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COLLECTION Identifier: HUGFP 128

Papers of Harvey Brooks, 1930s-1980s


Harvey Brooks (1915-2004) was Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard University. His career merged science with public policy. This collection encompasses documents from his activities as a member of numerous university, scientific, and government committees and contains a small amount of student, teaching, and personal material.


  • Creation: 1930s-1980s


Access to Collection

Open for research with the following exceptions: Harvard University records are restricted for 50 years. Personnel and student records are closed for 80 years.


99.79 cubic feet (283 boxes and 1 folder)

The papers of Harvey Brooks chiefly document his professional activities related to the numerous university, scientific, and government committees and associations on which he served, including the National Science Foundation, the President's Science Advisory Committee, and the National Academy of Sciences. They contain correspondence, memoranda, reports, meeting minutes, and notes. Also includes personal papers from the early 1930s, such as general and family correspondence, student records, lectures, manuscripts, and material related to war work and employment in the private sector. In addition, the papers consist of material relating to nuclear issues from the 1940s and 1950s, to his role as editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Physics and Chemistry of Solids, to his teaching and administrative activities as Professor in and Dean of the Division of Engineering and Applied Physics, and to his work in the development of the Harmon Program on Science, Technology, and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government.

Biography of Harvey Brooks

Harvey Brooks (1915-) was appointed Gordon McKay Professor in the Division of Applied Science in 1950, served as Dean of the Division of Engineering and Applied Physics from 1956 to 1975, and was appointed the first Benjamin Peirce Professor of Technology and Public Policy in 1976, becoming Emeritus in 1986. His research interests have been in solid state theory, the behavior of semiconductors at high pressure, radiation effects on solids, and nuclear reactor theory. Chairman and member of numerous university, scientific, and government committees, Brooks has been a leading figure in the debate surrounding the relationship among science, technology, and public policy and the accountability of scientists to government, industry, and the general public.

In 1940 Brooks received his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University. Previously, he earned an A.B. in mathematics from Yale University in 1937 and spent 1937-1938 at Clare College, Cambridge, England on a Henry Fellowship where he studied mathematical physics.

Brooks was appointed a Junior Fellow at Harvard, but entered war work and did not finish his tenure. During World War II he was involved with the Harvard Underwater Sound Laboratory, working on scanning sonar and on the design of a prototype acoustic homing torpedo. He continued his work on the torpedo project in 1945 when it moved to the Ordnance Research Laboratory at Pennsylvania State College. There he was the Laboratory's Assistant Director.

From 1946 to1950 Brooks was associated with the General Electric Research Laboratory. As Associate Head of GE's Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, he contributed directly to the development of nuclear reactors in the United States for breeder and power generation.

In 1950 he joined the Harvard faculty as Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics. In 1956 he became the founding editor of the Journal of Physics and Chemistry of Solids, serving as its editor-in-chief. During 1956-1957 he was a Guggenheim Fellow at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England. From 1957 to 1975 he served as Dean of Harvard's Division of Engineering and Applied Physics. In the 1960s Brooks became increasingly interested in the relationship between public policy and science. Since that time he has published extensively in that area. In 1976 he was appointed the first Benjamin Peirce Professor of Technology and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government; he became Emeritus in 1986.

Throughout his career Brooks has served as scientific advisor to numerous corporations and government committees. He was involved with the Atomic Energy Commission, the National Research Council, the President's Science Advisory Committee, and the National Science Foundation. He has also acted as trustee of universities and organizations such as Case Western Reserve University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He has been a fellow at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1950, serving as its President from 1971 to 1975. In 1961 he was elected to the American Philosophical Society, and to the National Academy of Sciences in 1962.

Provenance and Acquisition Information

  1. Accession number 09891: Harvey Brooks, 1983 October 20.
  2. Accession number 10535: Harvey Brooks, 1985 July 30.
  3. Accession number 10892: Harvey Brooks, 1986 August 25.
  4. Accession number 12325: Harvey Brooks, 1991 November 26.
  5. Accession number 13065: Division of Applied Sciences, 1995 April 27.
  6. Gift of Rosalind Brooks Stowe, 2021 April 27; Accession 2021.0914 (HUGFP 128.62).

Related Materials

Records of the Division of Engineering and Applied Physics (UAV 362.5xxx), Records of the Harvard Underwater Sound Laboratory (UAV 859.xx), and the General Office Files of the Records of the Dept. of Physics (UAV 691) in the Harvard University Archives. See also publications by and about Harvey Brooks cataloged in Harvard's on-line integrated library information system.

Inventory update

Document last updated 2022 March 24.

Brooks, Harvey.  Papers of Harvey Brooks : 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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