John Clarke Slater Papers


Date: 1908-1976 | Size: 81 Linear feet


After receiving his doctorate from Harvard in 1923, the physicist John Clarke Slater did postgraduate work at Cambridge University and on the continent working n quantum theory with both Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. Slater was appointed to the head of the department of physics at MIT in 1930, which he and Karl Compton worked effectively to transform into one of international stature. His own work on the electromagnetic theory of microwaves was fundamental to the development of radar systems. During the Second World War, he was affiliated with the radiation laboratory and after he helped found the solid state and molecular theory group, the interdisciplinary Center for Materials Science and Engineering, the Research Laboratory of Electronics, and the Laboratory for Nuclear Science. After his retirement from MIT in 1966, Slater moved to the University of Florida, remaining active until his death in 1976. The Slater Papers contains a wealth of information on the development of physics at MIT, as well as Slater's post-1966 work at the University of Florida. There are about 133 (7 linear ft.) research notebooks, 1944-1976, and a long series (30 linear ft.) of folders, containing lectures, scientific notes, drafts of manuscripts and papers, correspondence during his collaboration with the Los Alamos Labs, 1966-1970, and extensive correspondence relating to the National Academy of Science. Information about American-Swedish exchange in quantum science is located in the correspondence with Per-Olov Löwdin.

Background note

Naturally inclined to interdisciplinarity, John Clarke Slater was an important proponent of quantum theory, a pioneer in the electromagnetic theory of microwaves, an early materials scientist, and a significant player in the 20th century development of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Raised in an academic family in Rochester, NY, Slater had earned degrees in physics at Rochester (AB 1920) and Harvard (PhD 1923) before the age of 24. After receiving his doctorate, he entered into one of the most productive periods of his research career, studying as a Sheldon Fellow at Cambridge and Copenhagen, the latter under Niels Bohr, during which time he whetted his appetite for quantum theory while working on the quantum mechanics of the chemical bond. At this early point in his career, Slater developed what would become his personal approach to physics using quantum theory to integrate the theoretical and practical applications in the study of atoms, molecules, and solids.

After his return from Europe, Slater spent a few years in contented academic vagabondage, employed as an instructor at Harvard, but spending time at Stanford (summer, 1926) and Chicago (1928), until once again earning passage to Europe. As a Guggenheim fellow, he continued his studies in quantum theory under Werner Heisenberg until receiving the call to MIT. In 1930, the newly appointed president of MIT, Karl T. Compton, hired Slater to head the Department of Physics, and over the next decade, the two together helped to assemble a department of international repute. Identifying key areas of interests in physics and luring such talented persons to the university as George Harrison in spectroscopy, Robley Evans in radioactivity, and Robert J. van de Graaf in nuclear physics, Slater helped to guide a remarkable expansion of the department during the height of the Great Depression. During this period, his own research into the electromagnetic theory of microwaves, conducted with colleagues Julius Stratton and Nathaniel Frank, helped establish the theoretical basis for the development of radar. During the Second World War, Slater worked at the famed radiation laboratory at MIT, developing improvements in radar and the magnetron.

Slater served as chair of the Department of Physics until 1952, when he was appointed MIT's first Institute Professor and Harry B. Higgins chair, allowing him even greater latitude in pressing his interdisciplinary agenda. After a year spent at Brookhaven Laboratories, he returned to MIT to help establish the renowned group in solid state and molecular theory and the interdisciplinary Center for Materials Science and Engineering, the Research Laboratory of Electronics, and the Laboratory for Nuclear Science. The new perspectives on materials science emanating from these groups was instrumental in the development of the transistor, in part through the doctoral work of one of Slater's best known students, William Shockley.

After Slater retired from MIT in 1966, he was hired by the University of Florida as Graduate Research Professor of Physics and Chemistry, remaining active at both institutions until his death in 1976. Slater's voluminous publications include several key works in shaping the several fields in which worked, including Chemical Physics (1939), Microwave Electronics (1950), Quantum Theory of Matter (1951), Quantum Theory of Atomic Structure (1960) and Quantum Theory of Molecules and Solids (1963-1966). Among his students were two Nobel laureates, Richard Feynmann and William Shockley.

Scope and content

The Slater Papers contains the voluminous correspondence and research notes (81 linear feet) of physicist John Clarke Slater. It is a quintessentially 20th century collection, focused not only on the demands of research on the individual scientist, but on the institutions with which he was affiliated and the sets of relationships that define the practice of modern physics.

Concentrated in the period from 1935 through the end of his career in the early 1970s, the Slater Papers provide significant documentation for the development of the Department of Physics at MIT during the 1930s through early 1950s, the Department of Physics at the University of Florida during the late 1960s, and on quantum theory, the electromagnetic theory of microwaves, and the development of materials science and solid state physics during the 1950s. His work at Los Alamos, correspondence with the National Academy of Sciences, and his participation in the Sanibel Island Conferences late in his career are also well documented.

Although sparser, some materials have survived from Slater's early career, including his notes on a course in wave mechanics at Harvard, 1927, however his connections with Bohr, Born, Ehrenfest, Einstein, Heisenberg, and Sommerfeld are typically represented by only one or two items. His various publications comprise a significantly greater part of the collection. In addition to a copy of his autobiography, A Physicist of the Lucky Generation, there are 34 typescript drafts of his multivolume Quantum Theory of Molecules and Solids, 9 copies of Solid State and Molecular Theory, and drafts of more than 100 articles.

The collection is arranged in five series:

Series I. Correspondence 1908-1976 45 linear feet
Series II. Notes and bound volumes 1926-1970 29 linear feet
Series III. Card files n.d. 3 linear feet
Series IV. Drawings n.d. 0.5 linear feet
Series V. MIT. Solid State and Molecular Theory Group Quarterly Progress Reports 1951-1970 2 linear feet

Digital objects note

This collection contains digital materials that are available in the APS Digital Library. Links to these materials are provided with context in the inventory of this finding aid. A general listing of digital objects may also be found here.

Collection Information


The Slater Papers were donated to the APS Library by Rose Mooney Slater in 1980 and 1982. (98-1037ms)

Series V (Quarterly Reports of the MIT Solid State and Molecular Theory Group) was donated in August 2003 by Alfred Switendick (acc. no. 2003-31ms).

Preferred citation

Cite as: John Clarke Slater Papers, American Philosophical Society.

Processing information

Cataloged by Miriam B. Spectre, September, 1993; Scott DeHaven, November, 1999.

Separated material

Photographs have been removed for storage to the Photographs Division (call no. x.567-x.578).


Murphy D. Smith, "The John Slater Papers at the American Philosophical Society," Center for History of Physics Newsletter 13, 2 (1981): 3.

Physiology, Biochemistry, and Biophysics Note

Scholars of physiology, biochemistry, or biophysics may find the following of interest:

Tiselius, Arne, 1902-1971 Correspondence (1 item)1956English
Wyckoff, Ralph W. G. (Ralph Walter Graystone), 1897-1995 Correspondence (2 items)1957English

General note

Following his retirement from MIT, some of Slater's papers were damaged during transport from Massachusetts to Florida. The van carrying the collection crashed and caught fire, and as a result, the collection sustained fire and water damage. Some material was lost in the ensuing confusion, however it is impossible to know what.

Indexing Terms

Corporate Name(s)

  • Cambridge University
  • Harvard University. Museum of Comparative Zoology
  • Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Physics
  • National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)

Personal Name(s)

  • Allen, Leland Cullen, 1926-2012
  • Ballard, Stanley S., 1908-1998
  • Barnett, Michael P.
  • Bohr, Niels, 1885-1962
  • Boring, A. Michael
  • Bush, Vannevar, 1890-1974
  • Clark, W. Mansfield (William M
  • Clementi, Enrico
  • Compton, Arthur Holly, 1892-1962
  • Compton, K. T. (Karl Taylor), 1887-1954
  • Condon, Edward Uhler, 1902-1974
  • Connolly, John W. D.
  • Coulson, C. A. (Charles Alfred), 1910-1974
  • Darrow, Karl K. (Karl Kelchner), 1891-1982
  • Debye, Peter J. W. (Peter Josef William), 1884-1966
  • Fermi, Enrico, 1901-1954
  • Frank, Nathaniel Herman, 1903-1984
  • Grimaldi, Francois
  • Harrison, George Russell, 1898-1979
  • Hartree, Douglas R. (Douglas Rayner), 1897-1958
  • Herman, Frank
  • Hove, L. van (Leon)
  • Howarth, D. J.
  • Jaeger, Zeev
  • Johnson, Keith H.
  • Koster, George F.
  • Loucks, T. L. (Terry L.)
  • Löwdin, Per Olov, 1916-2000
  • Manning, Millard
  • Mattheiss, Leonard F.
  • Morse, Philip M. (Philip McCord), 1903-1985
  • Mulliken, Robert Sanderson, 1896-1986
  • Nesbit, Robert K.
  • Norton, C. L.
  • Nottingham, Wayne B. (Wayne Bu
  • Parr, Robert G.
  • Pauling, Linus, 1901-1994
  • Pegram, George B.
  • Pepinsky, Ray, 1912-
  • Ransil, Bernard J. (Bernard Jerome)
  • Roothaan, C. C. J.
  • Segall, Benjamin
  • Shapley, Harlow, 1885-1972
  • Shockley, William, 1910-1989
  • Slater, John C. (John Clarke), 1900-1976
  • Slater, John Rothwell
  • Smith, Darwin W.
  • Smith, Robert Allan
  • Stratton, Julius Adams, 1901-1994
  • Stratton, Samuel Wesley, 1861-1931
  • Swann, W. F. G. (William Francis Gray), 1884-1962
  • Szent-Gyorgyi, Albert, 1893-19
  • Tate, John Torrence, 1925-
  • Teller, Edward, 1908-2003
  • Ufford, Charles Wilbur, 1900-
  • Vallarta, Manuel Sandoval
  • Van Vleck, J. H. (John Hasbrouck), 1899-1980
  • Waals, J. D. van der (Johannes
  • Waber, James T. (James Thomas)
  • Waerden, B. L. van der (Bartel Leendert), 1903-1996
  • Wheeler, John Archibald, 1911-2008
  • Wigner, Eugene Paul, 1902-1995
  • Wilson, Edwin Bidwell, 1879-1964
  • Zacharias, Zerrod R.


  • Physics -- 20th century
  • Physics -- Study and teaching -- 20th century
  • Quantum theory
  • University of Florida. Department of Physics

Detailed Inventory

 Series I. Correspondence
1908-197645 lin. feetBox 1-89
 Abbot, Charles G
 Abdelkader, Mostafa A
 Abrahams, S C
 Academic Press, Inc.
 Academic Collective Bargaining Information Service
 Acoustical Scoeity of America
 Adams, E Dwight, Jr.
 Adams, E N
 Adler, R B
 Advanced Technology Consultants Corp.
 Advances in Chemistry Series
 Aghajanian, Arthur
 Aghajanian, Haroutioun A
 Agathangelidis, Antonios
 Agra University
 Aigrain, P
 Air Force Office of Scientific Research
 Air Force Systems Command
 Air France
 Aitchison, R E
 Alachua County Property Appraiser
 Alachua Hillcrest Memorial Park Ass'n
 Alberta Symposium on Quantum Chemistry
 Alberty, R A.
 Trends in science and resource considerations
 Albright, John R
 Alder, Berni J
 Alexander, Harriet D
 Allen, Donald S
 Allen, James W
 Allen, Leland C
 Allis, William P
 Almy, G M
 Alpert, Nelson L
 Alster, Caliste J
 Altmann, Simon L
 Altman, William S
 Alvarez, Luis W
 Amaldi, Eduardo
 Amar, Henri
 Amdur, I
 Ament, William S
 American Academy of Achievement
 American Academy of Arts and Sciences
 American Association for the Advancement of Science
 American Association of Physics Teachers
 American Astronomical Society.
 American Automboile Association
 American Chemical Society
 American College Bureau
 American Council on Education
 American Crystallographic Association
 American Elsevier Publishing Co., Ltd.
 American Express Company
 American Institute of Physics
 American Journal of Physics
 American Legion News Service
 American Men and Women of Science
 American Philosophical Society
 American Physical Society
 American Physical Society Division of Solid State Physics
 American Physical Society Meetings.
 American Scandanavian Foundation
 American Scientist
 Amorós, J L
 Anderson, Carl D
 Anderson, J S
 Anderson, Philip W
 Anderson, R Christian
 Anderson, Richard
 Andrews, Donald H
 Angus, Kennedy
 Announcements, notices, etc.
 Annual Review of Physical Chemistry
 Antoci, S.
 Application of the intersecting spheres model to periodic structures
 Removal of the discontinuities of the trial function in the computation of the electronic structure of molecules...
 Use of discontinuous trial functions in the computation of the electronic structure of molecules
 Applications for positions
 Application to Army Service Forces Corps of Engineers, Manhattan District
 Arai, Tadashi
 Argonne National Laboratory
 Ariyama, Kanetka
 Arlinghaus, Francis J
 Arnold, James R
 Arrathoon, Raymond
 Arunkumar, K A
 Associated Universities, Inc.
 Association of American Universities
 Astin, A V
 Atlantic First National Bank of Gainesville

See: First National Bank of Gainesville

 Atlantic National Bank of Jacksonville
 Atomic Energy Commission
 Atomic field and wave functions
 Atomics International
 Attwood, David
 Atwood, Wallace A, Jr.
 Austin Quantum Mechanics Conference
 Australian Academy of Science
 AVCO Research and Advanced Development
 Averbach, Benjamin L
 Averill, W A
 Axilrod, Benjamin M
 Aydelotte, Frank
 Ayres, Robert U
 Azaroff, Leonid V
 B39 or G!
 Bacher, Robert F
 Bačkovský, Jindřich
 Bacon, G. E.
 Bader, R. F. W.
 Bagus, Paul S.
 Bailey, David W
 Bailey, Michael John
 Baines, Bobby
 Baines, G O
 Baker, Ian M
 Baker, W B
 Baker, W O
 Bakker, C J
 Baldini, G
 Balikin, Isay
 Ball, Michael A
 Ballantine, Stuart
 Ballard, R L
 Ballard, Stanley S
 Ballhausen, C J
 Banerjee, K
 Banks, Ephraim
 Banyard, Kenneth Edward
 Bara, Walter A
 Bardeen, John
 Barenberg, Evelyn
 Barker, M E
 Barnes, William H
 Barnett, Michael Peter
 Barnett, Michael Peter Mechanized molecular calculations
 Barnett, Raymond
 Barr, E Scott
 Barrett, C S
 Barrett, John H
 Barron, T H K
 Bartlett, Eleanor
 Bartlett, James H, Jr.
 Bartling, Judd Q
 Barton, Henry A
 Bartz, R V
 Basic Ordnance Research Program
 Basset, I M
 Bateman, Paul T
 Bates, D R
 Battelle Institute Colloquim on the science of materials
 Bauer, F D
 Baughan, E C
 Bayless, Ray T
 Beadle, Robert W
 Beard, David B
 Beck, Clifford K
 Beck, Paul A
 Becker, J A
 Beckley, L E
 Beckley, L G
 Beeck, Otto
 Beeman, W W
 Beers, Norman R
 Beetham, Robert
 Bell, M E
 Bell, Whitfield Jenks, Jr.
 Bell Telephone Laboratories
 Ben-Abraham, S I
 Benedek, George B
 Benedict, Manson
 Benjamin, W. A., Inc.
 Bennett, Clarence E
 Bennett, Lawrence H
 Bennett, Ralph D
 Benson, Elof F
 Benson, J F
 Bent, Henry A
 Berg, Owe
 Bergeron, Clyde J, Jr.
 Berkey, Donald Keith
 Berlin, Theodore H
 Berry, R Stephen
 Bersohn, R
 Bertram E. Warren Diffraction Physics Award
 Bethe, Hans A
 Betterton, J O
 Bhagat, S M
 Bhattacharyya, Pranab Kumar
 Bhawalkar, D R
 Bibliography: Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory Publication
 Bibliothek der Eidgenössischen Technischen Hochscule
 Bieging, G P
 Bigler, W P
 Bijvoet, D J M
 Billington, Douglas S
 Biographical Encyclopedia of the World
 Birge, Raymond T
 Birman, Joseph L
 Birnbaum, George
 Birss, Fraser W
 Bishop, David M
 Bishop, F L
 Biswas, Bijitendra nath
 Biswas, S C
 Bitter(?), Fr
 Black, D H
 Blackman, M
 Blaisdell, Warren
 Bland, J A
 Blandin, André
 Blankenship, L Vaughn
 Blatt, Frank J
 Blauser, J Rodney
 Blinc, R
 Blinder, Seymour M
 Bloom, Felix [Bloch]
 Bloembergen, N
 Blue Cross-Blue Shield
 Bluhm, Emma
 Boas, Franz
 Boas, Walter
 Boeing Scientific Research Laboratories
 Boelter, L M K
 Bogard, Paul A
 Bohr, Niels

Includes letter of 10 January 1925 in which Bohr discusses Kramers, dispersion, Darwin, and quantum physics; and letter of 28 January 1926 in which Bohr discusses radiation and spectral lines. The letters were found in Slater printed material.

 Bolz, R E
 Bonch-Bruevich, V L
 Boorse, Henry A
 Booth, F
 Boring, A Michael
 Born, Max
 Borst, L B
 Bostlick, Winston H
 Boston Gas Company
 Bousquet, Paul-Louis
 Bowen, D B
 Bowen, Harold G
 Bowers, Wayne A
 Bowker, R. R., Company
 Bowles, Edward L
 Bowles, E W
 Bowles, Gordon T
 Bowman, Robert A, Jr.
 Boyce, Joseph C
 Boyer, M R
 Boyer, Timothy H
 Boys, S F
 Bradley, Christopher J
 Bragg, Lawrence
 Bragg, W L
 Brahmecha, B G
 Brahms, Gerhard R
 Branch, Dan M
 Branch, Dan Paul
 Brandow, Baird
 Brandt, Werner
 Brauer, Joseph B
 Bredig, Max
 Breed, C B
 Breene, R G, Jr.
 Breit, Gregory
 Brickwedde, F G
 Bridgman, P W
 Brillouin, Leon
 Brindley, G W
 Brinkman, H
 Brittin, Wesley E
 Britton, F R
 Brockhouse, B N
 Brode, Robert B
 Brode, Wallace R
 Bronk, Detlev
 Brooke, Edward W
 Brookhaven Apartments, Brookhaven National Laboratory
 Brookhaven Conference on Radiation Damage
 Brookhaven Conferences - Memos.
 Brookhaven National Laboratory
 Brooks, Harvey
 Brown, Edmond
 Brown, George Martin
 Brown, Gordon S
 Brown, J Douglas
 Brown, John S
 Brown, Keirn C
 Brown, M M
 Brown, Malcolm Cotton, Fellowship
 Brown, R D
 Brown, Theodore L
 Brown, W Byers
 Browne, C A
 Browne, C G K
 Browne, R P
 Bruce, Harold L
 Brueckner, Keith A
 Bruner, Buddy L
 Brush, Stephen G
 Bryans, Ruth F
 Bryden, Samuel D, Jr.
 Buck, Paul H
 Buckingham, A David
 Buckley, Oliver E
 Buckley, O.E. Solid State Physics Prize
 Buechner, Mrs. Christine
 Buechner, W W
 Buechner, Mrs. William V
 Buerger, M J
 Bundy, McGeorge
 Bunemann, Oscar
 Bunge, Carlos
 Bunker, John W M
 Bunnett, J F
 Bunts, Alexander T
 Burdick, Glenn A
 Burhoe, Ralph W
 Burke, Edward A
 Burmeister, Charles W
 Burnelle, Louis A
 Burnham Corporation
 Burns, Gerald
 Burstein, E
 Burton, J A
 Burton, Milton
 Busch, G
 Bush, Vannevar
 Butterworths Legal Medical and Scientific Publishers
 Cade, Paul E
 Cady, Walter G
 Calais, J L
 Callaway, Joseph
 Callen, Earl R
 Callen, Herbert
 Calsoyas, C D
 Camp, Thomas R
 Campbell, A N
 Campbell, Betty
 Campbell, Neil
 Canada. Fourth Canadian Symposium on Theoretical Chemistry
 Canada. National Research Council
 Canadian Journal of Physics
 Canavan, F L
 Cannon, C G
 Cape, James D
 Carlson, E H
 Carlson, Harry F
 Carlson, John
 Carlson, Thomas A
 Carnam, Daryl Ann
 Carnegie Institute of Technology
 Carnegie Institution of Washington
 Carr, Thomas
 Carter, E J D
 Case, David A. Calculation of one-electron properties from X-alpha multiple scattering wave functions
 Cauchois, Y
 Caughlan, Charles N
 Cement-Concrete Research Conference
 Central Scientific Company: Scholarship Committee
 Centre Européen de Calcul Atomique Moléculaire
 Chalmers, Bruce
 Chalmers, Paul M
 Chambers, R C
 Chandra, Ramesh
 Chandrasekhar, S
 Chandy, K C
 Chasson, Robert L
 Chastleton Apartment Hotel
 Chatterjee, R
 Chatterjee, S
 Chemical Catalogue Company
 Chen, T T
 Chesterman, Francis L
 Cheney, A J
 Chhonkar, N L
 Chiappini, Olga Ruth
 Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company
 Chicago Solid State Colloquium
 Child, M S
 Chiles, Lawton
 Chipman, David R
 Chissick, Seymour S
 Chiu, Ying-Nan
 Chloride Technical Services Ltd.
 Cho, Bongki
 Cho, Sang-Jean
 Choi, Jong H
 Choo, Duck-soo
 Christmas card list
 Christy, John J
 Ciftan, Mikael
 Citizens concerned with the relation of science and engineering to private enterprise and the government
 City College of the City University of New York
 Clapp, D D
 Clark, Adrian N
 Clark, Samuel D
 Clark, William Mansfield
 Clauser, Francis H
 Cleland, John W
 Clementi, Enrico
 Clements, Cyril
 Cliff, Martha
 Clinton Laboratories
 Clinton, William L
 Clogston, A M
 Cloud, Jeanette T
 Coben, Stanley
 Cochran, John F
 Cochran, F William
 Cohen, Marshall H
 Cohen, Morris
 Cohen, Morrel H
 Cohen, Robert S
 Cohen, Saul G
 Cohen, Solly G
 Cohn, Willi M
 Colby, Le Roy E
 Colby, Walter F
 Cole, Kenneth S
 Coleman, John S
 Coller, Bruce
 Collie, C H
 Collins, Samuel C
 Collins, Thomas C
 Colombo, S
 Colonnetti, Gustavo
 Columbia University
 Commission on College Physics
 Committee for an effective UNESCO
 Committee on Educational Survey
 Committee on Graduate Study
 Committee on International Exchange of Persons
 Committee on Support of Research in the Mathematical Sciences
 Comparison of TFD and X-alpha methods of molecules and solids
 Compton, Arthur H
 Compton, Karl T
 Computational methods for large molecules and localized states in solids symposium
 Conant, James B
 Conceptual Physics
 Concerning Eisenstein's paper
 Condon, Edward Uhler
 Condon, Joseph Henry
 Conference on atmoic energy defense training
 Conference on computational methods in band theory
 Conference on current problems in crystal physics
 Conference on electron theory of transition metals
 Conference on electrostatic and higherenergy accelerators, M.I.T.
 Conference on lead sulphide research, Purdue University
 Conference on magnetism
 Conference on pyysical electronics, MIT
 Conference on problems of quantum physics, Copenhagen
 Conference on quantum-mechanical methods in valence theory
 Conference on the physics of semimetals and narrow gap semiconductors
 Conference on the structure and properties of solid surfaces
 Congress Inn
 Conklin, James B, Jr.
 Conner, Jo
 Connolly, John W D
 Proposal for renewal for research grant on quantum theory of molecules and solids. Univ. of Fla.
 Quantum theoretical studies of the structure of biophysical molecules.
 Theoretical studies of catalytic reactions in fuel cells
 Consul General for the U.S., Tokyo
 Continental Oil Company
 Cook, Earl L
 Cook, G B
 Cook, John
 Cook, Thomas & Son
 Cooke, A H
 Cooksey, Donald
 Coolidge, Albert S
 Coolidge and Carlson, Architects
 Coolidge, Archibald C
 Cooperative Computing Laboratory
 Cooperative Research Program in Radioactivity
 Cope, A J
 Cope, Arthur C
 Copeland, Paul L