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Herbert F. York Papers
MSS 107  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Biography
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Restrictions

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Herbert F. York Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 107
    Contributing Institution: Mandeville Special Collections Library
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 45.7 Linear feet (102 archives boxes and 16 oversize folders)
    Date (inclusive): 1958 - 1999
    Abstract: Papers of Herbert Frank York, founding director of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory (1952-58); member of the Presidential Scientific Advisory Committee under Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson; chief scientist of the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA); first chancellor of the University of California, San Diego; and director emeritus of UCSD's Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. The papers highlight York's work on nuclear arms negotiations and disarmament, particularly after 1969, and contain correspondence, reports, memos, drafts of articles and books, news clippings, autobiographical sketches, date books and wall calendars, invitations, teaching materials, lectures, speeches, interviews, and video tapes. York's involvement in the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and Presidential Scientific Advisory Committee is documented, as is York's role in the debate over the Antiballistic Missile (ABM). Absent from the collection are papers related to York's directorship of the Livermore Laboratory and his files as UCSD chancellor.
    Creator: York, Herbert F., (Herbert Frank)

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Accessions Processed in 1992
    The bulk of the materials donated thus far comprise correspondence, reports, teaching materials, drafts of York's books, and audio-visual materials. The papers generally date between 1961, when York moved to San Diego to become the University's first Chancellor, and 1987. Files generated by York prior to 1961 may be found in Related Collections. York presently maintains a campus office which houses current files and research materials. The York papers are divided into nine series:
    Many of the papers--correspondence, writings, and reports-- highlight York's efforts with nuclear arms negotiations and control, particularly after his 1969 anti-ABM testimonies before Congress. These papers also provide valuable historical recounts of events and organizations created after World War II, including a history of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), and the reminiscences of York and his correspondents, mainly scientists (see CORRESPONDENCE series).
    Well-represented is York's correspondence with leaders in science and public affairs (particularly Hans Bethe, James Killian, George Kistiakowsky, [Wolfgang] Pief Panofsky, I.I. Rabi, Victor Weisskopf, and Jerome Weisner), and to a lesser extent, members of the Senate and Congress who were involved in nuclear arms issues. Not present in the collection are materials related to York's graduate career or work on the Manhattan Project, to his role as Director at Lawrence Livermore (1952-1958) and his files as UCSD Chancellor (1961-1964, 1970-1972).
    The BIOGRAPHICAL series is arranged in chronological order. These materials, which include news clippings and biographical sketches, were originally interfiled with York's subject files.
    The subseries Publicity and newspaper articles was originally maintained in a scrapbook format. The entire contents of these three albums of news clippings have been photocopied. The subseries on York's Lawrence Livermore employment pertains to his later years as a consultant, and do not span his years as Director (1952-1958).
    The DIARIES series contains appointment books, date books and wall calendars in chronological order. For some years there is an overlap between the two subseries, Date books and Wall calendars. Otherwise, the materials are divided by format and size.
    "Post-its" were photocopied as found within the appointment books. The original post-it was discarded, and a photocopy of the original page with the post-it was inserted in the appropriate month.
    The earliest appointment books (1959-1961) document York's early years at the Pentagon.
    The INVITATIONS series is arranged in chronological order. Materials dating from 1959-1960 cover York's early years in Washington, and reflect the social and professional circles with which he mingled. These materials are preserved in their original scrapbook format.
    Invitations from 1970-1973 were originally interfiled with subject folders.
    The CORRESPONDENCE series, comprised of Miscellaneous correspondence, Chronological files, and Personal correspondence, is filed in chronological order. The materials are in reverse chronological order, as originally filed. Indexes precede the correspondence for the Chronological files for 1973 and 1974.
    This series includes committee agendas, drafts of papers, news articles, nominations, papers, professional correspondence, recommendations, reviews, requests and permissions, and travel plans. Bulk dates for correspondence are between 1970 and 1986. This series does not include York's correspondence as an administrator for the U.S. Government or for the University of California, San Diego.
    These files comprise the largest and most comprehensive series, and heavily document communications between York and scientists (including Frank Barnaby, Hans Bethe, Harold Brown, Bernard Feld, James Killian, George Kistiakowsky, Oskar Morgenstern, Jack Ruina, Jerome Weisner, Victor Weisskopf), and to a lesser extent, his correspondence with public and political figures (President Carter, Henry Kissinger, Charles Lindbergh, Philip Noel-Baker, [Herbert] Pete Scoville, Senators Cranston, Gore, and Kennedy, and Lord Solly Zuckerman). York's correspondence with his science colleagues spans many years and topics. York's correspondence with political figures largely pertains to appreciation and encouragement for his support of particular legislative issues.
    York's views on past events and contemporary issues concerning arms control, disarmament problems, and science and defense policy, may be grasped through this series. The correspondences sometimes contain detailed responses to topics such as Eisenhower and SAINT (the satellite intercepter system), the beginnings of NASA, missile development, MIRV, the Mike explosion, U-2, B-1, "no first use," the Comprehensive Test Ban talks, and the MX missile system. Through his correspondence and subsequent writings, York seeks to understand the technological arms developments and deployment; the major decisions, the decision makers, the advice, and the advisors. Then, in retrospect, York analyzes the arms race and approaches arms control problems.
    Additionally, much of the correspondence concerns recollections about specific events which York later incorporated into his memoirs and writings. York routinely submitted drafts of his writings to his colleagues for historical accuracy and fairness, and sought the assistance of various historians (at institutions such as Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore, NASA, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Atomic Energy Commission, Department of State, and Bancroft Library). The bulk of this correspondence is from the 1970s, after the publication of Race to Oblivion, and prior to his 1987 memoir, Making Weapons, Talking Peace. In a 1976 letter to Cargill Hall at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, York states that the source for RACE TO OBLIVION was largely his memory, and that he made greater use of documentation for Making Weapons, Talking Peace (see box 11).
    Other items within the series include a declassified 1959 "Saturn chronology" which York annotated for NASA in 1974 (box 8); York's 1974 recollection about LBJ's expectations of the Presidential Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), and Johnson's eventual loss of faith in PSAC (box 8); 1975 SALT talks (boxes 9 and 10); York's comments and xerox of a declassified 1943 letter from Robert Oppenheimer to Enrico Fermi, at Los Alamos, about the use of radiological warfare (1983, see box 20); a 1984 series of recollections by York, Edward Teller, and Emil Konopinski, in regard to their conversation with Fermi when he asked, "Where is everybody?" (This famous question was central to debates about the prevalence of extra-terrestrial civilization. See box 22); and a 1976 letter to Harold Brown describing York's current stance on JASON and his appearance on Nixon's "Enemies List."
    The materials within this series contain the bulk of York's correspondence, but some correspondence may be found in other series, particularly the SUBJECT and the ORGANIZATIONS series.
    The files comprising the ORGANIZATIONS series were originally arranged in alphabetical order (and interfiled with the files which now comprise the SUBJECT series); they largely consist of reports and administrative memos. Files culled for this series pertain to York's affiliation with and service for various private and governmental agencies, organizations, and councils at the national and international level. This series contains files which York maintained during his participation in the U.S. Arms Controls and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), or as trustee or member of the board. Files on organizations for which York was solicited but did not serve are in the SUBJECT series.
    Of particular note is the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) subseries which contains an unpublished history of the agency, "The Advanced Research Projects Agency, 1958-1974." Files on the Aerospace Corporation and the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) contain mostly memos of meetings and reports to trustees. The PSAC files, comprised mainly of reports, represent York's second service under President Johnson, from 1964-1968. The Pugwash files contain reports, correspondence, and agendas for meetings which York did and did not attend.
    The SUBJECT FILES series is arranged in its original alphabetical order, and includes reports and correspondence. Some files were culled and placed in the ORGANIZATIONS series. Miscellaneous material was incorporated into this series.
    The subseries on the Antiballistic Missile (ABM) contains extensive coverage of York's role and 1969 congressional testimonies, through reports, news articles, and correspondence. The subseries on Conferences includes meetings for which York was a delegate or committee member, such as the 1982 University of California conference on International Security and Arms Control.
    The files of the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO series have been generated while York has been at UCSD, but they are not comprehensive. The files, containing mostly reports and teaching materials, represent York's activities and roles as professor, chancellor, acting chancellor, dean, and his directorships of Science, Technology, and Public Affairs, and of the Institute for Global Conflict and Cooperation. These files are organized in alphabetical order. Note that while the CORRESPONDENCE series comprises materials generated from these offices, York's administrative papers from these offices are not represented in this collection. Also, files are currently maintained by York in his campus office.
    The subseries on Teaching includes syllabi, exams, homework, and lecture notes. Student grades were discarded.
    The series of WRITINGS includes lectures, prepared remarks, speeches, transcripts of congressional testimony, interviews, manuscripts and drafts of papers and books, and other writings and oral presentations by York, arranged by date. The bulk of the material comprises drafts and manuscripts of York's books, Race to Oblivion, The Advisors and Making Weapons, Talking Peace.In 1980, York was interviewed by the Navy Laboratories about his "Past and Present Views of Military Research and Development." York's interview with Karyn Gladstone, in 1987, formed part of her Ph.D. work in which she did a psychological analysis of ten men and their attitudes to nuclear weapons. In 1986, York was interviewed by historian Finn Aaserud about American physicists in science policy after World War II. York answers questions about physicists' involvement in science policy, and JASON is used as a case study.
    The AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIALS series includes non-manuscript materials in chronological order. Included are video tapes (3/4" and VHS formats) in which York appears or is interviewed.
    In 1958, York was named as the first chief scientist to ARPA, and, in this capacity, appeared on the CBS show, Face the Nation. In the half hour interview York was questioned about space programs and the arms race with the Russians. In the 1984 "Quest for Peace" tape, York was interviewed about the problems posed by the nuclear arms race. During the first few minutes of the 1988 Tufts/Moscow "Global Classroom," some historical footage is introduced which depicts York. The 1991 series of unedited tapes at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University cover nuclear weapons and the arms race after World War II. York is interviewed along with Glenn Seaborg, Sigvar Ekland, Robert Marshak, Bernard Goldschmidt, and Gerald Tape.
    Accession Processed in 2000
    The accession to the Herbert F. York Papers processed in 2000 contains photocopies of declassified cable messages, correspondence, reports, plenary statements made at the United Nations, background information, briefing material, and draft treaty texts related to York's work as the United States ambassador and chief negotiator at the Comprehensive Test Ban negotiations in Geneva. It spans the period 1977-1980 and is arranged alphabetically in a single series: 1) COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN TREATY NEGOTIATIONS.
    SERIES 1: COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN TREATY NEGOTIATIONS series is arranged alphabetically, using York's own folder titles. All the material had to be declassified and correspondence regarding declassification is located in the folders for the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the U.S. Department of Defense.
    York was appointed as ambassador during the Carter administration and the files contain messages from Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Secretary of Defense Harold Brown.
    Accession Processed in 2004
    The accession processed in 2004 contains materials which are complementary to those found in the previous accessions. Included are biographical files, correspondence, committee work files, York's writings, speeches, conference presentations, Comprehensive Test Ban negotiation materials, subject files, and book production files for Race to Oblivion: A Participant's View of the Arms Race. The series titles and their arrangement mirror those of the previous accessions.
    The materials highlight York's effort with nuclear arms negotiations and control and they supply additional information on history of arms race and disarmament and on key leaders in science, public affairs, and members of government involved in nuclear arms issues. The papers are arranged in nine series: 1) MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) ORGANIZATIONS, 4) WRITINGS, 5) WRITINGS BY OTHERS, 6) COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN, 7) SUBJECT FILES, 8) RACE TO OBLIVION RESEARCH MATERIALS, and 9) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
    The MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS series is arranged in five subseries: A) Biographical Materials, B) Interviews, C) Letters of Appointment, D) Awards, and E) Photographs.
    A) The Biographical Materials subseries, arranged alphabetically, includes a biographical note and resume, photocopies of newspaper clippings with articles about York's work, and detailed security clearance questionnaires containing information about his employment, travel abroad, and residency.
    B) The Interviews subseries, arranged chronologically, contains transcripts or published versions of interviews conducted between 1964 and 1994 and are concerned with York's views on past and contemporary issues dealing with arms control and disarmament problems.
    C) The Letters of Appointment subseries documents York's involvement in high-level defense policy-making and contains appointment letters to the Presidential Scientific Advisory Committee for Lyndon Johnson and U.S. Ambassador to the Comprehensive Test Ban talks in 1979-1980.
    D) The Awards subseries contains award certificates and citations and is arranged in alphabetical order by the title of the award.
    E) The Photographs subseries, arranged alphabetically, documents York's involvement in committee work at the White House, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the Comprehensive Test Ban talks in Geneva.
    The CORRESPONDENCE series primary documents York's professional activities and contains communications between York and his science colleagues, as well as public and political figures. The series is arranged in four subseries: A) Chronological Files, B) Personal Correspondence, C) Alphabetical Files, and D) Letters of Recommendation.
    A) The Chronological Files subseries includes incoming and outgoing correspondence from York's office at UCSD at the end of his tenure as director of UCSD's Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. The correspondence files span the years of 1987-1992 and include communications between York and his science colleagues, as well as publishers, media people, and government administrators.
    B) The Personal Correspondence subseries contains York's personal correspondence while he served as U.S. Ambassador to the Comprehensive Test Ban talks in Geneva. The series is arranged in chronological order and comprised of letters between York and his friends, colleagues, and cordial correspondence during the years of 1979-1980.
    C) The Alphabetical Files subseries is arranged in alphabetical order by personal or corporate name and contains correspondence between York and publishers, science colleagues, and academic institutions. The subseries includes paper drafts, reprints, and brochures on issues concerned with arms control, disarmament problems, and U.S. science and defense policy. The files contain materials for the years of 1951-1994 and include papers and letters from Richard L. Garwin, Hugh DeWitt, and Daniel Ellsberg, materials related to the opening of the Carter Center, and correspondence, memorandums, and booklets discussing the University of California Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.
    D) The Letters of Recommendation subseries contains letters of recommendations written by York. These letters are restricted until 2050.
    The ORGANIZATIONS series is arranged in alphabetical order and documents York's affiliation with and service to various private and governmental agencies, organizations, councils, and committees at the national and international level. The files contain correspondence, brochures, reports, minutes, meeting summaries, announcements, and photocopies of newspaper clippings. The files were originally interfiled with materials which now comprise the SUBJECT FILES series and separated to distingush them from files on organizations for which York did not serve.
    The WRITINGS series supplements those found in the first accession. The series is arranged in two subseries: A) Books, Articles, Statements, Speeches, and Reviews; and B) Notes.
    A) The Books, Articles, Statements, Speeches, and Reviews subseries is arranged in chronological order and contains manuscripts, typescripts, reprints, page proofs, and correspondence related to York's published works, congressional testimony and statements, and speeches. The bulk of material comprises typescripts and reprints of York's articles, as well as correspondence and book reviews for two of his books - Advisors: Oppenheimer, Teller and the Superbomb and Making Weapons, Talking Peace: A Physicist's Journey from Hiroshima to Geneva.
    B) The Notes subseries is arranged in alphabetical order and mainly contains preparatory notes for his speeches.
    The WRITINGS BY OTHERS series is arranged alphabetically and contains typescripts or reprints of articles concerned with arms control and disarmament, the history of nuclear weapons development, and science and defense policy.
    The COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN series contains materials pertaining to York's service as ambassador to the Comprehensive Test Ban talks in Geneva. The files contain memos, agendas, delegates names, internal communications notes, summaries of meetings, reports, papers, meeting announcements, invitations to receptions, personnel policies, and periodicals.
    The SUBJECT FILES series is arranged in alphabetical order and includes reports, articles, correspondence, memorandums, news releases, photocopies of newspaper clippings, statements, brochures, and photocopies of archival materials related to the history of nuclear arms development and disarmament issues.
    The RACE TO OBLIVION RESEARCH MATERAILS is arranged in four subseries: A) Chapter Notes, B) Subject Files, C) People and Personalities, and D) Miscellaneous Reference Materials.
    A) The Chapter Notes subseries contains an outline for Chapter IV-VII, bibliographic references, book assistants' notes, and reference materials.
    B) The Subject Files subseries is arranged in alphabetical order and contains reference materials on various topics in nuclear arms development and disarmament.
    C) The People and Personalities subseries contains notes and reference materials on key science and public leaders who played a significant role in nuclear arms development and disarmament. The files are arranged in alphabetical order by surname.
    D) The Miscellaneous Reference Materials subseries, arranged in York's numeric order, contains miscellaneous reference materials that were found in folders with book materials.
    The ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES series contains the originals of brittle or high acid content documents that have been photocopied.


    Herbert Frank York was born on November 24, 1921, in Rochester, New York. He earned B.A. and M.S. degrees at the University of Rochester in 1942 and 1945, and the Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley, in 1949, all in experimental physics. His early career as a physicist and military science advisor (1943-58) focused on the development of nuclear weapons, while his later career as an advisor, consultant and professor have focussed on disarmament.
    In 1943, while still a graduate student, York was recruited by the University of California Radiation Laboratory to work on uranium production for the Manhattan Project. After the war, York finished his graduate work at UC Berkeley in 1949, and in 1950, with Hugh Bradner, planned and designed Operation Greenhouse, the atomic test at Eniwetok for diagnostic measurements of atomic blast. The following year he joined the physics faculty of UC Berkeley.
    In 1952, E. O. Lawrence asked York to prepare plans for a new weapons development laboratory, today known as Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. Following Atomic Energy Commission approval for the lab, York served as director of the lab from 1952-1958. It was during this period that he began informing U.S. defense policy-makers, serving on Army, Air Force and Defense Department advisory groups (1953-57: USAF Science Advisory Board; 1955-58: Secy Defense Ballistic Missile Advisory Committee; 1956-58: US Army Science Advisory Panel). York left Livermore for Washington, D.C., in 1958 to accept two positions within the Office of the Secretary of Defense: Director of Defense Research and Engineering and the Chief Scientist of the Advanced Research Project's Agency (ARPA, later known as DARPA). Before leaving Washington, York also served as the youngest member on Eisenhower's Presidential Science Advisory Committee (1957-1958). He served on PSAC again under Johnson in 1964-68.
    In 1961, York returned to the west coast to become the first chancellor of the University of California, San Diego. After moving to UCSD, York maintained his involvement in high-level defense policy-making. President Kennedy appointed York to the General Advisory Committee of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (USACDA) in 1962, a position he held until 1969. He has been on the board of trustees of two not-for-profit think tanks since the 1960s, the Aerospace Corporation and the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). York acted also as an advisor to IDA's JASON division, a high-level science advisory group that York helped establish as Chief Scientist of ARPA in the late 1950s. York returned to Washington, D.C., (1977-81) to be a senior consultant to the Office of the Secretary of Defense in 1977-1981 and served on the Defense Science Board in 1978-1981. During the Carter Administration, York served as U.S. ambassador to the Comprehensive Test Ban talks (1978-80).
    At UCSD, York's tenure as UCSD chancellor was brief. He stepped down from the post in 1964, preferring to join the physics faculty. In 1969-1970, he was dean of graduate studies and in 1970-1972 was re-appointed as acting chancellor after William McGill's departure from that position until the appointment of William McElroy. York set up a program at UCSD called Science, Technology and Public Affairs to teach about and do research related to the arms race. After his four-year leave in Washington, D.C., York was appointed director of UCSD's Institute on Global Conflict on Cooperation, whose mission is "...to promote academic study of peace and security issues on all campuses of the university." York retired in 1988 and is currently director emeritus. He has written three books on his experiences as a defense advisor, Race to Oblivion (1970), The Advisors (1976), and Making Weapons, Talking Peace (1987).

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Preferred Citation

    Herbert F. York Papers, MSS 107. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    Acquisition Information

    Not Available


    Merit reviews and letters of recommendation are restricted until 2050. Audio-visual materials are also restricted. Researchers must request user copies be produced.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Advanced Research Projects Agency.
    Bethe, Hans Albrecht, 1906-
    Killian, James Rhyne, 1904-
    Kistiakowsky, George B., (George Bogdan), 1900-
    University of California, San Diego -- History -- Archives
    Weisskopf, Victor Frederick, 1908-2002
    Wiesner, Jerome B., (Jerome Bert), 1915-1994
    Arms race--History--20th century
    Diaries--20th century.
    Nuclear arms control
    Nuclear nonproliferation
    Nuclear weapons -- History
    Physics -- Study and teaching
    United States -- Defenses -- History