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COLLECTION Identifier: HUG 4234

Papers of Percy Williams Bridgman, 1905-1982 (inclusive)


The collection contains the professional papers of Percy Williams Bridgman (1882-1961), Nobel laureate in physics, whose chief contributions to physics were in the area of the effects of high pressures on materials and their thermodynamic behavior.  The papers consist chiefly of professional and research material.


  • Creation: 1905-1982 (inclusive)
  • Creation: 1905-1982 (inclusive)


Language of Materials


Access to Collection

The collection is open, but permission may be required for some uses.  Contact the Harvard University Archives Reference staff for details.


26 cubic feet (78 boxes, 9 folders, 6 portfolio folders, 10 volumes)
26 cubic feet (78 boxes, 9 folders, 6 portfolio folders, 10 volumes)

The papers consist chiefly of professional and research material.  The documents touch on many aspects of Bridgman's work, including experiments, procurement of research materials and funding, writing and publication, involvement with scholarly societies, work for the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and teaching.  There is a small amount of material dating from Bridgman's student days, chiefly course notes.  There are also small amounts of memorial, biographical, and personal material. Formats include correspondence, laboratory notebooks, manuscripts and notes for Bridgman's writings, research laboratory notebooks, card indices, bibliographies, reports, photographs, diagrams, and charts.

Professor Bridgman destroyed much of his correspondence before he died.

Biography of Percy Williams Bridgman

Percy Williams Bridgman (1882-1961), was a physicist.  His contributions to the field concern the effects of high pressures on materials and their thermodynamic behavior, contributions that would not have been possible without the equipment, particularly a seal, that he invented himself.  He also contributed to crystallography, electrical conduction in metals, and the philosophy of modern physics.  He was a Nobel laureate in physics (1946) and recipient of many other honors.  He earned his Harvard AB 1904, Harvard AM 1905, and Ph.D. 1908.  He joined the Harvard Faculty in 1908, was appointed Instructor (1910) and Assistant Professor (1919), before becoming Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in 1926.  He was appointed Higgins University Professor in 1950.  Bridgman published more than 260 papers and 13 books.  He took his own life in 1961, rather than dying of the cancer with which he had been diagnosed.

Provenance and Acquisition Information

Gifts of Gerald Holton, Mrs. Bernard Koopman [Jane (Bridgman) Koopman], and others; material found in books donated to Geological Sciences Library by Prof. Francis Birch.

Related Materials

See also publications by and about Percy Williams Bridgman cataloged in Harvard's on-line library information system.

There are laboratory (specimen) samples relating to PWB in Harvard's Collection of Historic Scientific Instruments.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2022 March 17.

Bridgman, P. W. (Percy Williams), 1882-1961.   Papers of Percy Williams Bridgman : an inventory
Harvard University Archives
Published in 2000
Language of description
This finding aid has been encoded by the Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics as part of a collaborative project supported by a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities, an independent federal agency.  Collaboration members in 1999 consisted of: American Institute of Physics, California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Rice University, University of Alaska, University of Illinois, and University of Texas.

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

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