Information for Researchers
Scope and Content of Collection
Collection Title: Leo Brewer papers
Date (inclusive): 1921-2004,
Date (bulk): bulk 1939-2004
Collection Number: BANC MSS 2005/298
Brewer, Leo, 1919-2005
Number of containers: 25 cartons, 2 boxes, 1 oversize folder
Linear feet: 34.25 linear ft.
The Bancroft Library
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, California, 94720-6000
Phone: (510) 642-6481
Fax: (510) 642-7589
Abstract: The Leo Brewer papers, 1921-2004, comprise the correspondence, teaching materials,
laboratory notes, writings, and research files of renowned chemist Leo Brewer, universally regarded as one of
the founders of the field of modern high-temperature chemistry. Brewer served as Professor in the College of
Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1946-1989, and as Director of the Inorganic Materials
Research Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory from 1961-1975. The collection includes materials
documenting Brewer's doctoral research on Mesityl Oxide and his wartime research as a member of the Manhattan
Project, as well as his later research on high temperature thermodynamics, materials science, the study of
metallic phases, and the development of metallic bonding theory.
Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English, French and German
Physical Location: Many of the Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite and advance notice
may be required for use. For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the
Library's online catalog.
Information for Researchers
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has been assigned to The Bancroft Library. Materials in these collections are protected by the U.S.
Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) and may not be used without permission of The Bancroft Library. Use may be
restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, privacy and publicity rights,
licensing terms, and trademarks. All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection
materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of
California, Berkeley 94720-6000. See:
Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is
restricted to research and educational purposes.
[Identification of item], Leo Brewer Papers, BANC MSS 2005/298, The Bancroft Library, University of
Alternate Forms Available
There are no alternate forms of this collection.
Additional Notes on Collection:
The Leo Brewer papers form part of the History of Science and Technology Collection at The Bancroft
Records of the University of California, Berkeley, College of Chemistry. CU-30
Kenneth S. Pitzer papers. BANC MSS 99/170 c
William Zev Hassid papers. BANC MSS 79/32 c
Henry Rapoport papers. BANC MSS 2002/261 c
Joel Henry Hildebrand papers. BANC MSS 71/69 c
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public
Brewer, Leo, 1919-2005 --Archives
Brewer, L. (Leo), 1919-2005
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
United States. Dept. of Energy. Lawrence Berkeley
Lawrence Radiation Laboratory
Lawrence Radiation Laboratory. $ Inorganic
Materials Research Division
Manhattan Project (U.S.)
United States. Army. Manhattan Project
University of California, Berkeley. College of
University of California, Berkeley. Dept. of
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
Chemistry, Physical and theoretical
Chemistry, Physical and theoretical --Research
High temperature chemistry
History of science and technology collection
The Leo Brewer Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by Roger Brewer in October 2005.
No additions are expected.
System of Arrangement
Arranged to the folder and container levels.
Processed by Eresmia Ouranitsas and Josh Schneider in 2007.
Leo Brewer, American chemist, was born on June 13, 1919 in St. Louis, Missouri. Brewer received his
undergraduate degree from the California Institute of Technology in 1940 and his PhD from the University of
California, Berkeley, in 1942. He joined the Manhattan Project following his graduate work, and joined the
faculty at UC Berkeley in 1946. Leo Brewer married Rose Strugo (d. 1989) in 1945. They had three children, Beth
Gaydos, Roger Brewer, and Gail Brewer. Leo Brewer died on Feb. 22 2005, in Lafayette, California, at the age of
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
Brewer spent the first ten years of his life with his family in Youngstown, Ohio, where his father worked as a
shoe repairman. In 1929, in the wake of the Great Depression, his family moved to Los Angeles, California. It
was only six years later that Brewer decided to attend the California Institute of Technology. As an
undergraduate at Cal Tech, Leo Brewer was strongly influenced by Professors E. Swift and D. Yost, and had his
first taste of research studying equilibria and kinetics of olefin hydration under Professors D. Pressman and H.
J. Lucas. After the B.S. in 1940, Professor Linus Pauling persuaded him to pursue advanced instruction at the
University of California, Berkeley, where he continued kinetic studies under Professor Axel R. Olson. In the
shadow of the United States' entrance into World War II, Brewer pursued his Ph.D. with steady determination, and
completed his dissertation on the effect of electrolytes upon the kinetics of aqueous reactions in November
1942, after only 28 months.
Following his doctoral work, Brewer was immediately recruited by UC Berkeley professor Wendell Latimer to join
the top-secret wartime research group that would become known as the Manhattan Engineering District Project.
Assigned to work under Professor E.D. Eastman (whose deteriorating health forced him to withdraw from the
project soon after work had begun), Brewer headed a group composed of Leroy Bromley, Paul Gilles and Norman
Lofgren, assigned with the three-fold task of predicting the possible high-temperature properties of the newly
discovered element plutonium, then available only in trace amounts; developing refractory materials capable of
containing molten plutonium without excessive contamination, even if the worst predictions should be true; and
developing a micro-analytical procedure for the determination of oxygen.
The first of these tasks led to a fundamental examination of the behavior of all elements at high temperature,
and resulted in a series of papers describing the high-temperature behavior of metals, oxides, halides, and many
other compounds. The second task led to the development of the refractory sulfides of Cesium (Ce), Thorium (Th),
and Uranium (U). The third task led to development of a micro method of analysis of electropositive metals using
a molten platinum bath.
The immediate result of the research was the creation of the new material Cesium Sulfide (CeS), from which they
made several hundred crucibles for use at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Brewer's crucibles were ready when the
plutonium became available.
In 1946, following his service as a member of the Manhattan Project, Brewer was appointed an assistant
professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of California. He rose steadily through the ranks,
achieving the rank of full professor in 1955. Brewer served as a faculty member of the Department of Chemistry
for over sixty years, during which time he directed 41 Ph.D. candidates, and nearly two-dozen post-doctoral
In addition to his academic appointment, Brewer was associated with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
(formerly the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory) from 1943-1994, and served as Director of the Inorganic Materials
Research Division of LBNL from its inception in 1961 until 1975.
Brewer's dual appointment afforded him the opportunity to take an active role in all levels of academic
instruction, both inside and outside of the laboratory. Besides providing classroom instruction in solid-state
chemistry, heterogeneous equilibria, and inorganic chemistry, Brewer also delivered lectures and supervised
laboratory work for laboratory courses in freshman chemistry, advanced quantitative analysis, instrumental
analysis, inorganic synthesis, inorganic reactions, and organic chemistry, as well as courses in chemical
thermodynamics from the sophomore to graduate student level. In order to ensure a high standard of instruction
at even the most basic levels, Brewer initiated a course for freshman-chemistry teaching assistants that
reviewed principles and certified their ability to adequately fulfill their responsibilities.
Brewer was a caring and gifted teacher who was greatly admired by students and colleagues alike as a caring and
gifted teacher. In 1966 he was selected by the Academic Senate at UC Berkeley to deliver the annual Faculty
Research Lecture. The title of his lecture was, "A Broad University Education Leads to Astrochemistry." In 1988,
in recognition of his achievements as an educator, he received the Henry B. Linford Award for Distinguished
Teaching from the Electrochemical Society. Upon his official retirement from the University of California,
Berkeley in 1989, he was presented with the Berkeley Citation, and an academic symposium was held in his honor.
Brewer was instrumental in founding the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council Committee on
High-Temperature Chemistry, as well as organizing the first Gordon Research Conference on High-Temperature
Chemistry in 1960. At the request of the Atomic Energy Commission and its successors, the Energy Research and
Development Administration, and the Department of Energy, Brewer worked on numerous committees, including the
DOE Council for Materials Sciences and the DOE Selection Committee for the Fermi Award.
He also maintained close ties with organizations that represented the international scientific community,
including the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Brewer sat on the editorial advisory boards of many respected scholarly journals and academic monograph series,
Journal of Physical Chemistry Solids (1956-1992),
Progress in Organic Chemistry (1958-1969), the
(associate editor, 1959-1963),
Progress in Inorganic
Progress in Solid State Chemistry (1967-1996),
High Temperature Science (founder, 1968-2005), the
Journal of Chemistry Thermodynamics (1969-1978), the
Journal of Solid State
Journal of the Electrochemical Society
(divisional editor, 1976-1984), the
Journal of Chemical Engineering Data, the
Journal of Physical Chemistry Ref. Data (1978-1981, 1989-1992), the
Metals Handbook (co-editor, 1983), the
Princeton Series in the
Physico-Chemical Sciences for Technology
(co-editor, 1983-2005), and the
Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (1991).
In addition, Brewer single-handedly compiled and maintained Part II of the
on the High-Temperature Chemistry and Physics of Materials
Besides his distinguished career as a chemist and educator, Brewer was also an avid gardener who held a keen
interest in native California plant life. In 1965, he became one of the founding members of the California
Native Plant Society. A species of manzanita was named after him to honor his contribution to the study and
preservation of California's native flora: Arctostaphylos uva-ursi leo-breweri, also referred to as "Leo
Outside of his editorial work, Brewer authored nearly 200 articles on a variety of advanced topics in the field
of thermodynamics. In addition, in 1961, he and Kenneth Pitzer revised Gilbert N. Lewis and Merle Randall's
classic 1923 text,
Thermodynamics and the Free Energy of Chemical Substances.
Although Brewer's research covered an unusually wide range of subjects and employed a multitude of techniques
from theory to spectroscopy, his primary focus was on high-temperature thermodynamics, materials science
(including refractory containment materials), studies of metallic phases, and the development of metallic
bonding theory, incorporating the concepts of electron promotion and generalized acid-base theory. He was also
involved at different points in his career with astrophysics and ceramics.
Brewer's early high-temperature work also showed that the equilibrium vapor above CuCl was mainly Cu3Cl3
molecules at normal pressures. This simple observation led to what became known as Brewer's Rule. He showed that
when vapor and condensed phases are in equilibrium, the vapor species become more complex as the temperature is
raised. This includes the formation of polymers and unusual oxidation states. His rule became the foundation of
the field of high-temperature chemistry.
Much of his research focused on resolving discrepancies between reported experimental values and values
predicted by chemical bonding models. In many instances, the reported data were shown to be in error, and the
reliability of the model was confirmed. Examples are the demonstrations that the enthalpies of formation of C(g)
and N(g) were much larger than the widely accepted values. Brewer's compilation of the thermodynamic properties
and phase diagrams of 101 binary systems of molybdenum provides many examples of use of predictive models when
no reliable experimental data are available.
In some instances, the experimental results were confirmed and it was necessary to improve the models. An
example would be the neglect of gaseous polymer species at high temperatures. The war-time study uncovered
evidence of polymerization in high-temperature vapors. This led to a general theory which predicted that
saturated high-temperature vapors would be complex mixtures of species and that the complexity would increase
with increasing temperature. These predictions have been confirmed by high-temperature workers for many systems.
The refractory studies initiated with the sulfides were extended to studies of silicides and borides and other
refractory phases. The experience on the Manhattan Project on the use of platinum to reduce the volatility of
lanthanides and actinides were extended to a wide range of transition metal intermetallic compounds through use
of the Engel correlation of electronic and crystal structures that has led to the prediction of the structures
and compositions of the phases of most of the two billion multi-component phase diagrams of the transition
Brewer devoted major effort to the characterization of the thermodynamic properties at high temperatures, and
the critical evaluations of the thermodynamic properties from the Manhattan Project were updated periodically.
One of Brewer's compilations covered the thermodynamic properties of the solid, liquid and gaseous phases of the
elements and their oxides between room temperature and temperature to above 3000 K. The thermodynamic
applications of these data were well-illustrated by the 2nd edition of Lewis and Randall's
Thermodynamics, which Brewer and Kenneth Pitzer revised in 1961. Brewer's global
interest in all of the elements is illustrated by a paper in 1951 on the equilibrium distribution of the
elements in the earth's gravitational field.
Brewer conducted a wide range of spectroscopic studies both at high temperatures and in matrices to fix the
thermodynamic properties of high-temperature vapors. From 1950 to 1970, Brewer published many papers on the
analysis of the spectra produced by high-temperature gaseous molecules. Several of these papers described a
molecular beam method for determining their ground electronic states. When low temperature matrix isolation was
developed by George Pimentel at UC Berkeley, Brewer produced many papers on the spectra of his high-temperature
molecules in a frozen inert matrix. Brewer also had a long-term interest in the electronic states of I2, and he
had several papers on its remarkable complexities.
Much of Brewer's later research was aimed at characterizing the extremely strong generalized Lewis acid-base
interactions between lanthanides, actinides and left-hand transition metals with the platinum group metals. A
combination of high-temperature solid electrolyte cells, equilibration with oxides, carbides and nitrides, and
vapor pressure measurements were used. These intermetallics were shown to be among the most stable of all types
of compounds, as predicted by the Engel theory. Engel had suggested a correlation between the number of
conduction electrons and the crystal structure of the metals. Brewer extended this concept to include the nature
of d and f electrons, and the concept of acid-base interactions. Starting investigations with undergraduate
students, he tested these ideas by heating ZrC with the noble metal platinum, and found that the formation of
ZrPt3 released a great deal of energy despite the great stability of ZrC. Over several years Brewer developed
the Brewer-Engel theory for such bonds, and he published many papers about its application.
RECOGNITION OF HIS ACHIEVEMENTS
Brewer's professional achievements were recognized with many awards and honors, including the L.H. Baekeland
Award of the American Chemical Society (1953), the E. O. Lawrence Award of the Atomic Energy Commission (1961),
the Palladium Medal of the Electrochemical Society (1971), and the William Hume-Rothery Award of the
Metallurgical Society of the American Institute of Mining (1983). Brewer also served as a Guggenheim Fellow
(1950) and as an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences (1959), the American Academy of Arts and
Sciences (1979), and the American Society for Metals. In 1984, a special festschrift in his honor was prepared
by his former students and colleagues, published under the title
Modern High Temperature
Partially adapted from an autobiographical essay written by Leo Brewer, as well as
biographical essays prepared by his colleagues and students, including Paul Gilles, Karen Kruschwitz, Rollie
Myers, Gerd Rosenblatt, Herbert Strauss, Richard Brewer, and Jane Scheiber.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Leo Brewer papers, 1930-2004, comprise the correspondence, teaching materials, laboratory notes, writings,
and research files of renowned chemist Leo Brewer, universally regarded as one of the founders of the field of
modern high-temperature chemistry. Brewer served as Professor in the College of Chemistry at the University of
California, Berkeley, from 1946-1989, and as Director of the Inorganic Materials Research Division at the
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory from 1961-1975. The collection includes materials documenting Brewer's
doctoral research on Mesityl Oxide, his wartime research as a member of the Manhattan Project, as well as his
later research on high temperature thermodynamics, materials science, the study of metallic phases, and the
development of metallic bonding theory.
The papers have been arranged into six series:
UC Berkeley Materials,
Subject Files, and
The collection includes substantive correspondence between Brewer and many notable twentieth-century chemists,
including Linus Pauling, Luis W. Alvarez, Niels Engel, and John Margrave. Brewer maintained an extensive network
of close professional relationships, and retained ties to many of his former doctoral candidates and research
associates long after they had left his charge and moved on to careers in research or education. In some cases,
this correspondence is quite extensive and spans many decades.
The collection also includes drafts, notes, source materials, and related correspondence for many of Brewer's
publications. In many cases, the drafts vary significantly from the published work, and include data or exegetic
passages that were not included in the final manuscript. Many of these scholarly articles and reports represent
the culmination of years of research and experiments.
A few publications are especially well-documented. These include, "Thermodynamic Properties and Equilibria of
Uranium Halides, Oxides, Nitrides, and Carbides" (1945), "Dissociation Energies and Free Energy Functions of
Gaseous Monoxides," (1960-1970), "Bonding and Structures of Transition Metals" (1968), "High Temperature
Thermodynamic Properties of Elements and their Oxides" (1960-1994), "Calculation of Thermodynamic Properties of
Metastable Phases of the Elements" (1992), and "Calculation of the Thermodynamic Effect of the Brewer-Engel
Generalized Acid-Base Reactions of 1:1 Intermetallics for Non-transition Metals Al and Mg with Transition
Other publication materials in the collection include Brewer's drafts and notes for various internal LBL/LBNL
reports relating to calculator programs that Brewer designed to aid in his research (1975-1993), as well as
extensive files relating to his work with Molybdenum, including his Molybdenum: Physiochemical Properties of its
Compounds and Alloys (1980), the result of a thirteen-year study Brewer performed at the bequest of the
International Atomic Energy Agency.
Besides publication drafts, correspondence, and related materials, the collection also includes a near-complete
set of reprinted articles and book chapters written by Brewer over the course of his professional career,
including many of his published articles on native California flora.
Coverage of Brewer's more than fifty-year tenure as a Professor in the College of Chemistry at the University
of California, Berkeley, as well as his position as the Director of the Inorganic Materials Research Division at
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, is comparatively spare. However, the less than voluminous holdings are compensated
for somewhat by the sheer range and high quality of the materials, owing to both the extensive length of
Brewer's service, as well as the distinguished positions he held within the College of Chemistry and at Lawrence
UC Berkeley related files include a diverse collection of materials relating to the history of chemistry
research at Berkeley, departmental correspondence, course notes, and laboratory notebooks documenting Brewer's
work with Galvanic cells. The collection also includes an intellectual genealogy tracing Brewer's extensive
professional influence on future generations of chemists. Its length and breadth testify to the profound
pedagogical impact Brewer made in the lives of his students and research assistants over the course of his
extensive teaching career.
The collection also contains materials documenting Brewer's professional commitments and achievements,
including materials relating to his work on national and international committees, files relating to conferences
that Brewer attended or helped plan, consulting and grant-related materials, and reviews of scholarly articles
written by colleagues across many scientific fields.
Brewer kept many of his professional files organized by research topic; these subject files span Brewer's
academic lifespan and professional career; often a single folder contains notes from multiple decades.
Subject-based correspondence originally kept with these materials has been retained among these files. Likewise,
various publications by Brewer and others, have also been retained among these files.
One of the strongest elements of the collection is a number of files relating to Brewer's work as a member of
the Manhattan Project. These files may be found predominantly in Series 5, Subseries 1:
Manhattan Project Files. Additional materials relating to the Manhattan Project may be found in Series
Correspondence, Series 2:
Publications, and Series
5, Subseries 2:
General Research Files.
Finally, the collection contains a fair amount of biographical material, including student notes from Brewer's
undergraduate studies at the California Institute of Technology and his doctoral studies at the University of
California, Berkeley, award materials, portraits of Brewer with his students and colleagues, as well as a number
of autobiographical statements composed for various occasions over the course of Brewer's lifetime, which
together provide a more complete picture of Brewer's many professional achievements, allowing the researcher to
trace the ebb and flow of his research interests.