Scope and Content of Collection
Matthias, Bernd T., 1918-1980
Title: Bernd Matthias Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1958 - 1980
19.20 linear feet
(48 archives boxes)
Abstract: Papers of Bernd Teo Matthias (1918-1980), physicist, professor and researcher in superconductivity. Matthias began his research
in superconductivity at the University of Chicago (1949-1951), joined the UCSD Physics Department in 1961, worked at Bell
Laboratories and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and founded the Institute for the Study of Matter at UCSD in 1962. Included
in the collection are correspondence, writings, proposals, subject files, calendars, and biographical materials.
The collection is arranged into eleven series: 1) BIOGRAPHY, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) ORGANIZATIONS, 4) CONFERENCES, 5) PROPOSALS,
6) EDITORIAL FILES, 7) WRITINGS, 8) UCSD, 9) SUBJECT FILES, 10) IMAGES, and 11) CALENDARS.
University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
La Jolla, California 92093-0175
Collection number: MSS 0101
Language of Material:
Collection materials in English
Collection is open for research.
Bernd Matthias Papers, MSS 0101. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Bernd Teo Matthias (1918-1980) was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on June 8, 1918. He completed his Ph.D. in physics
in 1943 at the Eidgenďssische Technische Hochschule Zĕrich and continued his research there for four more years. He immigrated
to the United Stated in 1947. Matthias was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1965 and is most noted for his
discovery of nearly 1,000 superconducting materials.
Superconductivity is a phenomenon that occurs in metals at very low temperatures. When a metal is superconductive, it loses
all electrical resistance. This means that electric currents can flow through a ring of superconducting material indefinitely,
without losing any energy, as long as the material is kept at the very low temperature at which it becomes superconducting.
Matthias's career focused on the search for materials with ever-higher transition temperatures.
In 1947, Matthias accepted an appointment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The following year he began an affiliation
with the Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. On leave from Bell Labs in 1949-51, Matthias was an assistant professor
at the University of Chicago, where he developed a career-long collaborative relationship with Willy Zachariasen, a crystallographer
and the head of Chicago's Physics Department at that time. While at the University of Chicago, Matthias turned to superconductivity
and ferromagnetism in collaboration with John K. Hulm. His interest in the relationship between these two phenomena continued
throughout his career.
In 1951, Matthias returned to Bell Labs where he discovered many more superconducting materials and developed the concept
of "electron counting." This was an empirical guide that related the transition temperature of superconducting materials
with their number of valence electrons per atom, a tool he used to discover many superconducting materials. Matthias was
invited to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) as a consultant in the Theoretical Division in 1956 or 1957. In 1961 he
joined the physics faculty at the University of California, San Diego, and maintained a part-time presence in the labs at
Murray Hill. He also maintained a presence at LANL as well, collaborating there with some of his former UCSD students, thus
participating in and conducting research in three labs simultaneously.
A year after joining the Physics Department at UCSD, Matthias founded the Institute for the Study of Matter, funded first
by the Air Force and later by the National Science Foundation. In 1966, the Institute merged with the Physics Department's
Institute for Pure and Applied Physical Sciences under the direction of Keith Brueckner. Matthias became associate director.
Matthias explored the boundaries of science and metaphysics in his courses for undergraduates titled "Frontiers of Science."
He was still actively researching and teaching when he died of a heart attack on October 27, 1980.
Scope and Content of Collection
Accession Processed in 1992
The Matthias Papers are organized into eleven series: 1) BIOGRAPHY, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) ORGANIZATIONS, 4) CONFERENCES, 5)
PROPOSALS, 6) EDITORIAL FILES, 7) WRITINGS, 8) UCSD, 9) SUBJECT FILES, 10) IMAGES and 11) CALENDARS.
SERIES 1: BIOGRAPHY
1962-1980 5 folders
This series includes Matthias's yearly UCSD biographical forms, his extensive publication list, entries from various Who's
Who publications, news clippings describing Matthias and his research, letters of notification and congratulations for awards,
and security questionnaires prepared for the Institute for Defense Analyses, Los Alamos, and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
SERIES 2: CORRESPONDENCE
1961-1980 8.4 l.f.
Matthias organized his correspondence in two ways. He interfiled incoming and copies of outgoing letters alphabetically year
by year, and filed additional duplicate copies of outgoing letters separately in monthly chronological files. The monthly
files, which merely duplicated portions of the larger alphabetical file have been discarded. The series contains letters
to and from numerous international scientists such as Linus Pauling and Christopher Raub and includes letters in French and
The CORRESPONDENCE series also contains materials and information on upcoming conferences, as well as letters to and from
editors of scientific journals on specific articles and general issues. It contains materials regarding membership in organizations,
writings, job inquiries sent by prospective employees, and departmental memos. In fact, this series contains elements of
most of the other series, including course work, personnel materials, graphs and illustrations. Materials can be found under
the names of people or organizations which reappear through the years. Researchers interested in the contents of other series
might also look through the CORRESPONDENCE for additional information.
SERIES 3: ORGANIZATIONS
1965-1980 .8 l.f.
This series contains materials generated through Matthias's involvement in three organizations, the Advanced Research Projects
Agency (ARPA), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS), and the National Academy of Science (NAS). Materials are
arranged chronologically within each organization. The ARPA folder holds records of Matthias's participation in the Materials
Research Council summer studies programs of 1968 and 1969. The AAAS folder contains general information on balloting and
membership, letters from academy officers to science and culture officials in Moscow protesting the persecution of A.D. Sakharov
and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (honorary members of the academy), and Matthias's nomination and support of Harry Suhl, a colleague
at Bell Labs and UCSD physics professor, to membership in the academy. The NAS subseries is the largest, consisting of news,
minutes, balloting and nomination materials. A folder named for William Shockley, a Stanford professor and Bell scientist,
describes Shockley's attempt to engage the NAS council in genetic studies linking intelligence to race. This folder holds
numerous enclosures detailing Shockley's position and opposing views in the controversy that grew around it.
SERIES 4: CONFERENCES
1962-1979 4 folders
This series contains two subseries: the Conference on superconductivity in d and f band metals-- held at UCSD and organized
by Matthias and his group, and Other Conferences, containing applications and correspondence arranging Matthias's attendance
at conferences in London and New York. This series contains only administrative materials. Papers and talks delivered at
conferences are in the WRITINGS series.
SERIES 5: PROPOSALS
1961-1981 2.1 l.f.
This series contains research proposals and documentation of Matthias's research funding. Subseries are ordered alphabetically
by the organizations to which Matthias applied for support. Materials are ordered chronologically within each subseries.
The bulk of Matthias's UCSD research was funded by the Air Force, which supported his research from 1962 to 1978, when the
National Science Foundation (NSF) assumed support. The Air Force materials begin with a folder of instructions for writing
proposals and crediting the Air Force. The succeeding files document the creation, rationale, and funding of the Institute
for the Study of Matter (ISM), which Matthias directed until 1966 when the ISM merged with the Institute for Pure and Applied
Physical Sciences. Matthias became the associate director of the new institute under Keith Brueckner. The Air Force files
document sixteen years of continuous funding; although titles of proposals change every few years, the account numbers do
not. Matthias's Air Force Correspondence consists almost exclusively of enclosed articles documenting research results and
the Air Force's confirmation of receipt.
The folders containing proposals submitted to ARPA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) contain single documents submitted
More information on the early years of the ISM and its funding can be found in the Physics Department subseries under UCSD
in the folder, "ISM, B report and Centennial report."
SERIES 6: EDITORIAL FILES
1962-1980 .4 l.f.
This series contains Matthias's referee reports and his correspondence as editorial advisor to several scientific journals.
SERIES 7: WRITINGS
1952-1981 4.4 l.f.
The subseries, Publications, drafts, and related correspondence of Matthias and his group preserves Matthias's original alphabetical
arrangement of items by title of the journals in which Matthias and his research group published. Submissions and related
materials are arranged chronologically under each title, integrating group work with Matthias's own. Matthias's filing system
has been maintained as much as possible, so that although the processor created a subseries called Talks, any talks that Matthias
filed in this alphabetical file, under Rochester Conference for instance, remain there. Also, under the journal title Nature,
Matthias kept proposal materials on the green flash just following his green flash article. It hasn't been refiled in the
Talks and Reports are filed in chronological order and include works by group members.
Writings of others is composed of reprints Matthias collected to form informational files on materials research, including
several translated from Russian into English. In most cases, both Russian and English versions appear in this subseries.
Only the last folder contains untranslated reprints.
SERIES 8: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO
1962-1980 4 l.f. feet
This series contains materials related directly to Matthias's work at the university. The collected articles detail the early
development of the university under Roger Revelle. The Physics Department subseries contains interdepartmental memos filed
in chronological order and a file compiled by Matthias for a 1966 university report describing the Institute for the Study
of Matter. Institute for Pure and Applied Physical Sciences contains administrative files. In Teaching Materials, Matthias
kept files on his courses, notably the class "Frontiers in Science," in which he examined physical and metaphysical issues.
A number of international scientists visited this class and lectured on personal scientific pursuits. Course book lists and
articles reside here and reflect Matthias's own metaphysical and intellectual interests. In the mid-seventies, enrollment
in this course diminished enough to threaten its existence, but interested students petitioned to continue it as directed
study, and the class reappears among the Physics materials under the name "Space and Time."
SERIES 9: SUBJECT FILES
1963-1979 6 folders
The Buckley Prize folder contains nominations and related materials sent to Matthias as a member of the prize's nominating
committee in 1970. Lightning Balls contains first-hand accounts of balled lightning and "plasmoids." News Clippings contains
magazine and newspaper items on various scientific issues related to Matthias's research: engine emissions, superconductivity,
energy, magnets, and Bell Labs. Patents holds Matthias's patents--superconducting and magnetic devices--and related policy
information from the university and Bell Labs. Miscellaneous press materials contains items describing Matthias's courses
for university publications or his research for the general media. Finally, the Th-Rh phase folder holds a single document
by an unknown author on the Th-Rh phase.
SERIES 10: IMAGES
mostly undated 7 folders
This series contains chiefly unidentified graphs, diagrams, transparencies, and photographs maintained separately from the
lectures or texts they might have accompanied.
SERIES 11: CALENDARS
1973-1980 10 folders
This series contains Matthias's wall calendars documenting travel, meetings, conferences, business and social engagements.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Matthias, Bernd T., 1918-1980 -- Archives
University of California, San Diego. -- Dept. of Physics -- Archival resources
University of California, San Diego -- Faculty -- Archival resources
Physicists -- Biography
Physics -- Research
Science -- Social aspects
Science -- Social aspects -- Manuscripts