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HUGFP 94.xx

Kistiakowsky, George B. (George Bogdan), 1900- Papers of George B. Kistiakowsky : an inventory

Harvard University Archives

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Harvard University

©President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2001

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Harvard University Archives
Cambridge, MA 02138
Title: Papers of George B. Kistiakowsky, ca. 1928-1932 (inclusive)
Quantity: 32.8 cubic feet in 95 containers
Call No.: HUGFP 94
Creator: Kistiakowsky, George B. (George Bogdan), 1900-1982.
Abstract: 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.
Note: This document last updated 2013 September 23.
Language of materials: English.

Selected Search Terms

These papers have been indexed in the International Catalog of Sources for History of Physics and Allied Sciences (ICOS) using the following terms. Those seeking related materials should search under these terms.
Council for a Livable World.
Harvard University. Dept. of Chemistry -- Faculty.
Manhattan Project (U.S.).
National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) Committee on Science and Public Policy.
United States. Office of Scientific Research and Development. National Defense Research Committee.
United States. President's Science Advisory Committee.
Arms control.
Chemistry -- Study and teaching.
Science and state -- United States.
Science -- Political aspects -- United States.
Lectures.
Minutes.
Technical reports.
Science consultants.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

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.

Scope and Contents of Collection

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.

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.

Restrictions on 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.

Provenance and Acquisition Information:

Gift of Mrs. George Kistiakowsky.
Accession number 11261; received 1987 October 21.
Accession number 11354; received 1988 March 16.

Container List


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