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Guide to the William Webster Hansen Papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Access Terms
  • Index of Major Correspondents in Series 1 Correspondence and Series 4 Stanford University

  • Overview

    Call Number: SC0126
    Creator: Hansen, W. W. (William Webster), 1909-1949
    Title: William Webster Hansen papers
    Dates: 1928-1974
    Physical Description: 4 Linear feet
    Language(s): The materials are in English.
    Repository: Department of Special Collections and University Archives
    Green Library
    557 Escondido Mall
    Stanford, CA 94305-6064
    Email: specialcollections@stanford.edu
    Phone: (650) 725-1022
    URL: http://library.stanford.edu/spc

    Administrative Information


    Custodial History

    Gift of David Locke Webster, 1974

    Information about Access


    Ownership & Copyright

    Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.

    Cite As

    [Identification of item], William Webster Hansen Papers, SC 126, Stanford University Archives, Stanford, Calif.

    Biographical Note

    Memorial Resolution for William Webster Hansen.
    William Webster Hansen died May 23, 1949. Although he had not been in the best of health since the middle of the war, Hansen's death was unexpected; only two days before it, he had inspected the office made ready for his use in the Microwave Laboratory. He is survived by his parents and his wife Betsy, daughter of the late Professor P. A. Ross of the Stanford Physics Department.
    Hansen was born May 27, 1909, at Fresno, California, and received his elementary schooling in that city. Coming to Stanford, he received the A.B. in 1929, and the Ph.D. in 1933 when only 23 years of age, and then studied as a National Research Council Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology until 1935, when he returned to Stanford as an assistant professor. He became associate professor here in 1937 and professor in 1942.
    Hansen's most important work has been in the border line between physics and engineering involving electromagnetic theory, electron ballistics, and advance circuit theory. He originated the cavity resonator, so important in microwave radar and radio. He contributed to the klystron tube not only the cavity resonator, but also numerous design features that are now typical of all klystron tubes. He made many contributions to the field of microwave measurements, and also originated many important mathematical developments in the theory of radio circuits and antennas. In 1944 he was recognized for this work by the Institute of Radio Engineers with the Morris Liebmann Memorial Prize.
    Direct utility won recognition for the cavity resonator and for many of his improvements in radio and radar engineering; but direct utility was not Hansen's own chief interest. Primarily, he was a pure scientist. His first acquaintance with scientific things was with the fine machine tools sold by his father. From them his temperament led him naturally to the study of their principles. In this study he was greatly benefited by his father's wide experience with such matters, and by most enthusiastic aid and encouragement from both his father and his mother.
    When Hansen came to Stanford as a student, his interest in the underlying principles of physical things led him to work as a research laboratory assistant; and soon the search for new laws of physics became his lifelong objective.
    The cavity resonator, in fact, took shape first only in his mind, as a set of abstract mathematical functions, attractive primarily for their mathematical elegance. Then his clear vision of the meanings of mathematics showed him that real metal, made in the image of these functions, could be used with real electrons for further discoveries in physics.
    Only the shadow of the coming war, which Hansen's rugged intellectual honesty forced him to recognize as real, away back in 1937, made him divert the cavity resonator and himself to military duty. This duty took him to the research laboratory of the Sperry Gyroscope Company and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Radiation Laboratory. Returning to Stanford in 1945, Hansen combined the principles of his cavity resonator with many others learned or discovered in the meantime, and resumed his prewar purpose of developing apparatus for accelerating electrons to unprecedentedly high kinetic energy. The device he designed for this purpose is well known as the linear electron accelerator. A short section of the long linear chain of cavities in which the electrons will be accelerated has already been built. It works exactly as predicted by Hansen. This gives confidence that the rest of his plan for electrons at the equivalent of hundreds of millions of volts will be realized.
    This device we shall not explain here. Hansen could. The clarity of his explanations was amazing; so, too, was their brevity. Sometimes his clear, brief explanations looked like guesswork, but they never were unless he said so. They were insight into the real essentials. Behind any explanation he did not specifically call a guess, there was always a good, thorough mathematical analysis. Moreover, he never lost the practical engineering instincts which he had acquired in his early contact with his father's work. He combined in one man the qualities of an able mathematical physicist, an equally outstanding experimentalist, and a distinguished radio engineer. He was noted among scientists because his ideas always worked.
    He was noted also as a good friend, and not only among scientists. He was ready to lend a hand, or his ears, or brain, in any worthy problem, and to enliven it with unexpected humor. Bill's merry laugh shook off the troubles of many a research. It loosened thought which had bogged down. It helped us get going again along new lines.
    In the war Hansen's conscientious thoroughness was increased by his sense of military duty. Regardless of risk, he went ahead in work that brought on the illness which has now proved fatal. Though not in uniform, he was a good soldier.
    Edward Leonard Ginzton
    Frederick Emmons Terman
    David Locke Webster, Chairman

    Scope and Content

    This collection consists primarily of W. W. Hansen's correspondence with professional colleagues (1934-1949, Boxes 1-3), although some letters of a more personal nature are also included. These letters were in no particular order when acquired by the Archives. They have been arranged chronologically, incoming and outgoing correspondence interfiled, and a name index to major correspondents has been compiled. This index also covers a group of letters and memoranda dealing with the formation of the Stanford Microwave Laboratory, later re-named the Hansen Laboratory of Physics. This latter group of correspondence (Box 4, folders 40 thru 42) had been separated from Hansen's other files by his executor, D.L. Webster, who "bound" these letters together in a notebook. Major correspondents in the W.W. Hansen Papers include: Felix Bloch, Edward Bowles, Ed Condon, E.S. Erwin, Paul Kirkpatrick, Philip M. Morse, Sperry Gyroscope Co., David L. Webster, Ray Lyman Wilbur, and John R. Woodyard. Although this collection includes several letters from Hansen to the Varian brothers, there are almost none from the Varians to Hansen.
    In addition to correspondence the Hansen Papers contain research notes of W.W. Hansen; bibliographic and biographic information; Hansen's account of the development of the klystron; reports re. the first linear accelerator at Stanford; unpublished manuscripts; reprints of some of Hansen's publications; copies of patents; some pieces of apparatus; and two rolls of 35mm. microfilm (film of Hansen's notebooks, evidently made by Hansen).

    Access Terms

    Bloch, Felix, 1905-
    Bowles, Edward W.
    Condon, Edward Uhler, 1902-1974.
    Erwin, E. S.
    Kirkpatrick, Paul.
    Morse, Philip M., (Philip McCord), 1903-1985.
    Sperry Rand Corporation. Sperry Gyroscope Division.
    Stanford Linear Accelerator Center
    Stanford University. Department of Physics. -- General subdivision--Faculty.;
    Stanford University. High Energy Physics Laboratories.
    Stanford University. Microwave Laboratory.
    Varian, Russell Harrison, 1898-1959
    Varian, Sigurd Fergus,, 1901-1961.
    Webster, David Locke, 1943-
    Wilbur, Ray L., (Ray Lyman), 1875-1949
    Woodyard, John R.
    Physics--Study and teaching.

    Index of Major Correspondents in Series 1 Correspondence and Series 4 Stanford University

    The following is an alphabetical list of persons who corresponded with W.W. Hansen. After their names are numbers indicating the box and folder in which letters written by them can be found. A folder entry signifies that at least one, and perhaps more, letter(s) from the correspondent in question can be found in the folder cited. It should be stressed that this index is only for major correspondents, and only lists writers of letters to W.W. Hansen.Sample entry: Anders, David -- 1-11, 2-16This entry indicates that there is at least one letter written by David Anders in Box 1, folder 11; and at least one letter in Box 2, folder 16.
    Alpert, Dan
    American Association for the Advancement of Science -- J. Murray Luck 2-18
    American Physical Society, Applied Physics Committee 2-16
    The American Physics Teacher
    Andrews, Miles 2-17
    Applegate, Lindsay M.
    Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) see U. S. Atomic Energy Commission
    Baird, Douglas O. 2-22
    Bennett, Willard H. 3-27
    Berger, Rose 2-20
    Bloch, Felix
    Boone, Andrew R. 1-12
    Bowles, Edward L.
    Bradbury, N. E. 4-40
    Breazeale, William M. 2-22
    Burbank, Cecil 2-19
    Burbridge, H. C. 2-14
    California, University of, Los Alamos Lab.
    California, University of, Radiation Lab.
    Carnahan, C. W. (Wes)
    Chipman, Robert A. 2-16
    Clark, W. Mansfield
    Condon, Ed. U.
    Cooksey, Donald
    Cramer, George F. 2-20
    Cravitz, Sam 1-10
    Davis, Paul H.
    de Bretteville, Alex 2-13
    de Forest, Lee
    DuMond, Jesse
    Duvall, J.F. (Gordon)
    Dyer, E. C. 1-11
    Eaton, Bourne 2-19
    Erwin, E. S.
    Eurich, A. 3-26
    Everitt, W. L.
    Federal Communications Commission see U. S. Federal Communications Commission
    Feenberg, Eugene
    Foster, J. S. 2-17
    Fry, D. W. 3-28
    Germer, Lester H.
    Hansen, Laura (mother) 1-1
    Hare, Donald G. C.
    Harries Thermionics Ltd. 2-17
    Harrison, George R.
    Hartman, Milton M. 2-19
    Hesthal, Cedric E. 1-11
    Hildebrand, E. M. 2-18
    Hill, A.G.
    Hoffman, John W. 3-28
    Hoover, Herbert, Jr. 2-18
    Houston, W.V.
    Hull, Gordon F. 1-9
    Institute of Radio Engineers
    International Standard Electric Company
    Iskraut, Richard 2-20
    Jackson, J. Hugh
    Jaynes, Edwin T.
    Jönsson, Torsten 3-24
    Joint Research and Development Board, Committee on Electronics (Norman L. Winter, Director, Committee on Electronics) 3-24
    Kaplan, Joseph 3-24
    Kemalyan, Levon 1-11
    Kimball, Peter 2-20
    Kirkpatrick, Paul
    Lark-Horovitz, K. 1-9
    Lashier, Harvey M. 2-23
    Levitt, Leo 3-25
    Loomis, Alfred L.
    Lutz, S.G. 1-10
    McCay, Myron S. 3-25
    McCue, J. J. G. 2-17
    McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.
    McMillan, Edwin M. 2-22
    McRae, J. W. 3-24
    Miller, W. A. 1-11
    Mitchell, J. Pearce 1-1
    Moon, M. L. 3-27
    Moorhead, John G. 1-7
    Moreno, Albert 2-20
    Morse, Philip M. (MIT, Physics)
    Moullin, E. B. (Parks Rd., Oxford) 1-4
    Nahmias, M. E. 1-7
    National Academy of Sciences 3-28
    National Inventors Council, see U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Inventors Council
    National Research Council
    New York Academy of Sciences 2-16
    Newell, Robert R. 3-27
    O'Connor, Cornelius 3-26
    Ould, R. S.
    Pen-Tung Sah, A. 3-27
    Pettengill, George 2-17
    Piston, Donald S. 1-8
    Quate, Calvin F. 2-23
    Rabi, I. I.
    Rae, Henry 3-27
    Richtmyer, F. K.
    Richtmeyer, R. D. 1-8
    Roe, Anne
    Rogers, F. J. (S. U. Dept. of Physics) 1-1
    Saveliev, V. (Russian physicist) 1-11
    Seely, L. B.
    Seifriz, William 2-18
    Seitz, Fred 2-13
    Shockley, Wm.
    Siegert, Arnold
    Silverman, Milton 1-9
    Slater, John C.
    Slepian, J. 2-16
    Smith, E. H. 1-12
    Spangenberg, Karl 2-21
    Sperry Gyroscope Co. also the following:
    Basset, P. R.
    Hunter, Paul
    Jenks, F. 2-18
    Thompson, H. H. 1-8
    Willis, H. Hugh
    Staub, H. H. 1-8
    Stein, William E. 2-22
    Stratton, J. A. 1-9
    Strong, John 1-5
    Tatel, Howard 2-20
    Terman, Frederick
    Tresidder, D.
    Tuck, James L. 1-10
    U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 3-26
    U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Inventors Council 2-19
    U.S. Federal Communications Commission 1-3
    U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development 2-20
    Varian, Russell
    Walker, Frank 4-41
    Watkin, R. L. 2-18
    Weber, Ernst 1-12
    Webster, David Locke
    Westinghouse Co. McCurdy, W. H.
    Whitaker, Douglas (acting Vice-President, S. U.) 3-26
    White, F. W. (New Zealand physicist) 1-4
    Wilbur, R. L.
    Williams, W. Ewart 2-16
    Willis, Hugh
    Wilson, Edgar Bright 1-10
    Woodyard, J. R.