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Register of the Laurence Peterson Papers
MSS 0073  
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Accession Processed in 2000

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Laurence Peterson Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1954-1995
    Collection number: MSS 0073
    Creator: Peterson, Laurence
    Extent: 38.00 linear feet (81 archives boxes and 10 records cartons.)
    Repository: Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD
    La Jolla, CA 92093-0175
    Abstract: Papers of Laurence E. Peterson, professor of physics, leader of the High Energy Astronomy Group, and director (1988-1997) of the UCSD Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences (CASS). Peterson was involved in the planning and design of experiments and instruments onboard such NASA spacecraft as the Orbiting Solar Observatories, the High Energy Astronomical Observatory, Apollo 15 and 16, the Space Shuttle and the Hubble Space Telescope. He was a pioneer in the exploration of hard x-ray energy radiation, and he led the CASS High Energy Astronomy Group in its development of large area phoswich scintillation x-ray and high resolution gamma-ray detectors. The papers span the dates 1954-1994 and include pre-doctoral work, teaching materials, consulting work, editorial papers, presentations, and publications. Absent from the collection are research project files, research proposals and materials documenting Peterson's directorship of CASS. The papers are arranged in seven series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS, 4) EDITING, REVIEWING AND CONSULTING, 5) UCSD MATERIALS, 6) MEETINGS, CONFERENCES AND COMMITTEES and 7) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES. The accession processed in 2000 contains notebooks (1963-1995) and teaching materials (1989-1993).
    Physical location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research

    Preferred Citation

    Laurence Peterson Papers, MSS 0073. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.


    Laurence Peterson was born in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, on July 26, 1931. He received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1954 and completed his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physics at the University of Minnesota in 1956 and 1960, respectively. His dissertation was based on determining the energy spectrum of cosmic-ray protons and helium nuclei over Guam, a scientific ballooning experiment. He remained at the University of Minnesota as a research assistant until 1962, when he came to UCSD as an assistant professor of physics, working in the area of high energy astrophysics.
    Once at UCSD, Peterson continued work started at the University of Minnesota on Orbiting Solar Observatory 1 mission, also known as the S-16. In the development of OSO, balloon flights gathered data on high energy emissions from the sun and gamma-ray processes in the atmosphere. Many other balloon experiments were launched under Peterson's authority. Peterson led the UCSD High Energy Astronomy Group, a multidisciplinary collaboration that did pioneering research and development of low background collimated detectors operating in the 10 KeV to 10 MeV range and high resolution cosmic gamma-ray detectors. Peterson directed the UCSD Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences (CASS) between 1989 and 1997.
    Peterson has a long history of consultation to NASA and has served on many advisory and program committees. He was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in the 1973-1974 academic year and spent the year at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in India, where he utilized their high energy cosmic-ray laboratory and balloon facility. In 1978, Peterson was honored with the NASA Exceptional Achievement Award. He was affiliated with the American Astronomical Society and the International Astronomical Union. He was the US Vice President of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) during the period 1980-1986. As Visiting Senior Scientist at the California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (1986-1988), Peterson served as Astrophysics Deputy Division Chief, where he supervised administrative staff, fostered joint space projects with the international community, especially the USSR, and negotiated new opportunities in space science in the aftermath of the Challenger disaster.
    Peterson provided reviews for the ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL, SOLAR PHYSICS and JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, among others.
    Laurence Peterson became Professor Emeritus in 1995.


    The Laurence Peterson Papers document the professional activities of a UCSD professor of physics, administrator and specialist in the research and exploration of high energy x-ray and gamma-ray radiation. Materials include chronological correspondence files (1965-1992), scientific correspondence, presentations, journal articles, notebooks, reviewing and editing materials, extensive teaching materials for UCSD physics classes, and documentation of Peterson's conference and committee activities.
    Proposals, notebooks and files documenting Peterson's participation in High Energy Astronomy Group projects are located in the High Energy Astronomy Group Papers (MSS 467). Materials related to Peterson's directorship of the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences are located in the CASS Records (RSS 2104).
    The BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS series (1963-1987), arranged alphabetically, includes bio-bibliographic update forms, biographical sketches and physics department descriptions of Peterson's research activities, and materials pertaining to Peterson's sabbatical year as a Guggenheim fellow at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in India.
    The CORRESPONDENCE series (1965-1992) is arranged in two subseries: A) Chronological Files and B) Name Correspondence.
    A) The Chronological Files reflect Peterson's activity in the UCSD physics department and contain outgoing letters that discuss department business as well as scientific projects. Projects mentioned include the Orbiting Solar Observatories, the Octahedral Research Satellite, the High Energy Astrophysical Observatory, Apollo 15/16, and various scientific ballooning activities.
    B) The Name Correspondence subseries is arranged alphabetically by name of correspondent or corresponding institution. Among the scientific institutions that are represented are the Douglas Aircraft Corporation, the Analog Technology Corporation, the National Academy of Sciences, the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, the National Science Foundation, and the TATA Institute of Fundamental Research.
    The WRITINGS series (1954-1995) includes preprints and reprints, as well as notes, notebooks, drafts, and some research materials. There are three subseries: A) Presentations, B) Articles, and C) Notebooks. The presentations and articles are arranged alphabetically by title, or by topic when no title appears.
    A) The Presentations subseries includes notes and drafts as well as charts. B) The Articles subseries contains an assortment of Peterson's published works and consists of both drafts and reprints of these writings. Some articles are co-authored with members of HEAG and CASS. A list of journal articles appears at the beginning of the Articles subseries.
    C) The Notebooks subseries is ordered chronologically. Some of Peterson's pre-doctoral work (notes, exams, charts, and instrument drawings) is included here. Two projects well represented in this subseries are the Guam experiment (data for Peterson's doctoral dissertation) and OSO-1 (S-16). These projects (1954-1964) were part of Peterson's work at the University of Minnesota and his early years at UCSD. Many of Peterson's undertakings at the Tata Institute (1973-1974) are also found in the notebooks. The notebooks are primarily in diary form and contain project notes, calculations, and lists of things-to-do. Later notebooks (1981-1983) are comprised of seminar notes.
    The EDITING, REVIEWING AND CONSULTING series (1964-1989) contains materials documenting Peterson's involvement with various professional journals and his evaluative role at NASA and other space science research institutions. This series is arranged in three subseries: A) Editing, B) Reviewing, and C) Consulting. Each subseries is arranged alphabetically by either the name of the journal, mission or institution, respectively.
    The UCSD MATERIALS series (1962-1993) is arranged in three subseries: A) Physics Department, B) Student Protest Materials, C) Miscellaneous, and D) Teaching Materials. Physics Department records are ordered alphabetically and include minutes and memoranda. The student protest materials are ordered chronologically and document student activities and reaction to the Vietnamese Conflict. The Miscellaneous subseries contains grant summaries. The Teaching Materials (1963-1989) subseries includes lecture notes, quizzes, handouts, and homework assignments for physics classes taught by Peterson. The course materials are arranged alphabetically by course title.
    The MEETINGS, CONFERENCES AND COMMITTEES series (1964-1994) documents Peterson's professional activities at various conferences. Peterson's service on the NAS Space Science Board is also represented here. Folders are arranged alphabetically by the name of the sponsoring organization. Organizations of note include NASA, the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), the National Science Foundation, the American Physical Society, the American Astronomical Society, and the National Academy of Sciences. Also included are materials from the 19th International Cosmic Ray Conference held in San Diego in 1985, where Peterson was chair of the local organizing committee.
    The ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES series contains the originals of brittle or high acid content documents that have been photocopied.

    Accession Processed in 2000

    The accession processed in 2000 contains computation notebooks (1963-1995) for various physics projects; notebooks (1981-1989) for meetings of COSPAR, the Space Science Board and the European Science Foundation; notebooks (1982-1985) related to arrangements for the 19th International Cosmic Ray Conference held at UCSD; NASA notebooks (1986-1988); miscellaneous seminar notebooks (1984-1992); and, UCSD teaching materials for physics courses taught by Peterson between 1989 and 1993. The materials are arranged in two series: 1) NOTEBOOKS and 2) UCSD TEACHING MATERIALS.
    RSS 2104 -Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences (CASS)
    MSS 467 -CASS High Energy Astronomy Group (HEAG) Papers. Research proposals and project notebooks kept by Peterson are located here.