Papers of George B. Kistiakowsky, approximately 1928-1982
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Access to Collection
Use of Collection
Extent33 cubic feet (95 containers)
Biography of George Bogdan Kistiakowsky
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
- General Correspondence
- Consulting Services and Board Memberships
- President's Science Advisory Committee
- National Academy of Sciences
- Vietnam War
- Council for a Livable World
- Letters of Recommendation
- Advisees, Graduate Students, and Postdoctoral Fellows
- Speeches, Publications, and Meetings
- Course Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Accession number 11354; received 1988 March 16. Gift of Mrs. George Kistiakowsky.
- Arms control.
- Chemistry -- Study and teaching.
- Council for a Livable World.
- Harvard University. Department of Chemistry -- Faculty.
- Manhattan Project (U.S.).
- National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) Committee on Science and Public Policy.
- Science -- Political aspects -- United States.
- Science and state -- United States.
- Science consultants.
- Technical reports.
- United States. Office of Scientific Research and Development. National Defense Research Committee.
- United States. President's Science Advisory Committee.
- Kistiakowsky, George B. (George Bogdan), 1900- Papers of George B. Kistiakowsky : an inventory
- Harvard University Archives
- Published in 2000
- Language of description
- Finding aid written in English.
- 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
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.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA