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Albert R. Hibbs Papers: Finding Aid
mssHibbs papers  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Albert R. Hibbs Papers
    Dates (inclusive): 1884-2009
    Bulk dates: 1931-1999
    Collection Number: mssHibbs papers
    Creator: Hibbs, Albert R.
    Extent: 80 boxes.
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2191
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection contains the papers of Albert R. Hibbs (1924-2003), a manager and scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The collection documents his personal life and career at JPL, the relationships between JPL, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and the development of the solar system exploration programs. Hibbs' consulting work for television and radio programs, Biosphere 2, and Morgantown Area Rapid Transit System (MARTS) are also documented.
    Language: English.


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. Albert R. Hibbs Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Gift of Victoria Hibbs, March 1, 2010.

    Biographical Note

    Albert Roach Hibbs (1924-2003) was born in Akron, Ohio, on 19 October 1924. Raised nearby in Chillicothe, Ohio, Al was the second child of Albert Samuel Hibbs, manager of the Chillicothe Water Department, and Alberta Roach Hibbs, a chemist, and brother to older sister, Agnes, born two years earlier in 1922.
    Al Hibbs moved to southern California in 1942 to attend the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) as an undergraduate student under the Navy's V-12 program, where he met his lifelong friend and collaborator, Roy L. Walford, later a Professor of Pathology at UCLA School of Medicine and a crew member of Biosphere 2. Hibbs earned his Bachelor of Science in Physics from Caltech in 1945 and after a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy following World War II, was awarded a Master of Science in Mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1947. Prior to returning to California in 1950, he and Walford spent over a year traveling the Caribbean aboard a 40-foot sailboat, Adonde, after earning the money to support the trip by exploiting the mechanical quirks of roulette wheels to beat the odds in Reno in 1947 and in Las Vegas in 1948. In 1950 Hibbs began work as a research engineer in the Research and Analysis Section at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), then a rocket research laboratory operated by Caltech for the U.S. Army and transferred to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) later that year. The following year he returned to Caltech in pursuit of a Ph.D. in Physics, which he was awarded in 1955. As a doctoral student, his advisor was Nobel physicist Richard Feynman; the two became close friends and collaborators, coauthoring the textbook Quantum Mechanics and Path Integrals, published in 1965.
    Hibbs' theoretical work at JPL laid the foundation for the successful launching of the country's first satellites and lunar probes. As the head of the Research and Analysis Section, he was the systems designer for the first successful U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958. He helped create and served as Chief of the Space Sciences Division from 1960 to 1962, designing instruments and carrying out scientific studies on the Moon and planets. He held several other research and managerial positions during his tenure at JPL, including Senior Staff Scientist of the Office of Plans and Programs (1967-1969), assigned to long-range planning of Laboratory activities; Manager of Transportation Technology Office (1969-1970), responsible for directing the application of space technology to the solution of problems in transportation; Manager of Program Planning and Coordination (1976-1980), establishing new space development programs and projects; Manager of Strategic Planning, developing concepts for future space activities; and Manager of Space Science and Applications Program, involving research in Earth and space sciences, instrument development, and preliminary design studies of future space flights. He retired from JPL as the Director of Space Science in November 1986.
    Hibbs left JPL from 1962 to 1967 on special assignment as staff scientist for the Arms Control Study Group (ACSG) of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) to study how arms-control treaties could be monitored from space.
    Working independently, with Caltech, JPL, and NASA, and with local and national broadcasting outlets, Hibbs hosted and produced a number of radio and television programs for both adults and children during his career. Hibbs emerged as the "Voice of JPL" and became the spokesperson for the unmanned spacecraft missions during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. With an aptitude for making difficult science understandable, he chronicled for the world, via television and radio, the Ranger and Surveyor missions to the Moon; the Mariner missions to Venus, Mars, and Mercury; the Viking missions to Mars; and the Voyager missions to the outer planets. He received numerous awards and honors for his television and radio work, including the George Foster Peabody Broadcasting Award in 1963 for hosting the NBC weekly children's television program "Exploring" which ran from 1962 to 1966. Additionally, he received the Thomas Alva Edison Foundation National Media Award for "Exploring" in 1962 and 1965, and for his work on "World of Science" as the best science radio program for youth in 1965. In 1984 he was awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, "especially for his outstanding achievements in explaining the complexities and significance of space exploration to the general public via radio and television."
    Hibbs maintained close ties to Caltech throughout his career and into retirement. From 1965 to 1974 he taught courses at Caltech in physics, government, national security, and transportation issues. He performed with Men's Glee Club and in several theatrical productions with Theater Arts at California Institute of Technology (TACIT) during the 1980s and 1990s. In retirement, he was on the Board of Directors for both the Caltech Y and the Volunteer Professionals for Medical Advancement (VPMA), a group of retired JPL engineers and scientists working with local doctors and hospitals to develop new medical technologies.
    He was active in a number of projects outside of JPL, including Biosphere 2 as a member of the Project Review Committee from 1987 to 1992 and the Geosphere Project as a member of the Eyes on Earth Board of Directors from 1989 to 1995. He was also involved in the development of the Morgantown Area Rapid Transit System (MARTS), funded by the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA), which he continued work on after JPL abandoned the system management role.
    Hibbs authored numerous articles on diverse subjects in a variety of publications, both popular and technical. In addition to published works, he composed poetry, stories, and script ideas that never reached publication. He also gave speeches on a variety of subjects to diverse audiences ranging from professional organizations to neighborhood churches.
    As a hobby he enjoyed making kinetic sculpture. He was also a member of the Southern California Skeptics, a group affiliated with the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) that aimed to promote and disseminate the fair and accurate investigation of alleged claims of paranormal occurrences.
    He married Florence Pavin in 1950; they had two children, Victoria Pavin Hibbs (b. 1954) and Bart Dean Hibbs (b. 1955). Widowed in 1970, Hibbs remarried Marka Oliver in 1971; she had two children from a previous marriage, Alicia Cortrite and Lawrence (Larry) Wilson. Hibbs died on 24 February 2003 of complications following heart surgery at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, California, at the age of 78.

    Scope and Content

    This collection documents the personal life and career of Albert R. Hibbs (1924-2003) as a manager and scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the relationships between JPL, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and the development of the solar system exploration programs. Hibbs' consulting work for television and radio programs, Biosphere 2, and Morgantown Area Rapid Transit System (MARTS) are also documented.
    Although the collection arrived at The Huntington in disarray, original order of the materials was maintained when possible and the arrangement reflects Hibbs' general organization by correspondent, subject, or format of materials.
    The collection is divided into ten series: Audio Visual Materials, Consulting Files, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Notebooks, Personal Files, Photographs and Negatives, Presentations and Speeches, Publications and Writings, Teaching Files, and Oversize. The bulk of collection materials date from 1931 to 1999 and consists of audio and video tapes, clippings, correspondence, memoranda, notes, photographs, publications, speeches, and writings.
    As the collection is arranged by both subject and format of the materials, researchers should be aware that materials are often dispersed through the series. For example, materials related to specific subjects are frequently represented in the JPL and Notebooks Series; similarly, Hibbs' friendship and collaboration with Roy L. Walford is documented in the Correspondence and Aging Research and Writings subseries of the Personal Series, in the Space Biospheres Ventures subseries of the Consulting series, as well as in the Audio Visual Materials Series. Correspondence is also dispersed throughout the series.

    Related Acronyms

    • AAAS: American Association for the Advancement of Science
    • ABMA: Army Ballistic Missile Agency
    • ACDA: Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (United States)
    • ACSG: Arms Control Study Group
    • AIA: Aircraft Industries Association
    • AIAA: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
    • ARC: Associated Retirees of Caltech/JPL
    • CAB: Civil Aeronautics Board
    • COSPAR: Committee on Space Research (ICSU)
    • CRAF: Comet Rendezvous Asteroid Flyby
    • CSIOP: Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
    • DSN: Deep Space Network
    • DTMF: Dual-Tone Multi-Frequency
    • ESA: European Space Agency
    • FWHA: Federal Highway Administration
    • GALCIT: Graduate Aerospace Laboratories at the California Institute of Technology
    • HAC: Hughes Aircraft
    • ICSU: International Council of Scientific Unions
    • IDRC: Industrial Development Research Council, Inc.
    • IEEE: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
    • IGY: International Geophysical Year
    • IRAS: Infra-Red Astronomical Satellite
    • JBIS: Journal of the British Interplanetary Society
    • JEA: Joint Endeavor Agreement
    • JPL: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
    • LDASE: Large Deployable Antenna Shuttle Experiment
    • MARTS: Morgantown Area Rapid Transit System (UMTA)
    • MWOA: Mount Wilson Observatory Association
    • NASA: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    • NGC: New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars
    • NSTA: National Science Teachers Association
    • OAST: Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology (NASA)
    • ODAP: Orbital Data Acquisition Program (USAF)
    • OSF: Office of Space Flight (NASA)
    • PCC: Pasadena City College
    • SAR: Synthetic Aperture Radar
    • SEP: Solar Electric Propulsion
    • SFOF Space Flight Operations Facility (JPL)
    • SPFPAD: Spacecraft Performance and Flight Path Analysis Directorate
    • SSDE: Shuttle Sail Deployment Experiment
    • SSPS: Space Solar Power System
    • STM: Scanning Tunneling Microscopy
    • STS: Space Transportation System
    • SURF: Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (Caltech/JPL)
    • TIROS: Television Infrared Observational Satellite
    • TACIT: Theater Arts at California Institute of Technology
    • TSPD: Technology and Space Program Development
    • UCLA: University of California-Los Angeles
    • UMTA: Urban Mass Transportation Administration
    • USAF: United States Air Force
    • USC: University of Southern California
    • USNR: United States Naval Reserve VOIR: Venus Orbiting Imaging Radar
    • VPMA: Volunteer Professionals for Medical Advancement (Caltech)
    • WAC: Without Attitude Control
    • WESCON: Western Electronic Show and Convention
    • WSF: World Space Foundation


    Arranged in 10 series:
    • Series 1: Audio Visual Materials (13 boxes, Boxes 1-13)
    • Series 2: Consulting Files (5 boxes, Boxes 14-18)
    • Series 3: Jet Propulsion Laboratory (15 boxes, Boxes 19-33)
    • Series 4: Notebooks (7 boxes, Boxes 34-39)
    • Series 5: Personal Files (9 boxes, Boxes 41-49)
    • Series 6: Photographs And Negatives (17 boxes, 50-66)
    • Series 7: Presentations And Speeches (5 boxes, Boxes 67-71)
    • Series 8: Publications And Writings (5 boxes, Boxes 72-76)
    • Series 9: Teaching Files (2 boxes, Boxes 77-78)
    • Series 10: Oversize (2 boxes, Boxes 79-80)

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


    Hibbs, Albert R. -- Archives.
    Feynman, Richard P. (Richard Phillips), 1918-1988.
    Walford, Roy L.
    California Institute of Technology.
    California Institute of Technology. Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy.
    Earthwatch (Organization)
    GeoSphere Project.
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (U.S.)
    United States. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
    United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
    Astronautical laboratories.
    Biosphere 2 (Project)
    Explorer 1 (Artificial satellite)
    Explorer 1 (Artificial satellite) -- Orbit.
    Kinetic art.
    Satellite image maps.
    Solar system.
    Space flight.
    Space flight to asteroids.
    Space flight to Jupiter.
    Space flight to Mars.
    Space flight to Mercury.
    Space flight to the moon.
    Space flight to the moon on television.
    Space flight to Saturn.
    Space flight to Venus.
    Space industrialization.
    Outer space -- Civilian use.
    Outer space -- Exploration.
    Science -- Study and teaching (Elementary) -- United States.
    Science -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- United States.
    Science television programs.
    Surveyor Program (U.S.)
    Viking Mars Program (U.S.)
    Voyager Project. Chillicothe (Ross County, Ohio)
    Pasadena (Calif.)


    Cellulose nitrate film.
    Letters (correspondence).
    Negatives (photographic).
    Photographic prints.
    Space photographs.