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William Hayward Pickering Collection
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  • William Hayward Pickering Collection
  • Biography/Biographical Notes*:
  • Acquisition Information:
  • Abstract/Scope and Content:
  • Key to Arrangement/Container List:
  • Controlled Access Headings:

  • William Hayward Pickering Collection

    Collection number: WHP
    Title: William Hayward Pickering Collection
    Dates: 1931 - 2009
    Extent: 44 Boxes
    Repository: Pasadena Museum of History
    Research Library and Archives
    470 West Walnut Street
    Pasadena, California 91103-3594
    Abstract: William Hayward Pickering was the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Director from 1954-1976. He oversaw the Explorer, Ranger, Surveyor, Mariner, Mercury, Viking and Voyager missions. Following retirement he was involved in private industry including the Research Institutes of Saudi Arabia's University of Petroleum and Minerals, the Pickering Research Corporation, and Lignetics, Inc. He received the National Medal of Science among many other awards.
    Languages: English

    Administrative Information

    Processing Information:

    February 2013 Machine readable finding aid created by Victoria Brennan.
    2013 Collection processed and description prepared by Larry Dumas.


    Collection is open to the public for research. Use is restricted by rules intended to protect and preserve the materials in good condition for the future. For additional information please contact Pasadena Museum of History.

    Publication Rights:

    Use of the materials is governed by all applicable copyright law. Pasadena Museum of History reserves the right to restrict any materials from reproduction at any time. Property rights reside with Pasadena Museum of History. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. The Museum's physical ownership of the materials in its collection does not imply ownership of copyright. It is the user's responibility to resolve any copyright issues related to the use and distribution of reproduced materials. For permission to reproduce or to publish, please contact Pasadena Museum of History.

    Preferred Citation:

    Suggested citation of these records is: [Identification of item], William Hayward Pickering Collection, Box [#], Folder [#], Research Library and Archives, Pasadena Museum of History.

    Biography/Biographical Notes*:

    William H. Pickering (WHP) was born in Wellington, New Zealand, December 24, 1910. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1932 and his Master of Science degree, (Physics) in 1933. He was a Coffin Fellow 1933-35 and received his Doctorate degree (Physics) in 1936. He lectured at Caltech and the University of Southern California (USC) during the intervening years in the fields of physical sciences, electrical engineering, cosmic rays, microwave propagation, cosmic ray engineering, and cosmic ray sondes. Pickering became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1941.
    Pickering was invited to join Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in 1944 as a result of his experience in the design and use of telemetering devices, which he subsequently developed for the Laboratory's high-velocity research vehicles. Beginning in 1949 he headed the Corporal and Sergeant missile programs, and in 1954 he succeeded Louis Dunn as Director of JPL.
    In 1958, a few months after the Soviet Sputnik, JPL successfully launched Explorer I. That same year JPL, which had been under the direction of the Army, was transferred to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) with the responsibility for unmanned exploration of the moon and planets. Under Pickering's direction, the Laboratory launched the Ranger missions to the moon, the Surveyor missions to the moon, the Mariner missions to Venus and Mars, and the first gravity assist mission to Mercury via Venus. JPL also designed the Viking orbiter of Mars and designed and built the Voyagers for the outer planets mission during his tenure as Director.
    Following his retirement from JPL in 1976, he directed the Research Institutes of Saudi Arabia's University of Petroleum and Minerals. He returned to California in 1978 and established the Pickering Research Corporation for space related projects, ranging from a report on nuclear safety to an image processing system in China. In 1983, responding to the energy crisis, he formed Lignetics, Inc., to manufacture wood pellet fuel from wood waste.
    Pickering has been awarded many national and international awards and prizes, including the National Medal of Science, Honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire, Spirit of St. Louis Medal of Science, NASA Distinguished Service Medal, Columbus Gold Medal, the first Francois-Xavier Bagnoud International Aerospace Prize and the Japan Prize, among others. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a founding member of the National Academy of Engineering.

    * Excerpted and abridged from the JPL archives

    Acquisition Information:

    The main body of the collection was organized and transferred to the Museum by Douglas J. Mudgway with the permission of William Pickering's widow, Inez Chapman Pickering, and his daughter, Anne Elizabeth (Beth) Pickering Mezitt. Mudgway worked with Dr. Pickering from 2002 until his death in 2004 during the preparation of his book, William H. Pickering - America's Deep Space Pioneer (NASA SP-2008-4113).
    The material in the collection came mainly from Dr. Pickering's personal office in Altadena, California, from the holdings of family members, and from material collected by Douglas J. Mudgway in the course of research for his book. Mudgway's holdings were transferred to the Museum in a series of shipments in 2008. Each box in the shipments contained a separate category of records, usually arranged in chronological order. This organization has been preserved in the Museum's collection, with minor rearrangement to facilitate the location of items of interest by researchers. Anne Elizabeth (Beth) Pickering Mezitt later facilitated the transfer of other family mementos and the extensive collection of honors and awards.

    Abstract/Scope and Content:

    Documents in the collection include records related to JPL and the military, NASA/JPL photos, business affairs, India/Arabia/China interactions, speeches and publications, correspondence, professional society activities, clippings, mementos, and books. Included are the files of Victoria L. Melikan, Special Assistant to the Director, JPL and the Harold Wheelock Collection of speeches. The collection of speeches, dating from the early 1950s to the early 2000s, offers a comprehensive survey of his thoughts on scientific research, space exploration, energy production and usage, the effect of science and technology on society, and forecasts for the future in these areas. Audiovisual material includes radio and TV appearances by Pickering and extensive late life interviews of Pickering by Mudgway. Certificates, trophies, and other mementos in the collection honor Pickering as a scientist, a leader in the exploration of space, and a vital force in community and professional affairs.

    Key to Arrangement/Container List:

    The collection is organized in 15 subgroups by subject or material.
    Subgroups: Box
    JPL and the Military 1-3
    Background Biographical Information 3
    NASA/JPL Photos 4
    Business Affairs 5-14
    India/Arabia/China 15-16
    Speeches and Papers 17-23
    Honors, Citations, and Awards 24-25
    Professional Society Records 26-27
    Miscellaneous Projects and Correspondence 27-29
    Mementos, Clippings and Remembrances 29-30
    Reports, Booklets and Brochures 31-33
    Awards, Trophies and Miscellaneous 34-39
    Scrapbooks and Photo Albums 40-43
    Audiovisual 44

    Controlled Access Headings:

    A portion of the names, corporations and places found in Pasadena Museum of History's Library and Archives local finding aid.

    Personal Names:

    Allen, Lew
    Amhurst, Gillian
    Anderson, Carl David
    Anderson, Senator Ken
    Avery, R. Stanton
    Beckman, Arnold O.
    Brown, Dr. Harold
    Brown, Gov. Edmund
    Davis, Gov. Gray
    Dennis, Michael Aaron
    DeVorkin, David H.
    Digby, J.
    DuBridge, Dr. Lee A.
    Dumas, Larry
    Duncan, Capt. John G.
    Dunn, Louis
    Farrero, Councilman John
    Ford, President Gerald R.
    Gardner, Dr. John W.
    Gillespie, Rollin
    Hall, R. Cargill
    Hibbs, Dr. Albert R.
    Horner, Richard E.
    Hunt, Lee
    Kellogg, Will
    Kelly, Paul
    Lanterman, Frank
    Logsden, George
    Logsden, John
    MacLean, William B.
    Malina, Frank
    McLean, William B.
    Megerian, G. K.
    Melikan, Victoria L.
    Mezitt, Anne Elizabeth (Beth) Pickering
    Millikan, Robert
    Moss, Senator
    Mudgway, Douglas J.
    Murray, Bruce
    Myers, Dale
    Naugle, Dr. John E.
    Neal, Roy
    Needell, Allan
    Neher, H. Victor
    Ordway, Federick I.
    Parks, Robert
    Pickering, Inez C.
    Ramo, Simon
    Rechtin, Eberhart
    Russell, Senator Newton R.
    Siverstein, Abe
    Stewart, Homer J.
    Stoller, Morton J.
    Stone, Ed
    Taft, Senator
    Thomas, Shirley
    Tucker, Ken
    Tunney, Senator
    Van Allen, J. A.
    von Braun, Werner
    von Karman, Theodore
    Wayland, Harold
    Webb, James E.
    Wheelock, Harold
    Williams, Ulric
    Yang, Dr.

    Corporate Names:

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    California Institute of Technology

    Place Names:

    Pasadena, California