What is the Archive for the History of Quantum Physics and where is it located?


The Archive for the History of Quantum Physics (AHQP), consists of several hundred reels of microfilm copies of correspondence, unpublished manuscripts, research notebooks, and other primary source documents, as well as the transcripts (paper) of over one hundred taped interviews (oral histories) of physical scientists who revolutionized physics during the first decades of this century. Several important manuscript collections have been added to the AHQP since, including the papers of Paul Ehrenfest and Hendrik Lorentz. When used in conjunction with published sources, it provides an unmatched resource for science historians. The original archive, assembled in 1962 under a grant from the National Science Foundation, is located at the Niels Bohr Library at the American Institute of Physics in New York City. Minnesota's copy is one of only 19 in the world, and the only one in the midwestern United States. (See list of AHQP libraries) Scientists whose papers or correspondence figure prominently in the AHQP include: Allard, Bohr, Born, de Broglie, Debye, Dennison, Dirac, Ehrenfest, Einstein, Fermi, Gerlach, Goudsmit, Heisenberg, Hilbert, Jordan, Kemble, Klein, Kramers, Kronig, Landé, Langevin, Lenard, Lorentz, Pauli, Pauling, Richardson, Rubinowicz, Runge, Rutherford, Rydberg, Schrödinger, Sommerfeld, Stark, Van Vleck, Voigt, von Laue, Zeeman, and Zwicky. Many others are also represented. Material is in English, German, French, and Dutch. There is a very large number of autograph letters, some of which are in shorthand. Contents include

  • 289 rolls of microfilm including unpublished manuscripts (letters, drafts of papers, laboratory notebooks, etc.) of approximately 280 people closely connected with the history of quantum physics
  • 5 rolls of microfilm of transcriptions of 175 interviews with about 95 people involved in the development of quantum physics
  • 6 rolls of microfilm of records of the project
  • Additionally, many of the interview transcripts have been digitized and made available on the AIP History Web Site

Finding aids available for the archive include:

  1. Online and print:Sources for History of Quantum Physics. An Inventory and Report. (SHQP). Th. S. Kuhn et al. American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1967
  2. Much of the AHQP is described in detail in Kuhn's Sources for the History of Quantum Physics (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1967). This is the most important overview of the collection and its history. It must be remembered, though, that more than half the microfilms in the AHQP were produced after this guide was compiled. Print source: TC Walter Sci/Eng Books (Level F)  Quarto Q11 .P612 v. 68
  3. Archives for the History of Quantum Physics. Inventory of Microfilms of Manuscript Materials. Joan N. Warnow, Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics. 1986.
  4. Online finding aid: The International Catalog of Sources at AIP can be searched for updated collection information.

The AHQP's various finding aids, including Kuhn's inventory, provide only chronological and proper name access to material. Permission to quote from or to publish documents in the AHQP must be obtained from the respective literary heirs, trustees, or deposit library. Library access and Use The Archive is open to bona fide scholars. Application forms and protocol on use are available at the Science & Engineering Library Reference Desk (sciref@umn.edu). Students will need to provide a letter of reference from their university supervisor.

  1. All scholars need to submit an application to obtain a permit to use the collection. If approved, the permit will be valid for a year from the date of issue.
  2. Those who wish to use the collection are required to sign a statement that they understand and agree to the conditions specified, such as that they will not quote from it without prior permission of the proprietors of the literary rights in the materials to be quoted.


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