 1936, and went to graduate school at Cornell University via a fellowship. At Cornell, he studied with Hans Bethe, who at the time was working on problems pertaining to energy production in stars, which later won Bethe a Nobel Prize. Marshak wrote his dissertation on energy production in white dwarf stars. His basic conclusion was confirmed about forty years later when the white dwarf orbiting Sirius came into view. He completed his Ph.D. degree in 1939 at the age of 22.

Jobs were hard to come by in the late 1930s, especially for Jewish scientists for whom positions were limited by quotas. Marshak nonetheless was able to get a one- year, non- renewable position at the University of Rochester. Here he met, among other notables, Victor Weiskopf, the future director of CERN, the nuclear accelerator facility in Geneva, Switzerland. During this time a tenure-track position opened in the Physics Department at Rochester which Marshak received.

Teaching at the University of Rochester was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Marshak became involved in the war effort, as did many scientists at the time. Initially, he worked on developing radar in Boston, Massachusetts, then on the British atomic bomb project in Montreal, Canada. In 1943, Marshak married Ruth Gup, a school teacher in Rochester. Later he joined the Manhattan Project which was developing the American atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico. At Los Alamos, Marshak was a deputy group leader in theoretical physics, a rank which allowed him to be privy to the overall strategy of atomic bomb creation.

After the war, Marshak returned to the University of Rochester, where he moved quickly through the ranks. He become a chair professor (the Harris chair) and the head of the physics department in the 1950s. He was very active as a researcher, and was a participant at the famous Shelter Island Conference where he proposed the two-meson theory. During his fourteen year chairmanship the Physics Department at Rochester became one of the top 10 in the country, and a recognized center for advanced research in physics.

During his years at the University of Rochester, Marshak became intensely interested in international science. He felt that scientific cooperation was an important first step in the quest for global peace. In 1956, he was a member of the first delegation of approximately six American scientists to visit the USSR after the death of Stalin. Marshak met the leaders of the Soviet Physics community, including Lev Landau. He made more trips to the USSR during the 1950s (U.S. State Department debriefings after these trips are in the files), and became an acknowledged expert on Soviet science.

During the 1950s, Marshak established the "Rochester Conference", considered by his colleagues to be one of his most significant achievements. The conference evolved over the years into "The International Conference on High-Energy Physics." The Rochester Conference was instrumental in bringing together scientists from around the world, and served as a model for the establishment of international conferences in other fields. One of the most challenging aspects of the early conferences was the attempt to bring real Eastern European and Soviet physicists (as opposed to KGB agents) to the meetings. This effort required Marshak to carry out intense negotiations with the U.S. State Department and with members of Congress. His other involvement in international science included participation in the establishment of the International Center of Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, and the International Foundation for Science in Sweden.

Events at the University of Rochester received lots of publicity, and brought Marshak to the attention of the search committee looking for a new president for CCNY. They approached him with an offer to become president, just at a time when his social conscience had been roused. He accepted the offer and became CCNY President in 1970, just at a time when the college was undergoing a vast change in demographics.

Typical of Marshak, he put his full effort into the struggle to redefine the college and bring it through these crises. In addition to improving the quality of several departments, he established important new programs such as the Biomedical Center and the Legal Center, raised the funds for a new performing arts center (the Leonard Davis Center), and pushed through the construction of a 150 million dollar academic complex. He also became involved in the debate about national educational policy and "Science and Public Policy", delivering many speeches on the subject. He also served on the board of directors for Harlem Hospital and for Colonial Penn Insurance Company. In the end, the success of his efforts was recognized by the naming of the 14-story science building on campus after him. The stress of his position at CCNY took a toll on his health, and he suffered a minor stroke during a confrontation with a student group. The stroke effected his balance for the remainder of his life.

After nine years at CCNY, his desire to return to physics led him to accept an offer as University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, and he and Ruth moved to Blacksburg in 1979. During this period, he became President of the American Physical Society, the principle organization of physicists in the United States. Typical of his modus operandi, he took an activist approach to the job, using the weight of the society to debate the Reagan Administration on the issue of placing an anti-ballistic missile system into space, popularly known as "Star Wars."

Marshak officially retired as a professor at the age of 75. During the last five years of his life, he worked intensely on a book, entitled Conceptual Foundations of Modern Particle Physics (Singapore: World Scientific, 1993). He finished the final corrections on the manuscript the day before he died. When he dropped the manuscript in the mailbox, he turn to his wife and said, in a joking voice, "It's done. Now I can die." The next day, December 23, 1992, he died in an accidental drowning on a trip to Mexico.

A fuller biography of Marshak from Virginia Tech Special Collections and University Archives is archived and available online.

Scope and Content

The collection consist of Marshak's professional and personal papers, detailing his career as university professor in physics at the University of Rochester and Virginia Tech, member and leader in several scientific institutions, and president of the City College of New York.

The first series contains materials on the Shelter Island Conferences (1947-1949) and his administrative and correspondence files on the Rochester Conferences on High-Energy Physics (1950-1957), which he founded. After 1957 the conferences were held under the sponsorship of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) and Marshak's files from the conferences from 1958 to 1970 are included. The collection also has correspondence files on IUPAP (1953-1972) and on the Commission on High Energy Physics (1958-1963); photographs (1950-1970); US-USSR relations (1956-1966); and a photocopy of an oral history interview done by Charles Weiner (1970).

The rest of the collection, is divided into 10 series, which remain in original order. These series consist of correspondence, notes, reports, files, speeches, newsclippings, autographs, photographs, transcripts, proceedings, interviews, and other personalia. Topics cover the national and international development of high-energy physics, meetings and symposia, and scientific committees; awards and prizes, administration and education, science in the Eastern Bloc and Third World, and the scientist as social activist or citizen-scientist. The collection also includes correspondence, publications and articles, and more related to Marshak's books and other writings, teaching and academic administrative work, and research.

Individual series concern specific time periods of Marshak's career, including his work at the University of Rochester, City College of New York (CCNY), and Virginia Tech (VPI). The series also document his involvement in numerous organizations, including the American Physical Association, International Center of Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, and the International Foundation for Science in Sweden. (However, Marshak's official records as president of City College of New York are held by the Hoover Insitution Archives at Stanford University.)

Of special note are several items and files with other well-known physicists, including Hans Bethe, George Sudarshan, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Susumu Okubo, Abdus Salam, Victor Weisskopf, Enrico Fermi, Isidor Isaac Rabi, Mildred Dresselhaus, Richard Feynman, and a letter from Albert Einstein.

Please note: This is a working inventory and may not reflect all the contents of a particular box or folder. In the contents list, some folders may include examples of the contents next to the folder title or underneath it, but these examples may not reflect the entire contents of a folder.

Arrangement

The collection is dividied into the following series:

Series I. Rochester Conference - arranged chronologically within subject files
Series II. A-Z files - primarily arranged by subject in rough alphabetical order
Series III. American Physical Society (APS) - primarily arranged by subject in rough alphabetical order
Series IV. University of Rochester - primarily arranged by subject in rough alphabetical order
Series V. REM personal files
Series VI. Organizations, research, and miscellaneous files
Series VII. A-Z files - primarily arranged by subject in rough alphabetical order
Series VIII. A-Z files, ca. 1990-1992 - primarily arranged by subject in rough alphabetical order
Series IX. Writings, correspondence, notes, and miscellaneous files
Series X. Oversize Materials

These series have been imposed by archivists but are based on Marshak's original order and description. Materials in Series II thru Series X were collected from multiple locations and are in their original order, except Box 1994-1 and Box 1994-2 in Series V, which were organized by archivists.

Please note: This is a working inventory and may not reflect all the contents of a particular box or folder. In the contents list, some folders may include examples of the contents next to the folder title or underneath it, but these examples may not reflect the entire contents of a folder.

Related Material

Robert E. Marshak's papers as president of City College of New York (CCNY) are held at the Hoover Institution Archives of Stanford University.


Index Terms


Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Working Inventory of the Robert E. Marshak Papers by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (https://creativecommons.org/share-your- work/public-domain/cc0/).

Adjunct Descriptive Data

Contents List

Please note: This is a working inventory and may not reflect all the contents of a particular box or folder. In the contents list, some folders may include examples of the contents next to the folder title or underneath it, but these examples may not reflect the entire contents of a folder.

Series I. Rochester Conference
Back to Top
Series II. A-Z files
Back to Top
Series III. American Physical Society (APS)
Back to Top
Series IV. University of Rochester
Back to Top
Series V. REM personal files
Back to Top
Series VI. Organizations, research, and miscellaneous files
Back to Top
Series VII. A-Z files
Back to Top
Series VIII. A-Z files, ca. 1990-1992
Back to Top
Series IX. Writings, correspondence, notes, and miscellaneous files
Back to Top
Series X. Oversize Materials
Back to Top

Significant Persons Associated With the Collection

Back to Top