Scope and Content
Title: Eric Temple Bell Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1919-1955
Collection number: 10006-MS
Creator: Bell, Eric Temple 1883-1960
4 linear feet
California Institute of Technology. Caltech Archives
Pasadena, California 91125
Abstract: Eric Temple Bell was professor mathematics at Caltech from 1926 to 1953. He was a specialist in the theory of numbers. He
also distinguished himself as a writer of science fiction under the name of John Taine, and also as the author of non-fiction
and poetry. His papers include literary and scientific manuscripts; correspondence, largely with publishers; and some reprints
of his own scientific publications.
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.
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.
[Identification of item], Eric Temple Bell Papers, 10006-MS, Caltech Archives, California Institute of Technology.
The Eric Temple Bell Papers were assembled from a number of different sources. The earliest to be documented is the 1971 donation
of the manuscript of "Man and his Lifebelts" from a private source. The mathematical manuscripts were given to the Caltech
Archives by Caltech professor of mathematics Tom M. Apostol in 1981. The manuscript copy of the poem "The Scarlet Night" was
donated to the Archives by Bell's biographer, Constance Reid, in 1997. E. T. Bell's reprints were added to the collection
at various times from various sources.
Eric Temple Bell was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1883. He came alone to the U.S. at the age of 19 and enrolled in Stanford
University, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1904. He continued his education at the University of Washington with
a master's degree in 1908. Subsequently he moved to New York to earn his PhD at Columbia University in 1912. He returned to
the West to teach mathematics at the University of Washington, where he stayed for 14 years. He came to Caltech as professor
of mathematics in 1926.
Bell was a specialist in the theory of numbers. He received the prestigious Bôcher Prize from the American Mathematical Society
in 1920. From 1924 to 1927 he served on the Society's council and in 1926 became its vice president. In 1930 he served as
vice president of the Physical Sciences Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and from 1931
to 1933 was president of the Mathematical Association of America. In 1938 he received the Gold Medal of the California Commonwealth
Club for his mathematical writings. He was the author of almost 300 mathematical papers, four advanced and ten popular books
on mathematics, among the latter the highly regarded
Men of Mathematics (1937). His technical books include
Algebraic Arithmetic (1927) and
The Development of Mathematics (1940). Bell was a member of a number of learned societies, including the American Philosophical Society and the National
Academy of Sciences.
Under the pseudonym John Taine, Bell authored 13 science fiction novels and more science fiction magazine stories, most written
between the years 1920 and 1940. A writer for the Caltech magazine
Engineering and Science wrote: "Bell's science fiction is distinguished by its violence. It abounds in overwhelming catastrophes of nature, prehistoric
reptilian monsters, men turned into brute beasts and men turned into masses of fungoid growth." Bell also wrote plays, poetry,
and works of non-fiction.
Eric Temple Bell died in Pasadena, California, on December 21, 1960.
Scope and Content
The Papers of Eric Temple Bell are comprised of separate groups of papers which were acquired by the Caltech Archives in a
piecemeal fashion. The collection is currently organized into four series, generally reflecting the sequence of donation.
The first series contains some of Bell's science fiction manuscripts in both typewritten and holographic form. A copy of the
manuscript for his long poem, "The Scarlet Night," is located in series 4 because of its late date of acquisition. The correspondence
series (series 2) is a mixture of types, but letters with publishers predominate, and there is little in the way of interesting
scientific exchange. Series 3, the mathematical manuscripts, came to the Archives through the care of Professor Tom Apostol
of the Caltech mathematics department. It represents at best a sample of Bell's work, mainly from the 1940s. The concluding
section of the collection contains a portion of Bell's many mathematical articles in reprint form, from the 1920s through
the late 1940s.
The collection is organized into the following series:
- Series 1. Science Fiction and Non-Technical Writings
- Series 2. Correspondence
- Series 3. Mathematical Manuscripts
- Series 4. Miscellaneous and Supplementary Material
Substantial correspondence with E. T. Bell, his wife Toby, and their son, Taine, may be found in the papers of H. P. Robertson
in the Caltech Archives. Readers should also consult the Historical File on E. T. Bell which contains additional stories and
playbills for dramatic productions by this author.
A collection of Eric Temple Bell papers is deposited in the Special Collections department of the University of California,
Santa Cruz, library. A
finding aid to this collection
is available at the Online Archive of California.
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
Taine, John 1883-1960