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COLLECTION Identifier: HUGFP 94

Papers of George B. Kistiakowsky, approximately 1928-1982

Overview

George B. Kistiakowsky (1900-1982) was a Ukrainian-born American chemist. He was not only a renowned in academic circles, but was also a consultant, defense researcher, and public policy advisor. Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University, Kistiakowsky was also a participant in the development of the atomic bomb known as the Manhattan Project, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in later years, a political activist, most notably concerned with the arms race. These papers document Kistiakowsky's academic, consulting, and public policy activities.

Dates

  • 1928-1982

Creator

Language of Materials

English.

Access to Collection

Permission of third party is required for viewing the Papers of George Bogdan Kistiakowsky held by the Harvard University Archives. See Reference staff for details.

Use of Collection

Permission of third party is required for photocopying and quoting from the Papers of George Bogdan Kistiakowsky held by the Harvard University Archives. See Reference staff for details.

Extent

33 cubic feet (95 containers)
This collection documents Kistiakowsky's professional and public life as teacher, researcher, policy advisor, and political activist. The General Correspondence Series is the major series in the collection and should be consulted by researchers interested in any of the many facets of Kistiakowsky's public life.

Biography of George Bogdan Kistiakowsky

George Bogdan Kistiakowsky ( 1917-1982 ) was a Ukrainian-born American chemist. He was not only a renowned in academic circles, but was also a consultant, defense researcher, and public policy advisor. Abbott and James Lawrence Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University, Kistiakowsky was also a participant in the development of the atomic bomb known as the Manhattan Project, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in later years, a political activist, most notably concerned with the arms race as an advocate for banning nuclear weapons.

Kistiakowsky was born in Kiev, Ukraine (then a province of Russia) on November 18, 1900. He attended private schools in Kiev and Moscow until the revolutionary events of 1917 disrupted his education. After serving as soldier in the White Russian Army and spending a year in the concentration camps of Turkey and the Balkans, Kistiakowsky finally found refuge in Germany, where he attended the University of Berlin .

He studied physical chemistry under Max Bodenstein and received his doctorate in 1925. In the following year, Kistiakowsky came to the United States on an International Education Board Fellowship. After teaching at Princeton for two years, he joined the Harvard faculty as an assistant professor of chemistry in 1930.

His work in the fields of thermodynamics, spectroscopy, and chemical kinetics brought him involvement as a military researcher, corporate consultant, and policy advisor. At the same time, he remained actively engaged in academia. He rose to the rank of professor in 1938, chaired the Department of Chemistry from 1947 to 1950, and maintained a busy schedule of teaching and research until his retirement in 1971.

During the World War II, influenced by James B. Conant, President of Harvard University, Kistiakowsky served as chief of the Explosives Division of the National Defense Research Committee . In 1944 , he was recruited to join the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, where he was responsible for designing the triggering device that used conventional explosives to detonate the atomic bomb.

In the postwar years, he became a member of several military advisory boards in Washington. Between 1957 and 1964, he served on the President's Science Advisory Committee and was Special Assistant to the President for the Science and Technology from 1959 to 1961. Kistiakowsky was also a member of the U.S. delegation in Geneva during 1958, when the two superpowers discussed ways to reduce the danger of surprise nuclear attack.

Increasingly concerned with public policy issues, he worked to influence the allocation of government resources through his participation in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Kistiakowsky served as chairman of its Committee on Science and Public Policy (COSPUP) from 1962 to 1965, then as vice-president of NAS from 1965 to 1973.

At first he worked within channels to influence policy, but he became less and less sanguine about prospects that administrations in Washington would heed voices of dissent. In 1968, in protest against the course of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Kistiakowsky severed his connections with the Pentagon . He shifted his efforts to electoral campaigns and advocacy group politics. After his retirement, he devoted himself even more fully to political activism. From 1977 until his death in 1982, he served as chairman of Council for Livable World , campaigning to de-escalate the arms race and reorient the domestic political agenda.

Kistiakowsky received much recognition for his role as a scientist and as a citizen. He was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Joseph Priestly Award of the American Chemical Society. His presence on many boards, including his positions as director of Itek Corporation and Cabot Corporation attest to his prominence. He died on December 7, 1982.

Series in the Collection

  1. General Correspondence
  2. Consulting Services and Board Memberships
  3. President's Science Advisory Committee
  4. National Academy of Sciences
  5. Vietnam War
  6. Council for a Livable World
  7. Letters of Recommendation
  8. Advisees, Graduate Students, and Postdoctoral Fellows
  9. Speeches, Publications, and Meetings
  10. Course Materials

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number 11261; received 1987 October 21. Gift of Mrs. George Kistiakowsky.

Accession number 11354; received 1988 March 16. Gift of Mrs. George Kistiakowsky.

General note

This document last updated 2018 November 7.
Title
Kistiakowsky, George B. (George Bogdan), 1900- Papers of George B. Kistiakowsky : an inventory
Status
completed
Author
Harvard University Archives
Date
Published in 2000
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Sponsor
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.
EAD ID
hua08001

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.

Contact:
Pusey Library
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2461