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Miller (Stanley) Papers
MSS 0642  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Restrictions
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Publication Rights

  • Descriptive Summary

    Languages: English
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla 92093-0175
    Title: Stanley Miller Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0642
    Physical Description: 92.7 Linear feet (227 archives boxes, 2 card file boxes, one flat box, and five map case folders)
    Date (inclusive): 1952-2010
    Abstract: The papers of Stanley Miller, chemist, biologist, and professor at the University of California, San Diego, known for his research into the origins of life. The papers date from 1952 to 2010 and include correspondence, writing, referee reports, research and subject files, teaching materials, conference and meeting materials, grant proposals, and audio visual materials.


    Stanley Miller was born in Oakland, California, in 1930. He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1951 and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1954. It was there, as a graduate student studying under Harold Urey, that Miller gained attention for his research into the origins of life. As part of his graduate research, Miller created an electric discharge experiment which showed how amino acids could be generated from chemicals thought to have been present on the primitive earth. Miller's results were published by the journal Science in 1953, attracting attention from both the scientific community and the popular press.
    After graduating from the University of Chicago, Miller took a year-long fellowship at Caltech. He went on to teach at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University from 1955 to 1960. He then joined the faculty at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in 1960 as a professor of chemistry. While at UCSD Miller served as a director of the NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training (NSCORT) for studies in exobiology.
    Miller devoted much of his career to studying the origins of life, winning the Oparin Medal from the International Society of the Study of the Origin of Life (ISSOL) in 1983. Along with his origins of life research, Miller helped to design and build a steam powered automobile, worked to create instrumentation for the search for life on Mars, and investigated the natural occurrence of clathrate hydrates. In 1995 Miller retired from teaching and became a professor emeritus.
    Stanley Miller passed away in 2007.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The papers of Stanley Miller, a prominent biologist and chemist best known for his studies into the origins of life, document Miller's career and research, primarily while at the University of California, San Diego. The Miller papers date from 1952 to 2010 and are arranged in twelve series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS, 4) WRITINGS OF OTHERS, 5) RESEARCH FILES, 6) GRANTS, 7) UC SAN DIEGO MATERIALS, 8) CONFERENCES & LECTURES, 9) PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS, 10) REFEREE REPORTS & REVIEWS, 11) IMAGES & RECORDINGS, and 12) ORIGINS OF LIFE REPRINTS.
    The BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS series is arranged in two subseries: A) General and B) Personal Travel.
    A) Materials in the General subseries include newspaper clippings about Miller and his work; personal papers such as curricula vitae, notes, calendars, passports and ID cards; typescripts of interviews with Miller; and posthumous materials such as a program from Miller's memorial service.
    B) The Personal Travel subseries includes Miller's scrapbooks detailing his travel from 1963-1997. The scrapbooks, created by Miller, contain ticket stubs, receipts, postcards, ephemera, and in most cases, Miller's handwritten accounts of each trip. Miller's love of cycling is illustrated in several scrapbooks, which record his bicycle trips in Europe and the United States. For information documenting Miller's professional travel, see Series 8: CONFERENCES & LECTURES.
    SERIES 2: CORRESPONDENCE Correspondence contains letters, postcards, telegrams, and email between Miller and his colleagues, students, editors and publishers, journalists, and researchers. Prominent correspondents include Leslie Orgel, John Oró, Linus Pauling, Carl Sagan, and Harold Urey. Letters are filed alphabetically, with works by unidentified correspondents, as well as miscellaneous invitations, located at the end. The bulk of the correspondence in this series is professional in nature. It is also important to note, while the subseries does include letters from the 1950s, it does not contain correspondence directly related to Miller's graduate study or his electric discharge experiment research done while at the University of Chicago.
    At the very beginning of the series are several folders of student letters, arranged chronologically, comprised of letters requesting information about Miller and his electric discharge experiment, as well as instructions on repeating the experiment. Letters were written by students of all ages, from countries around the world. Immediately following the student letters are "Crackpot" letters, comprised of letters originally separated from the general correspondence in files labeled "crackpot" by Miller. The bulk of this subseries are letters written by either amateur scientists sharing their theories or by religious fundamentalists objecting to Miller's origins of life research.
    The WRITINGS series is arranged in five subseries: A) Numbered Publications, B) Unnumbered Publications & Unpublished Writings, C) How Could Life Have Arisen on Earth?, D) The Origins of Life on the Earth (1974), and E) Abstracts.
    A) The Numbered Publications subseries consists of published works, arranged chronologically and numbered by Miller. Files include reprints, tear sheets, typescript and handwritten drafts, notes, research, and calculations. A complete bibliography, created by Miller, can be found at the beginning of the subseries.
    B) Unnumbered Publications & Unpublished Writings consists mainly of typescript and handwritten drafts of papers written by Miller. Papers are arranged chronologically, from 1952 to 2004, with undated papers filed at the end.
    C) The How Could Life Have Arisen on Earth? subseries includes materials produced while writing a teaching module about chemistry and the origins of life. The subseries contains the module and instructor's manual, correspondence with the publisher, contracts, and reviews of the module by students using it in the classroom.
    D) The fourth subseries is comprised of typescripts, page proofs, artwork, correspondence, and materials from the publisher related to the book The Origins of Life on the Earth (1974), written by Stanley Miller and Leslie Orgel.
    E) The Abstracts subseries contains abstracts for Miller's lectures, published writings, posters, and meetings. Abstracts are arranged chronologically and range in date from 1956 to 1998.
    Items in the WRITINGS OF OTHERS series include reprints, correspondence, and typescripts of articles, dissertations, and book chapters, most edited and annotated by Miller. The bulk of this work was written by students who had done research in Miller's lab. The series is arranged alphabetically by author and ranges in date from 1973 to 1999.
    The RESEARCH FILES contains research materials produced by Stanley Miller and students working in his lab at UCSD. In most cases, the folder titles were transcribed from the original files and the original filing order was retained. The series is arranged in five subseries: A) General, B) GC-MS Spectra Graphs, C) Student Research Files, D) Laboratory Notebooks, and E) Steam Car.
    A) Materials in the General files include chromatograms, annotated reprints, research notes and calculations produced by Miller and his students. Folder titles were transcribed from Miller's original files and the original order was retained. This subseries also contains materials for special projects in which Miller participated, including Miller's work with the Viking Lander Project and his research from two expeditions with the research vessel Alpha Helix. The standard set of reprints and instructions regarding his electric discharge experiment, which Miller would regularly send to inquiring students, can be found here as well.
    B) The GC-MS Spectra Graphs subseries contains research graphs produced by Miller and his students. The folder titles in this subseries were transcribed from original files and the original filing order was retained.
    C) Student Research Files are comprised of files dedicated to specific student's research. The folders are arranged alphabetically by student name, with unidentified files at the end.
    D) The Laboratory Notebooks subseries contains Miller's laboratory notebooks, as well as the lab notebooks of students who conducted research in Miller's lab. Notebooks are arranged alphabetically by researcher and range in date from ca.1954 to 2000.
    E) Materials in the Steam Car subseries include correspondence, grant proposals, progress reports, research, and press releases regarding the construction of a steam powered automobile by UCSD students in a project led by Miller. Also included are applications and rules for the 1970 Clean Air Car Race (CACR), organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Photographs of the UCSD Steam Javelin, which raced in the Clean Air Car Race, as well as research images of steam engines can be found in Series 11: IMAGES & RECORDINGS.
    The GRANTS series, arranged alphabetically by granting institution, is comprised of grant proposals, research proposal drafts, and correspondence. Granting institutions include the California Space Institute, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation.
    The UC SAN DIEGO (UCSD) MATERIALS series is arranged in three subseries: A) General Files, B) Teaching Materials, and C) NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training in Exobiology (NSCORT).
    A) General Files, arranged alphabetically by committee or department, contain correspondence, inter-campus memos, meeting minutes, and reports. Materials document Miller's service to UCSD from 1962 through 2004. Along with service to his department, Miller sat on several committees which dealt with the development of the campus and its buildings, including the Building Advisory Committee for School of Science and Engineering, the Building Committee for Peterson Hall, the Chemistry Department's Space Committee, and the Library Facilities Planning Committee.
    B) The Teaching Materials subseries, arranged alphabetically by class, includes lecture notes, exams, and correspondence related to classes and lectures given by Miller while teaching at UCSD. An incomplete, numbered set of Miller's lecture transparencies is included at the end of the subseries.
    C) The NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training in Exobiology (NSCORT) subseries documents the formation and administration of the NSCORT program at UCSD. The subseries is comprised of correspondence, grant proposals, progress reports, meeting minutes, and ephemera related to the program.
    The CONFERENCES & LECTURES series is arranged in two subseries: A) General and B) Posters.
    A) Materials in the General subseries include correspondence, programs, lecture notes, conference schedules, abstracts, and ephemera related to Miller's professional conferences, meetings, and lectures. In many instances, files also contain Miller's account of his time at these conferences - accounts which describe his trip, his daily schedule, and his opinions of lectures, discussions, and colleagues at these events. The subseries is arranged chronologically ranging in date from 1953 to 2005.
    B) The Posters subseries, arranged chronologically, is comprised of notes, drafts, and print outs of information used to create posters presented at a number of conferences and meetings. Many of these posters were collaborations with students working in Miller's lab. The subseries contains only one finished presentation poster, given at the ISSOL '99 conference, and created by Carlos Estévez, Kevin Nelson, and Stanley Miller.
    The PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS series is arranged in two subseries: A) Miscellaneous Organizations and B) International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life (ISSOL).
    A) The Miscellaneous Organizations subseries contains information regarding Miller's involvement with a number of organizations including the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), the National Academy of Sciences, and the Precambrian Paleobiology Research Group. These documents include correspondence, meeting minutes, reports, and Miller's notes from various meetings.
    B) The International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life (ISSOL) subseries documents Miller's involvement with the organization, including his service as president from 1988-1989. Materials include correspondence, newsletters, meeting minutes, information regarding the Oparin Medal, and a proposal to create the Urey Medal. Materials documenting Miller's attendance at ISSOL conferences can be found in Series 8: CONFERENCES & LECTURES.
    The REFEREE REPORTS & REVIEWS series contains referee reports written by Miller, correspondence with journal editors, and Miller's reviews of grant proposals for organizations such as NASA and the National Science Foundation. Miller served as a referee for a number of professional journals including Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Icarus, the Journal of Molecular Evolution, Nature, Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, and Science.
    The IMAGES & RECORDINGS series is arranged in three subseries: A) Images, B) Sound Recordings, and C) Video Recordings.
    A) The Images subseries contains photographs, negatives, and slides. Photographs include Miller's personal snapshots of trips and conferences, portraits of Miller taken for various publications, images of his electric discharge apparatus, and a set of slides Miller used for teaching and lectures. Photographs of steam cars, including the UCSD Steam Javelin, can be found here as well.
    B) Sound Recordings document a number of Miller's speaking engagements on radio and at conferences - most often speaking about his origins of life research. Also included are six cassettes which record Harold Urey's memorial. All formats are audiocassettes unless otherwise noted.
    C) Video Recordings consist of VHS and DVD recordings of interviews with Miller, recording of Miller's lectures, and programs regarding the origins of life that feature Miller's work. Recordings range in date from 1986 to ca. 2003, with undated recordings at the end.
    The ORIGINS OF LIFE REPRINTS series is arranged in two subseries: A) Reprints By Author and B) Reprints By Subject. This arrangement retains Miller's original filing order. Along with reprints, files include tear sheets, photocopies of articles, preprints, and drafts of papers sent to Miller by various colleagues. Many of the reprints include notes, calculations, and annotations in Miller's hand.


    Referee reports in Series 10 are restricted and use requires permission of the Director of the Mandeville Special Collections Library. Also, audio visual materials in Series 11 are restricted. Researchers must request user copies be produced.

    Preferred Citation

    Stanley Miller Papers, MSS 642. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 2004-2010.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Chemistry -- Study and teaching
    Urey, Harold Clayton, 1893-1981 -- Correspondence
    Orgel, Leslie E. -- Correspondence
    Miller, Stanley Lloyd, 1930-2007 -- Archives
    International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life
    United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    University of California, San Diego -- Faculty