Scope and Contents of Collection
Title: Stanley Miller Papers
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 642
Mandeville Special Collections Library
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
Language of Material:
92.7 Linear feet
(227 archives boxes, 2 cardfile boxes, one flat box, and five mapcase folders)
Date (inclusive): 1952-2010
The papers of Stanley Miller, chemist, biologist, and professor at the University of California, San Diego, known for his
research into the origins of life. The papers date from 1952 to 2010 and include correspondence, writing, referee reports,
research and subject files, teaching materials, conference and meeting materials, grant proposals, and audio visual materials.
Miller, Stanley L., 1930-2007
Stanley Miller was born in Oakland, California, in 1930. He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University
of California, Berkeley in 1951 and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1954. It was there, as a graduate student
studying under Harold Urey, that Miller gained attention for his research into the origins of life. As part of his graduate
research, Miller created an electric discharge experiment which showed how amino acids could be generated from chemicals thought
to have been present on the primitive earth. Miller's results were published by the journal
Science in 1953, attracting attention from both the scientific community and the popular press.
After graduating from the University of Chicago, Miller took a year-long fellowship at Caltech. He went on to teach at the
College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University from 1955 to 1960. He then joined the faculty at the University
of California, San Diego (UCSD) in 1960 as a professor of chemistry. While at UCSD Miller served as a director of the NASA
Specialized Center of Research and Training (NSCORT) for studies in exobiology.
Miller devoted much of his career to studying the origins of life, winning the Oparin Medal from the International Society
of the Study of the Origin of Life (ISSOL) in 1983. Along with his origins of life research, Miller helped to design and build
a steam powered automobile, worked to create instrumentation for the search for life on Mars, and investigated the natural
occurrence of clathrate hydrates. In 1995 Miller retired from teaching and became a professor emeritus.
Stanley Miller passed away in 2007.
Scope and Contents of Collection
The papers of Stanley Miller, a prominent biologist and chemist best known for his studies into the origins of life, document
Miller's career and research, primarily while at the University of California, San Diego. The Miller papers date from 1952
to 2010 and are arranged in twelve series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS, 4) WRITINGS OF OTHERS,
5) RESEARCH FILES, 6) GRANTS, 7) UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO (UCSD) MATERIALS, 8) CONFERENCES & LECTURES, 9) PROFESSIONAL
AFFILIATIONS, 10) REFEREE REPORTS & REVIEWS, 11) IMAGES & RECORDINGS, and 12) ORIGINS OF LIFE REPRINTS.
SERIES 1: BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS
The BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS series is arranged in two subseries: A) General and B) Personal Travel.
A) Materials in the General subseries include newspaper clippings about Miller and his work; personal papers such as curricula
vitae, notes, calendars, passports and ID cards; typescripts of interviews with Miller; and posthumous materials such as a
program from Miller's memorial service.
B) The Personal Travel subseries includes Miller's scrapbooks detailing his travel from 1963-1997. The scrapbooks, created
by Miller, contain ticket stubs, receipts, postcards, ephemera, and in most cases, Miller's handwritten accounts of each trip.
Miller's love of cycling is illustrated in several scrapbooks, which record his bicycle trips in Europe and the United States.
For information documenting Miller's professional travel, see Series 8: CONFERENCES & LECTURES.
SERIES 2: CORRESPONDENCE
The CORRESPONDENCE series is arranged in three subseries: A) General Correspondence, B) Student Letters, and C) "Crackpot"
A) The General Correspondence subseries contains letters, postcards, telegrams, and email between Miller and his colleagues,
students, editors and publishers, journalists, and researchers. Prominent correspondents include Leslie Orgel, John Oró, Linus
Pauling, Carl Sagan, and Harold Urey. Letters are filed alphabetically, with works by unidentified correspondents, as well
as miscellaneous invitations, located at the end of the subseries. The bulk of the correspondence in this series is professional
in nature. It is also important to note, while the subseries does include letters from the 1950s, it does not contain correspondence
directly related to Miller's graduate study or his electric discharge experiment research done while at the University of
B) The Student Letters subseries, arranged chronologically, is comprised of letters requesting information about Miller and
his electric discharge experiment, as well as instructions on repeating the experiment. Letters were written by students of
all ages, from countries around the world.
C) The "Crackpot" Letters subseries is comprised of letters originally separated from the general correspondence in files
labeled "crackpot" by Miller. The bulk of this subseries are letters written by either amateur scientists sharing their theories
or by religious fundamentalists objecting to Miller's origins of life research.
SERIES 3: WRITINGS
The WRITINGS series is arranged in five subseries: A) Numbered Publications, B) Unnumbered Publications & Unpublished Writings,
How Could Life Have Arisen on Earth?, D)
The Origins of Life on the Earth (1974), and E) Abstracts.
A) The Numbered Publications subseries consists of published works, arranged chronologically and numbered by Miller. Files
include reprints, tear sheets, typescript and handwritten drafts, notes, research, and calculations. A complete bibliography,
created by Miller, can be found at the beginning of the subseries.
B) Unnumbered Publications & Unpublished Writings consists mainly of typescript and handwritten drafts of papers written by
Miller. Papers are arranged chronologically, from 1952 to 2004, with undated papers filed at the end.
How Could Life Have Arisen on Earth? subseries includes materials produced while writing a teaching module about chemistry and the origins of life. The subseries
contains the module and instructor's manual, correspondence with the publisher, contracts, and reviews of the module by students
using it in the classroom.
D) The fourth subseries is comprised of typescripts, page proofs, artwork, correspondence, and materials from the publisher
related to the book
The Origins of Life on the Earth (1974), written by Stanley Miller and Leslie Orgel.
E) The Abstracts subseries contains abstracts for Miller's lectures, published writings, posters, and meetings. Abstracts
are arranged chronologically and range in date from 1956 to 1998.
SERIES 4: WRITINGS OF OTHERS
Items in the WRITINGS OF OTHERS series include reprints, correspondence, and typescripts of articles, dissertations, and book
chapters, most edited and annotated by Miller. The bulk of this work was written by students who had done research in Miller's
lab. The series is arranged alphabetically by author and ranges in date from 1973 to 1999.
SERIES 5: RESEARCH FILES
The RESEARCH FILES contains research materials produced by Stanley Miller and students working in his lab at UCSD. In most
cases, the folder titles were transcribed from the original files and the original filing order was retained. The series is
arranged in five subseries: A) General, B) GC-MS Spectra Graphs, C) Student Research Files, D) Laboratory Notebooks, and E)
A) Materials in the General files include chromatograms, annotated reprints, research notes and calculations produced by Miller
and his students. Folder titles were transcribed from Miller's original files and the original order was retained. This subseries
also contains materials for special projects in which Miller participated, including Miller's work with the Viking Lander
Project and his research from two expeditions with the research vessel
Alpha Helix. The standard set of reprints and instructions regarding his electric discharge experiment, which Miller would regularly
send to inquiring students, can be found here as well.
B) The GC-MS Spectra Graphs subseries contains research graphs produced by Miller and his students. The folder titles in this
subseries were transcribed from original files and the original filing order was retained.
C) Student Research Files are comprised of files dedicated to specific student's research. The folders are arranged alphabetically
by student name, with unidentified files at the end.
D) The Laboratory Notebooks subseries contains Miller's laboratory notebooks, as well as the lab notebooks of students who
conducted research in Miller's lab. Notebooks are arranged alphabetically by researcher and range in date from ca.1954 to
E) Materials in the Steam Car subseries include correspondence, grant proposals, progress reports, research, and press releases
regarding the construction of a steam powered automobile by UCSD students in a project led by Miller. Also included are applications
and rules for the 1970 Clean Air Car Race (CACR), organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Photographs of the
UCSD Steam Javelin, which raced in the Clean Air Car Race, as well as research images of steam engines can be found in Series
11: IMAGES & RECORDINGS.
SERIES 6: GRANTS
The GRANTS series, arranged alphabetically by granting institution, is comprised of grant proposals, research proposal drafts,
and correspondence. Granting institutions include the California Space Institute, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA), the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation.
SERIES 7: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO (UCSD) MATERIALS
The UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO (UCSD) MATERIALS series is arranged in three subseries: A) General Files, B) Teaching
Materials, and C) NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training in Exobiology (NSCORT).
A) General Files, arranged alphabetically by committee or department, contain correspondence, inter-campus memos, meeting
minutes, and reports. Materials document Miller's service to UCSD from 1962 through 2004. Along with service to his department,
Miller sat on several committees which dealt with the development of the campus and its buildings, including the Building
Advisory Committee for School of Science and Engineering, the Building Committee for Peterson Hall, the Chemistry Department's
Space Committee, and the Library Facilities Planning Committee.
B) The Teaching Materials subseries, arranged alphabetically by class, includes lecture notes, exams, and correspondence related
to classes and lectures given by Miller while teaching at UCSD. An incomplete, numbered set of Miller's lecture transparencies
is included at the end of the subseries.
C) The NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training in Exobiology (NSCORT) subseries documents the formation and administration
of the NSCORT program at UCSD. The subseries is comprised of correspondence, grant proposals, progress reports, meeting minutes,
and ephemera related to the program.
SERIES 8: CONFERENCES & LECTURES
The CONFERENCES & LECTURES series is arranged in two subseries: A) General and B) Posters.
A) Materials in the General subseries include correspondence, programs, lecture notes, conference schedules, abstracts, and
ephemera related to Miller's professional conferences, meetings, and lectures. In many instances, files also contain Miller's
account of his time at these conferences - accounts which describe his trip, his daily schedule, and his opinions of lectures,
discussions, and colleagues at these events. The subseries is arranged chronologically ranging in date from 1953 to 2005.
B) The Posters subseries, arranged chronologically, is comprised of notes, drafts, and print outs of information used to create
posters presented at a number of conferences and meetings. Many of these posters were collaborations with students working
in Miller's lab. The subseries contains only one finished presentation poster, given at the ISSOL '99 conference, and created
by Carlos Estévez, Kevin Nelson, and Stanley Miller.
SERIES 9: PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS
The PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS series is arranged in two subseries: A) Miscellaneous Organizations and B) International Society
for the Study of the Origin of Life (ISSOL).
A) The Miscellaneous Organizations subseries contains information regarding Miller's involvement with a number of organizations
including the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), the National Academy of Sciences, and the Precambrian Paleobiology Research
Group. These documents include correspondence, meeting minutes, reports, and Miller's notes from various meetings.
B) The International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life (ISSOL) subseries documents Miller's involvement with the
organization, including his service as president from 1988-1989. Materials include correspondence, newsletters, meeting minutes,
information regarding the Oparin Medal, and a proposal to create the Urey Medal. Materials documenting Miller's attendance
at ISSOL conferences can be found in Series 8: CONFERENCES & LECTURES.
SERIES 10: REFEREE REPORTS & REVIEWS
The REFEREE REPORTS & REVIEWS series contains referee reports written by Miller, correspondence with journal editors, and
Miller's reviews of grant proposals for organizations such as NASA and the National Science Foundation. Miller served as a
referee for a number of professional journals including
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta,
Journal of Molecular Evolution,
Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, and
SERIES 11: IMAGES & RECORDINGS
The IMAGES & RECORDINGS series is arranged in three subseries: A) Images, B) Audio Recordings, and C) Video Recordings.
A) The Images subseries contains photographs, negatives, and slides. Photographs include Miller's personal snapshots of trips
and conferences, portraits of Miller taken for various publications, images of his electric discharge apparatus, and a set
of slides Miller used for teaching and lectures. Photographs of steam cars, including the UCSD Steam Javelin, can be found
here as well.
B) Audio Recordings document a number of Miller's speaking engagements on radio and at conferences - most often speaking about
his origins of life research. Also included are six cassettes which record Harold Urey's memorial.
C) Video Recordings consist of VHS and DVD recordings of interviews with Miller, recording of Miller's lectures, and programs
regarding the origins of life that feature Miller's work. Recordings range in date from 1986 to ca. 2003, with undated recordings
at the end.
SERIES 12: ORIGINS OF LIFE REPRINTS
The ORIGINS OF LIFE REPRINTS series is arranged in two subseries: A) Reprints By Author and B) Reprints By Subject. This arrangement
retains Miller's original filing order. Along with reprints, files include tear sheets, photocopies of articles, preprints,
and drafts of papers sent to Miller by various colleagues. Many of the reprints include notes, calculations, and annotations
in Miller's hand.
Referee reports in Series 10 are restricted and use requires permission of the Director of the Mandeville Special Collections
Library. Also, audio visual materials in Series 11 are restricted. Researchers must request user copies be produced.
Stanley Miller Papers, MSS 642. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life.
Miller, Stanley L., 1930-2007 -- Archives
Orgel, Leslie E. -- correspondent
United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Specialized Center for Research and Training..
University of California, San Diego -- Faculty
Urey, Harold Clayton, 1893- -- correspondent
Chemistry--Study and teaching