Scope and Content
Title: Samuel Epstein Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1942-2002
Collection number: 10159-MS
Creator: Epstein, Samuel 1919-2001
36 linear feet
California Institute of Technology. Caltech Archives
Pasadena, California 91125
Abstract: The working papers, correspondence, scientific data, teaching and biographical material of Samuel Epstein form the collection
known as the Samuel Epstein Papers at the California Institute of Technology Archives. Epstein had a distinguished career
in isotope geochemistry, resulting in the development of the carbonate paleotemperature scale, as well as the publication
of some pioneering papers with regards to the measurements of paleotemperatures and of the isotopic composition of water in
the meteorological cycle. Epstein carried out important research on the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, on isotope composition
of hydrogen and oxygen in tree rings, and on the origin of meteorites, tektites, and lunar rocks and minerals.
Physical location: Archives, California Institute of Technology.
Language of Material:
Languages represented in the collection:
The collection is open for research with the exception of the following seven files: 14.7, 15.7, and 15.10 through 15.14,
that are closed due to their confidential matters. Researchers must apply in writing for access.
Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish
or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Caltech Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf
of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and, unless explicitly stated otherwise,
is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], Samuel Epstein Papers, 10159-MS, Caltech Archives, California Institute of Technology.
The papers were donated to the Caltech Archives by Samuel and Diane Epstein in two installments. The first installment was
donated by Samuel Epstein himself, on September 1996, and consisted of five storage boxes that were inventoried in 1998. Forty-three
additional storage boxes were donated by Epstein's widow, Diane, on January 2002.
Samuel Epstein was born near Kobryn, Poland in 1919 and moved to Winnipeg, Canada with his family in 1927. After graduating
from high school in 1937, he attended the University of Manitoba, where he earned a BS in geology and chemistry in 1941 and
a MS in chemistry in 1942. In 1944 he received his PhD in chemistry at McGill University, where he conducted research on the
kinetics of reactions involving the high explosive RDX.
Immediately after graduation Epstein joined the Canadian Atomic Energy Project in Montreal where he worked on rare-gas fission
products resulting from the fission of U235.
In 1948, he joined Nobel Laureate Harold Urey at the University of Chicago on an oxygen isotope paleotemperature project that
Urey was in the process of initiating. The period Epstein spent at the University of Chicago (1948-1952) was the beginning
of his distinguished career in isotope geochemistry.
In June 1952, Epstein was invited by Harrison Brown to join a team of scientists at Caltech, among them Clair C. Patterson
and Charles McKinney. This group formed the nucleus of what would become Caltech's geochemistry program. Epstein joined the
Geology Division as a research fellow in geochemistry in 1952, was appointed Associate Professor of Geochemistry in 1954,
and Professor of Geochemistry in 1959.
Epstein began his research on the utility of oxygen isotope data in igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary related problems,
as well as investigating the isotopic fractionations associated with the growth of plants and the formation of petroleum.
He carried out important research on the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, on isotope composition of hydrogen and oxygen
in tree rings, and on the origin of meteorites, tektites, and lunar rocks and minerals.
Epstein was widely recognized for his scientific achievements. In 1976 he was elected to both the National Academy of Sciences
and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was the recipient of the Day Medal of the Geological Society in 1976, the
Goldschmidt Medal of the Geochemical Society and the Wollaston Medal, both in 1977, and the Urey Medal of the European Association
of Geochemistry in 1995. During 1978-1979 he served as president of the Geochemical Society.
From 1984 until his retirement in 1990, Epstein held the position of William E. Leonhard Professor of Geology at Caltech.
He continued his productive scientific work in meteorite geology and past climate changes until his death on September 17,
Scope and Content
The collection is divided into seven series, organized in 84 archival boxes. The correspondence series contains both incoming
and outgoing correspondence organized in alphabetically ordered folders.
Series 2 contains material that relates directly to the California Institute of Technology. This series is subdivided into
Epstein's teaching material, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences (GPS) material, committees and reviews.
Epstein's manuscripts, preprints and reprints (Series 3), and his talks and conference meetings materials (Series 4) are arranged
in chronological order and contain a wide variety of related documents, from graphs to notes to related correspondence.
Epstein's research files (Series 5) are subdivided into two categories: grant proposals and general research materials organized
by research subjects and topics.
The technical files (Series 6) which make up over half the collection, contain mass spectrometer data books as well as laboratory
notebooks of Epstein and his collaborators. Notebook numbering refers to the sequence of experiments.
The biographical section contains a small amount of biographical material.
The collection is organized into the following series:
- Series 1. Correspondence
- Series 2. California Institute of Technology
- Series 3. Manuscripts, Preprints and Reprints
- Series 4. Talks, Conferences and Meetings
- Series 5. Research Files
- Series 6. Technical Files
- Series 7. Biographical
Researchers should also refer to Epstein's oral histories, conducted in 1985-1986 by Carol Bugé, which are deposited in the
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
California Institute of Technology