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Bernd Matthias Papers
MSS 0101  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Creator: Matthias, Bernd T., 1918-1980
    Title: Bernd Matthias Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1958 - 1980
    Extent: 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.
    Repository: 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.

    Acquisition Information

    Not Available

    Preferred Citation

    Bernd Matthias Papers, MSS 0101. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    Publication Rights

    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.
    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.
    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 German.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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 in 1973.
    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."
    1962-1980 .4 l.f.
    This series contains Matthias's referee reports and his correspondence as editorial advisor to several scientific journals.
    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 PROPOSALS series.
    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.
    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."
    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.
    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.
    1973-1980 10 folders
    This series contains Matthias's wall calendars documenting travel, meetings, conferences, business and social engagements.

    Indexing Terms

    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