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Finding Aid to the Records of the American Physical Society, Directed Energy Weapons Study, 1983-1988

Description of Collection

Repository

American Institute of Physics. Center for History of Physics.

College Park, MD 20740

Papers created by

American Physical Society.

Size of collection

2.25 linear feet (5 boxes)

Short description of collection

This collection contains proposals, correspondence, press releases, newspaper, and magazine clippings, papers and reports, Congressional materials, and petitions dealing with the Reagan administration's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or "Star Wars," and the American Physical Society's Directed Energy Weapons Study, initiated in response to SDI.

Language(s) of collection

English

Unit ID

AR 1999-35

History of the APS Directed Energy Weapons Study

This professional society of educators, industrial and government research workers, and students of physics and related fields, was established in 1899 to promote the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of physics. It was a founding Member Society of the American Institute of Physics.

The Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) Study was commissioned by the American Physical Society (APS) on November 20, 1983 to evaluate the status of the science and technology of DEW. A study group was formed by November 1984 with the goal of creating an unclassified report for the APS's membership and others with an interest in DEW. The report was to contain basic technical information about DEW and serve as a reference point for public discussions. The study concentrated on the physical basis of high intensity lasers and energetic particle beams, beam control and propagation, and other issues. The study found significant gaps in the scientific and engineering understanding of many issues associated with the development of DEW technologies. The report was released in April 1987 and it generated controversy among scientists and within the United States Congress.

Scope and Contents of Collection

This collection contains materials about the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the APS's DEW Study, and the APS's Source Term Study. The SDI materials include correspondence, press releases from the American Institute of Physics and other organizations, newspaper and magazine clippings, papers and reports, materials covering the actions of the United States Congress and SDI, and petitions for and against SDI. The APS DEW Study materials contain the study proposal, correspondence about the study, funding, members of the study, cooperation with the Department of Defense and the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, and reactions to the study by scientists and Congress. The correspondence also includes responses to a guest comment piece by Robert R. Wilson in Physics Today. The newspaper, magazine, and television clippings include those mentioning the study, reactions to the study, and the controversy following its release. The papers and reports include a printed copy of the final study from Reviews in Modern Physics. The collection also contains materials regarding the actions of Congress in response to the APS DEW Study. The Source Term materials include correspondence, press releases, newspaper and magazine clippings, and papers and reports. Individuals represented in the collection include: Val Fitch, Gregory H. Canavan, Frederick Seitz, Robert R. Wilson, and Lowell Wood.

Restrictions on Use and Access

Permission of an officer of The American Physical Society is required for access to records less than 25 years old. Earlier records are open to qualified researchers.

Use of primary source material in the Niels Bohr Library requires prior approval through an Application for Access, which includes a statement of research purpose and the names and addresses of two scholars as references. Access applications can be obtained by contacting the Library (telephone 301-209-3177; or e-mail nbl@aip.org). The application can also be printed from our website.

Selected Search Terms

These papers have been indexed in the International Catalog of Sources for History of Physics and Allied Sciences (ICOS) using the following terms. Those seeking related materials should search under these terms.

Persons

Canavan, Gregory H.
Fitch, Val L., 1923-
Seitz, Frederick, 1911-
Wilson, Robert R., 1914-
Wood, Lowell.

Institutions

American Physical Society.
Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (U.S.)

Subject terms

Arms control -- History -- 20th century.
Directed-energy weapons.
Scientists -- Political activity.
Strategic Defense Initiative.

Arrangement and Organization of Collection

The collection has been divided up into three series: Series I. Strategic Defense Initiative; Series II. American Physical Society Directed Energy Weapons Study; and Series III. Source Term Study.

The materials in this collection were organized chronologically.

Provenance and Acquisition Information

The records were received from the American Physical Society's Washington Office in September 1999.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Heather McBride in July 2001.

Duplicate materials were removed from the collection. Paper clips and staples were removed from the documents and in some cases replaced with archival quality paper clips. Newspaper articles were photocopied onto acid-free paper and the originals were removed from the collection. Pages with Post-It Notes were photocopied with the note in place. The photocopy was placed with the original page and the Post-It Notes were removed from the collection. All materials were rehoused in archival quality, acid-free folders and boxes. All notations made by the processor to assist with identification were made in pencil and enclosed in brackets. All other notations were previously on the documents in the collection when it was received.

Preferred Citation of Collection

Cite as: Box [number], Folder [number], American Physical Society, Records of Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) Study, 1983-1988. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library, College Park, MD 20740, USA.

Related Collections

American Institute of Physics. Physics Today Division. Records of Irwin Goodwin, 1983-1993. American Physical Society. Records of the American Physical Society, 1899-1987. Hecht, Jeff, 1947-. Laser pioneer interviews, 1985-1986.

Administrative Information

Title

Finding Aid to the Records of the American Physical Society, Records of the Directed Energy Weapons Study, 1983-1988

Publisher

American Institute of Physics. Center for History of Physics.

One Physics Ellipse
College Park, MD 20740
nbl@aip.org

November 5, 2004

Encoding Information

Machine-readable finding aid encoded in EAD 2002 by Katherine A. Hayes on November 5, 2004. Any revisions made to this finding aid occurred as part of the editing and encoding process.

Series I. Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)

Boxes 1-2

Contains correspondence, press releases from AIP and other organizations, newspaper and magazine clippings, papers and reports by individuals and organizations, materials on the actions of Congress, and petitions dealing with the Strategic Defense Initiative. Reports by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Strategic Defense Initiative, and the Office of Technology Assessment are included. The Congressional materials include correspondence, memos, reports, and excerpts from the Congressional Record.

Box 1 Folder 1 Correspondence, 1985-1988
Folder 2 Press Releases, 1984-1986
Folder 3 Press Releases, 1987-1988
Folder 4 Press Releases- AIP, 1985-1986
Folder 5 Newspaper & Magazine Clippings, 1983, undated
Folder 6 Newspaper & Magazine Clippings, 1984
Folder 7 Newspaper & Magazine Clippings, 1985
Folder 8 Newspaper & Magazine Clippings, 1986
Folder 9 Newspaper & Magazine Clippings, 1987
Folder 10 Newspaper & Magazine Clippings, 1988
Folder 11 Papers & Reports, 1983-1987, undated
Box 2 Folder 1 Papers & Reports- Defensive Technologies Study, 1984
Folder 2 Papers & Reports- Eastport Study Group, 1985-1986
Folder 3 Papers & Reports- Office of Technology Assessment Study, 1984-1988
Folder 4 Papers & Reports- Union of Concerned Scientists Poll, 1986
Folder 5 Congressional Material, 1983-1985
Folder 6 Congressional Material, 1986
Folder 7 Congressional Material, 1987
Folder 8 Congressional Material, 1988
Folder 9 Petitions, 1985-1987, undated

Series II. American Physical Society (APS) Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) Study

Boxes 2-5

Contains the study proposal and correspondence about the study, funding, members, cooperation with the Department of Defense, and reactions to the study. The correspondence also includes responses to a guest comment piece by Robert R. Wilson in Physics Today calling for physicists' opinions on SDI. It also contains TV, newspaper and magazine clippings mentioning the study, the reaction to the study, and the controversy following its release. The papers and reports include the version of the study printed in Reviews in Modern Physics, Gregory Canavan's comments on the study and the APS's response to his comments. The materials about the actions of Congress include excerpts from the Congressional Records, letters, memos, copies of testimony.

Box 2 Folder 10 Proposal, 1983
Folder 11 Correspondence, 1983
Box 3 Folder 1 Correspondence, 1984
Folder 2 Correspondence, January 1985-May 1985
Folder 3 Correspondence, June 1985-December 1985
Folder 4 Correspondence, 1986
Folder 5 Correspondence, January 1987-March 1987
Folder 6 Correspondence, April 1987-June 1987
Folder 7 Correspondence, July 1987-December 1987
Box 4 Folder 1 Correspondence, 1988
Folder 2 Correspondence- Mailing List, 1987, undated
Folder 3 Correspondence- Robert Wilson Guest Comment, July 1985-August 1985
Folder 4 Correspondence- Robert Wilson Guest Comment, September 1-15, 1985
Folder 5 Correspondence- Robert Wilson Guest Comment, September 16-30, 1985
Folder 6 Correspondence- Robert Wilson Guest Comment, October 1985
Folder 7 Correspondence- Robert Wilson Guest Comment, November 1985-January 1986
Folder 8 Press Release, 1985-1987
Folder 9 TV, Newspaper and Magazine Clippings, 1985-June 1987
Folder 10 TV, Newspaper and Magazine Clippings, July 1987-April 1988
Folder 11 Papers & Reports, 1987
Folder 12 Congressional Materials, April 1987-July 1987
Box 5 Folder 1 Congressional Materials, September 1987-December 1987

Series III. Source Term Study

Box 5

Contains materials dealing with an earlier American Physical Society study on radionucleotide release from severe nuclear power plant accidents. It contains correspondence, press releases, newspaper and magazine clippings mentioning the study, and papers and reports, which include sections of the final study report. Some of these materials may have been used as examples for the production of the DEW study.

Box 5 Folder 2 Correspondence, 1983-1985
Folder 3 Press Releases, 1985
Folder 4 Newspaper & Magazine Clippings, 1985
Folder 5 Papers & Reports, 1983-1985