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Albert R. Hibbs Papers, 1884-2009
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administration Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms
  • Subjects
  • Geographic Areas
  • Genre

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Albert R. Hibbs Papers
    Dates: 1884-2009
    Bulk dates: 1931-1999
    Collection Number: Consult repository.
    Creator: Hibbs, Albert R.
    Extent: 80 boxes
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens Manuscripts Department
    The Huntington Library
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2203
    Fax: (626) 449-5720
    Email: manuscripts@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Language of Material: The records are in English.

    Administration Information


    Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, please go to following http://www.huntington.org/huntingtonlibrary.aspx?id=554 .

    Publication Rights

    In order to quote from, publish, or reproduce any of the manuscripts or visual materials, researchers must obtain formal permission from the office of the Library Director. In most instances, permission is given by the Huntington as owner of the physical property rights only, and researchers must also obtain permission from the holder of the literary rights. In some instances, the Huntington owns the literary rights, as well as the physical property rights. Researchers may contact the appropriate curator for further information.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Albert R. Hibbs Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Acquisition Information

    The collection was a gift from Victoria Hibbs on 1 March 2010.


    Albert Roach Hibbs (1924-2003) was born in Akron, Ohio on 19 October 1924. Raised nearby in Chillicothe, Ohio, Al was the second child of Albert Samuel Hibbs, manager of the Chillicothe Water Department, and Alberta Roach Hibbs, a chemist, and brother to older sister, Agnes, born two years earlier in 1922.
    Al Hibbs moved to southern California in 1942 to attend the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) as an undergraduate student under the Navy‟s V-12 program, where he met his lifelong friend and collaborator, Roy L. Walford, later a Professor of Pathology at UCLA School of Medicine and a crew member of Biosphere 2. Hibbs earned his Bachelor of Science in Physics from Caltech in 1945 and after a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy following World War II, was awarded a Master of Science in Mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1947. Prior to returning to California in 1950, he and Walford spent over a year traveling the Caribbean aboard a 40-foot sailboat, Adonde, after earning the money to support the trip by exploiting the mechanical quirks of roulette wheels to beat the odds in Reno in 1947 and in Las Vegas in 1948. In 1950 Hibbs began work as a research engineer in the Research and Analysis Section at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), then a rocket research laboratory operated by Caltech for the U.S. Army and transferred to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) later that year. The following year he returned to Caltech in pursuit of a Ph.D. in Physics, which he was awarded in 1955. As a doctoral student, his advisor was Nobel physicist Richard Feynman; the two became close friends and collaborators, coauthoring the textbook Quantum Mechanics and Path Integrals, published in 1965.
    Hibbs‟ theoretical work at JPL laid the foundation for the successful launching of the country‟s first satellites and lunar probes. As the head of the Research and Analysis Section, he was the systems designer for the first successful U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958. He helped create and served as Chief of the Space Sciences Division from 1960 to 1962, designing instruments and carrying out scientific studies on the Moon and planets. He held several other research and managerial positions during his tenure at JPL, including Senior Staff Scientist of the Office of Plans and Programs (1967-1969), assigned to long-range planning of Laboratory activities; Manager of Transportation Technology Office (1969-1970), responsible for directing the application of space technology to the solution of problems in transportation; Manager of Program Planning and Coordination (1976-1980), establishing new space development programs and projects; Manager of Strategic Planning, developing concepts for future space activities; and Manager of Space Science and Applications Program, involving research in Earth and space sciences, instrument development, and preliminary design studies of future space flights. He retired from JPL as the Director of Space Science in November 1986.
    Hibbs left JPL from 1962 to 1967 on special assignment as staff scientist for the Arms Control Study Group (ACSG) of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) to study how arms-control treaties could be monitored from space.
    Working independently, with Caltech, JPL, and NASA, and with local and national broadcasting outlets, Hibbs hosted and produced a number of radio and television programs for both adults and children during his career. Hibbs emerged as the “Voice of JPL” and became the spokesperson for the unmanned spacecraft missions during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. With an aptitude for making difficult science understandable, he chronicled for the world, via television and radio, the Ranger and Surveyor missions to the Moon; the Mariner missions to Venus, Mars, and Mercury; the Viking missions to Mars; and the Voyager missions to the outer planets. He received numerous awards and honors for his television and radio work, including the George Foster Peabody Broadcasting Award in 1963 for hosting the NBC weekly children‟s television program “Exploring” which ran from 1962 to 1966. Additionally, he received the Thomas Alva Edison Foundation National Media Award for “Exploring” in 1962 and 1965, and for his work on “World of Science” as the best science radio program for youth in 1965. In 1984 he was awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, “especially for his outstanding achievements in explaining the complexities and significance of space exploration to the general public via radio and television.”
    Hibbs maintained close ties to Caltech throughout his career and into retirement. From 1965 to 1974 he taught courses at Caltech in physics, government, national security, and transportation issues. He performed with Men‟s Glee Club and in several theatrical productions with Theater Arts at California Institute of Technology (TACIT) during the 1980s and 1990s. In retirement, he was on the Board of Directors for both the Caltech Y and the Volunteer Professionals for Medical Advancement (VPMA), a group of retired JPL engineers and scientists working with local doctors and hospitals to develop new medical technologies.
    He was active in a number of projects outside of JPL, including Biosphere 2 as a member of the Project Review Committee from 1987 to 1992 and the Geosphere Project as a member of the Eyes on Earth Board of Directors from 1989 to 1995. He was also involved in the development of the Morgantown Area Rapid Transit System (MARTS), funded by the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA), which he continued work on after JPL abandoned the system management role.
    Hibbs authored numerous articles on diverse subjects in a variety of publications, both popular and technical. In addition to published works, he composed poetry, stories, and script ideas that never reached publication. He also gave speeches on a variety of subjects to diverse audiences ranging from professional organizations to neighborhood churches.
    As a hobby he enjoyed making kinetic sculpture. He was also a member of the Southern California Skeptics, a group affiliated with the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) that aimed to promote and disseminate the fair and accurate investigation of alleged claims of paranormal occurrences.
    He married Florence Pavin in 1950; they had two children, Victoria Pavin Hibbs (b. 1954) and Bart Dean Hibbs (b. 1955). Widowed in 1970, Hibbs remarried Marka Oliver in 1971; she had two children from a previous marriage, Alicia Cortrite and Lawrence (Larry) Wilson. Hibbs died on 24 February 2003 of complications following heart surgery at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, California at the age of 78.

    Scope and Content

    The Albert R. Hibbs Papers, 1884-2009 (80 boxes) document the personal life and career of Hibbs as a manager and scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the relationships between JPL, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and the development of the solar system exploration programs. Hibbs‟ consulting work for television and radio programs, Biosphere 2, and Morgantown Area Rapid Transit System (MARTS) are also documented. Although the collection arrived at The Huntington in disarray, original order of the materials was maintained when possible and the arrangement reflects Hibbs‟ general organization by correspondent, subject, or format of materials. The collection is divided into ten series: Audio Visual Materials, Consulting Files, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Notebooks, Personal Files, Photographs and Negatives, Presentations and Speeches, Publications and Writings, Teaching Files, and Oversize. The bulk of collection materials date from 1931 to 1999 and consists of audio and video tapes, clippings, correspondence, memoranda, notes, photographs, publications, speeches, and writings. As the collection is arranged by both subject and format of the materials, researchers should be aware that materials are often dispersed through the series. For example, materials related to specific subjects are frequently represented in the JPL and Notebooks Series; similarly, Hibbs‟ friendship and collaboration with Roy L. Walford is documented in the Correspondence and Aging Research and Writings subseries of the Personal Series, in the Space Bioshpheres Ventures subseries of the Consulting series, as well as in the Audio Visual Materials Series. Correspondence is also dispersed throughout the series.
    The collection consists of the following series, described in detail within this document:
    SERIES 1: Audio Visual Materials, 1963, 1965-1968, 1970, 1976, ca. 1977, 1979-1989, 1991- 1993, 1996-1997, 2001-2002, n.d.
    SERIES 2: Consulting Files, 1950, 1952, 1960-1967, 1969-1975, 1980-1981, 1983-2000, 2002- 2003, n.d.
    SERIES 3: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 1955, 1957-1997, 1999-2000, 2007-2009, n.d.
    SERIES 4: Notebooks, 1956-1958, 1960-1996, n.d.
    SERIES 5: Personal Files, 1884-1885, 1910, 1931-1933, 1940, 1942-1953, 1955, 1957-2001, 2003-2007, n.d.
    SERIES 6: Photographs and Negatives, ca. 1870s-1890s, 1906, ca. 1900s, 1912-1915, ca. 1910s, 1922, 1924-1926, ca. 1927, 1928-1936, ca. 1930s, 1938-1952, ca. 1950s, 1955-1987, 1989-1992, 1996, 2000-2001, ca. early 2000s, 2005, n.d.
    SERIES 7: Presentations and Speeches, 1958-1962, 1964-1968, 1970, 1974-1975, ca. 1970s, 1977-1990, 1992-1993, 1995-1997, 2000, n.d.
    SERIES 8: Publications and Writings, 1943, 1951-1970, 1972-1975, 1977, 1979, 1982-1983, 1985-1987, ca. 1998, n.d.
    SERIES 9: Teaching Files, 1972-1976, n.d.
    SERIES 10: Oversize, 1890-1935, 1938, 1945, 1955, 1957, ca. 1958, 1959, 1962-1963, ca. 1964, 1965, ca. 1966, ca. 1971, 1980-1981, 1984, 1986, ca. early 2000s, n.d.


    A detailed container list is available through the Manuscripts Department.

    Indexing Terms

    Personal Names

    Hibbs, Albert R.
    Feynman, Richard P. (Richard Phillips) 1918-1988
    Walford, Roy L.

    Corporate Names

    California Institute of Technology
    California Institute of Technology. Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
    Earthwatch (Organization)
    GeoSphere Project
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (U.S.)

    United States. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
    United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration


    Astronautical laboratories
    Biosphere 2 (Project)
    Explorer 1 (Artificial satellite)
    Explorer 1 (Artificial satellite)--Orbit
    Kinetic art
    Satellite image maps
    Solar System
    Space Flight
    Space flight to asteroids
    Space flight to Jupiter
    Space flight to Mars
    Space flight to Mercury
    Space flight to the moon
    Space flight to the moon on television
    Space flight to Saturn
    Space flight to Venus
    Space industrialization
    Outer space--Civilian use
    Outer space--Exploration
    Science--Study and teaching (Elementary)--United States
    Science--Study and teaching (Higher)--United States
    Science television programs
    Surveyor Program (U.S.)
    Viking Mars Program (U.S.)
    Voyager Project

    Geographic Areas

    Chillicothe (Ross County, Ohio)
    Pasadena (Calif.)


    Cellulose nitrate film
    Letters (correspondence)
    Negatives (photographic)
    Photographic prints
    Space photographs