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Finding Aid for the H. Victor Neher Papers 1916-1994
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Material
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: H. Victor Neher Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1916-1994
    Collection number: 10049-MS
    Creator: Neher, H. Victor (Henry Victor) 1904-1999
    Extent: .75 linear feet
    Repository: California Institute of Technology. Caltech Archives
    Pasadena, California 91125
    Abstract: The papers of H. Victor Neher (1904-1999), Caltech professor of physics, 1931-1970. Neher was one of Caltech's early PhDs in physics. He belonged to Robert A. Millikan's cosmic-ray research group at Caltech for 20 years and served on the Caltech faculty for over 40. His papers include correspondence, especially with and by Millikan; cosmic-ray data, slides and photographs of apparatus, and expedition journals; reprints; and an autobiography titled "Memories."
    Physical location: Archives, California Institute of Technology.
    Language of Material:
    Languages represented in the collection:


    The collection is open for research. Researchers must apply in writing for access.

    Publication Rights

    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.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], H. Victor Neher Papers, 10049-MS, Caltech Archives, California Institute of Technology.

    Acquisition Information

    Victor Neher donated his papers to the Caltech Archives beginning in the late 1980s through the mid-1990s. His daughter, Topsy Smalley, donated a number of reprints in 1999.


    Born in 1904 in Kansas, Henry Victor ("Vic") Neher grew up in California's San Joaquin Valley. His mother's family had been early pioneers and owned extensive farmland in California. Neher attended Pomona College (AB in physics, 1926) and began graduate study at Caltech in 1928, receiving his PhD in physics in 1931. He was then invited by Robert A. Millikan (Nobel Prize, physics, 1923) and Ira Bowen to become part of the cosmic-ray research group Millikan was forming, which came to include Carl D. Anderson (Nobel Prize, physics, 1936), Seth Neddermeyer, and William Pickering, who later became director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Beginning in 1922, Millikan and Bowen had begun launching high-atmosphere balloons equipped with instruments to measure the intensity of cosmic rays at various points in North America, from Texas to North Dakota. Neher's first such data-gathering trip took place in 1932 to the high latitudes of Canada, and he, along with Pickering, went with Millikan to India in 1939-1940. The balloon experiments were later transferred to airplanes. In the 1940s and 1950s Neher worked on determining the so-called latitude effect, which aimed to measure the intensity of cosmic radiation as a variant of latitude. In the course of this work he spent considerable time in and developed a love for Greenland and the arctic. It was eventually determined that the density of cosmic-ray bombardment was much greater at the earth's poles than at the equator and that it also varied with the sun's activity. A further outcome of Neher and Millikan's work was confirmation that the earth's magnetic center is 250 miles from its geographic center. Neher was appointed instructor and later professor of physics at Caltech. He retired in 1970.
    During World War II Neher worked at the Radiation Laboratory at MIT (the "Rad Lab"), where he designed and built microwave vacuum tubes, including the K-band oscillator, otherwise known as the "Neher tube."

    Scope and Content

    The Neher papers form a small but interesting collection focused on cosmic-ray research, of which the bulk of material is correspondence. The most extensive files relate to Robert A. Millikan and include original correspondence between Neher and Millikan, plus correspondence about Millikan in preparation for Neher's 1964 lecture for the American Association of Physics Teachers, "Millikan: Teacher and Friend." Additionally, some of Millikan's own data and letters from Arthur H. Compton, Millikan's chief rival in the cosmic-ray field, are included. Of chief interest among the miscellaneous material are: sets of glass slides depicting experimental apparatus and expedition locations; three handwritten journals, beginning with Neher's trip to Australia and India in 1939-40 in the company of Dr. and Mrs. Millikan and William Pickering, and continuing with two other journals covering multiple trips to Greenland, Europe, India, New Zealand, and eventually in his post-retirement period, to Russia and China (1983); and finally, Neher's 295-page autobiography, "Memories."
    The collection is organized into the following series:
    • Series 1. Correspondence
    • Series 2. Cosmic-Ray Studies
    • Series 3. Biographical and Miscellaneous Material

    Related Material

    Related material in the Caltech Archives includes the oral history of H. Victor Neher (1982); the Historical File on H. Victor Neher; and the papers of Robert A. Millikan, Carl D. Anderson, and William Pickering.

    Indexing Terms

    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
    Millikan, Robert Andrews, 1868-1953
    Cosmic rays
    Microwave tubes
    World War, 1939-1945--Technology