Guide to the William Webster Hansen Papers

Daniel Hartwig
Stanford University Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections & University Archives.
Stanford, California
Copyright © 2014 The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.


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Call Number: SC0126
Creator: Hansen, W. W. (William Webster), 1909-1949
Title: William Webster Hansen papers
Dates: 1928-1974
Physical Description: 4 Linear feet
Language(s): The materials are in English.
Repository: Dept. of Special Collections & University Archives.
Stanford University Libraries.
557 Escondido Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6064
Phone: (650) 725-1022

Administrative Information


Custodial History

Gift of David Locke Webster, 1974

Information about Access


Ownership & Copyright

Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.

Cite As

[Identification of item], William Webster Hansen Papers, SC 126, Stanford University Archives, Stanford, Calif.

Biographical Note

Memorial Resolution for William Webster Hansen.
William Webster Hansen died May 23, 1949. Although he had not been in the best of health since the middle of the war, Hansen's death was unexpected; only two days before it, he had inspected the office made ready for his use in the Microwave Laboratory. He is survived by his parents and his wife Betsy, daughter of the late Professor P. A. Ross of the Stanford Physics Department.
Hansen was born May 27, 1909, at Fresno, California, and received his elementary schooling in that city. Coming to Stanford, he received the A.B. in 1929, and the Ph.D. in 1933 when only 23 years of age, and then studied as a National Research Council Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology until 1935, when he returned to Stanford as an assistant professor. He became associate professor here in 1937 and professor in 1942.
Hansen's most important work has been in the border line between physics and engineering involving electromagnetic theory, electron ballistics, and advance circuit theory. He originated the cavity resonator, so important in microwave radar and radio. He contributed to the klystron tube not only the cavity resonator, but also numerous design features that are now typical of all klystron tubes. He made many contributions to the field of microwave measurements, and also originated many important mathematical developments in the theory of radio circuits and antennas. In 1944 he was recognized for this work by the Institute of Radio Engineers with the Morris Liebmann Memorial Prize.
Direct utility won recognition for the cavity resonator and for many of his improvements in radio and radar engineering; but direct utility was not Hansen's own chief interest. Primarily, he was a pure scientist. His first acquaintance with scientific things was with the fine machine tools sold by his father. From them his temperament led him naturally to the study of their principles. In this study he was greatly benefited by his father's wide experience with such matters, and by most enthusiastic aid and encouragement from both his father and his mother.
When Hansen came to Stanford as a student, his interest in the underlying principles of physical things led him to work as a research laboratory assistant; and soon the search for new laws of physics became his lifelong objective.
The cavity resonator, in fact, took shape first only in his mind, as a set of abstract mathematical functions, attractive primarily for their mathematical elegance. Then his clear vision of the meanings of mathematics showed him that real metal, made in the image of these functions, could be used with real electrons for further discoveries in physics.
Only the shadow of the coming war, which Hansen's rugged intellectual honesty forced him to recognize as real, away back in 1937, made him divert the cavity resonator and himself to military duty. This duty took him to the research laboratory of the Sperry Gyroscope Company and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Radiation Laboratory. Returning to Stanford in 1945, Hansen combined the principles of his cavity resonator with many others learned or discovered in the meantime, and resumed his prewar purpose of developing apparatus for accelerating electrons to unprecedentedly high kinetic energy. The device he designed for this purpose is well known as the linear electron accelerator. A short section of the long linear chain of cavities in which the electrons will be accelerated has already been built. It works exactly as predicted by Hansen. This gives confidence that the rest of his plan for electrons at the equivalent of hundreds of millions of volts will be realized.
This device we shall not explain here. Hansen could. The clarity of his explanations was amazing; so, too, was their brevity. Sometimes his clear, brief explanations looked like guesswork, but they never were unless he said so. They were insight into the real essentials. Behind any explanation he did not specifically call a guess, there was always a good, thorough mathematical analysis. Moreover, he never lost the practical engineering instincts which he had acquired in his early contact with his father's work. He combined in one man the qualities of an able mathematical physicist, an equally outstanding experimentalist, and a distinguished radio engineer. He was noted among scientists because his ideas always worked.
He was noted also as a good friend, and not only among scientists. He was ready to lend a hand, or his ears, or brain, in any worthy problem, and to enliven it with unexpected humor. Bill's merry laugh shook off the troubles of many a research. It loosened thought which had bogged down. It helped us get going again along new lines.
In the war Hansen's conscientious thoroughness was increased by his sense of military duty. Regardless of risk, he went ahead in work that brought on the illness which has now proved fatal. Though not in uniform, he was a good soldier.
Edward Leonard Ginzton
Frederick Emmons Terman
David Locke Webster, Chairman

Scope and Content

This collection consists primarily of W. W. Hansen's correspondence with professional colleagues (1934-1949, Boxes 1-3), although some letters of a more personal nature are also included. These letters were in no particular order when acquired by the Archives. They have been arranged chronologically, incoming and outgoing correspondence interfiled, and a name index to major correspondents has been compiled. This index also covers a group of letters and memoranda dealing with the formation of the Stanford Microwave Laboratory, later re-named the Hansen Laboratory of Physics. This latter group of correspondence (Box 4, folders 40 thru 42) had been separated from Hansen's other files by his executor, D.L. Webster, who "bound" these letters together in a notebook. Major correspondents in the W.W. Hansen Papers include: Felix Bloch, Edward Bowles, Ed Condon, E.S. Erwin, Paul Kirkpatrick, Philip M. Morse, Sperry Gyroscope Co., David L. Webster, Ray Lyman Wilbur, and John R. Woodyard. Although this collection includes several letters from Hansen to the Varian brothers, there are almost none from the Varians to Hansen.
In addition to correspondence the Hansen Papers contain research notes of W.W. Hansen; bibliographic and biographic information; Hansen's account of the development of the klystron; reports re. the first linear accelerator at Stanford; unpublished manuscripts; reprints of some of Hansen's publications; copies of patents; some pieces of apparatus; and two rolls of 35mm. microfilm (film of Hansen's notebooks, evidently made by Hansen).

Access Terms

Bloch, Felix, 1905-
Bowles, Edward W.
Condon, Edward Uhler, 1902-1974.
Erwin, E. S.
Kirkpatrick, Paul.
Morse, Philip M., (Philip McCord), 1903-1985.
Sperry Rand Corporation.. Sperry Gyroscope Division..
Stanford Linear Accelerator Center
Stanford University. Dept. of Physics. -- General subdivision--Faculty.;
Stanford University. High Energy Physics Laboratories.
Stanford University. Microwave Laboratory.
Varian, Russell Harrison, 1898-1959
Varian, Sigurd Fergus,, 1901-1961.
Webster, David Locke, 1943-
Wilbur, Ray L., (Ray Lyman), 1875-1949
Woodyard, John R.

Index of Major Correspondents in Series 1 Correspondence and Series 4 Stanford University

The following is an alphabetical list of persons who corresponded with W.W. Hansen. After their names are numbers indicating the box and folder in which letters written by them can be found. A folder entry signifies that at least one, and perhaps more, letter(s) from the correspondent in question can be found in the folder cited. It should be stressed that this index is only for major correspondents, and only lists writers of letters to W.W. Hansen.Sample entry: Anders, David -- 1-11, 2-16This entry indicates that there is at least one letter written by David Anders in Box 1, folder 11; and at least one letter in Box 2, folder 16.
Alpert, Dan
American Association for the Advancement of Science -- J. Murray Luck 2-18
American Physical Society, Applied Physics Committee 2-16
The American Physics Teacher
Andrews, Miles 2-17
Applegate, Lindsay M.
Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) see U. S. Atomic Energy Commission
Baird, Douglas O. 2-22
Bennett, Willard H. 3-27
Berger, Rose 2-20
Bloch, Felix
Boone, Andrew R. 1-12
Bowles, Edward L.
Bradbury, N. E. 4-40
Breazeale, William M. 2-22
Burbank, Cecil 2-19
Burbridge, H. C. 2-14
California, University of, Los Alamos Lab.
California, University of, Radiation Lab.
Carnahan, C. W. (Wes)
Chipman, Robert A. 2-16
Clark, W. Mansfield
Condon, Ed. U.
Cooksey, Donald
Cramer, George F. 2-20
Cravitz, Sam 1-10
Davis, Paul H.
de Bretteville, Alex 2-13
de Forest, Lee
DuMond, Jesse
Duvall, J.F. (Gordon)
Dyer, E. C. 1-11
Eaton, Bourne 2-19
Erwin, E. S.
Eurich, A. 3-26
Everitt, W. L.
Federal Communications Commission see U. S. Federal Communications Commission
Feenberg, Eugene
Foster, J. S. 2-17
Fry, D. W. 3-28
Germer, Lester H.
Hansen, Laura (mother) 1-1
Hare, Donald G. C.
Harries Thermionics Ltd. 2-17
Harrison, George R.
Hartman, Milton M. 2-19
Hesthal, Cedric E. 1-11
Hildebrand, E. M. 2-18
Hill, A.G.
Hoffman, John W. 3-28
Hoover, Herbert, Jr. 2-18
Houston, W.V.
Hull, Gordon F. 1-9
Institute of Radio Engineers
International Standard Electric Company
Iskraut, Richard 2-20
Jackson, J. Hugh
Jaynes, Edwin T.
Jönsson, Torsten 3-24
Joint Research and Development Board, Committee on Electronics (Norman L. Winter, Director, Committee on Electronics) 3-24
Kaplan, Joseph 3-24
Kemalyan, Levon 1-11
Kimball, Peter 2-20
Kirkpatrick, Paul
Lark-Horovitz, K. 1-9
Lashier, Harvey M. 2-23
Levitt, Leo 3-25
Loomis, Alfred L.
Lutz, S.G. 1-10
McCay, Myron S. 3-25
McCue, J. J. G. 2-17
McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.
McMillan, Edwin M. 2-22
McRae, J. W. 3-24
Miller, W. A. 1-11
Mitchell, J. Pearce 1-1
Moon, M. L. 3-27
Moorhead, John G. 1-7
Moreno, Albert 2-20
Morse, Philip M. (MIT, Physics)
Moullin, E. B. (Parks Rd., Oxford) 1-4
Nahmias, M. E. 1-7
National Academy of Sciences 3-28
National Inventors Council, see U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Inventors Council
National Research Council
New York Academy of Sciences 2-16
Newell, Robert R. 3-27
O'Connor, Cornelius 3-26
Ould, R. S.
Pen-Tung Sah, A. 3-27
Pettengill, George 2-17
Piston, Donald S. 1-8
Quate, Calvin F. 2-23
Rabi, I. I.
Rae, Henry 3-27
Richtmyer, F. K.
Richtmeyer, R. D. 1-8
Roe, Anne
Rogers, F. J. (S. U. Dept. of Physics) 1-1
Saveliev, V. (Russian physicist) 1-11
Seely, L. B.
Seifriz, William 2-18
Seitz, Fred 2-13
Shockley, Wm.
Siegert, Arnold
Silverman, Milton 1-9
Slater, John C.
Slepian, J. 2-16
Smith, E. H. 1-12
Spangenberg, Karl 2-21
Sperry Gyroscope Co. also the following:
Basset, P. R.
Hunter, Paul
Jenks, F. 2-18
Thompson, H. H. 1-8
Willis, H. Hugh
Staub, H. H. 1-8
Stein, William E. 2-22
Stratton, J. A. 1-9
Strong, John 1-5
Tatel, Howard 2-20
Terman, Frederick
Tresidder, D.
Tuck, James L. 1-10
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 3-26
U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Inventors Council 2-19
U.S. Federal Communications Commission 1-3
U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development 2-20
Varian, Russell
Walker, Frank 4-41
Watkin, R. L. 2-18
Weber, Ernst 1-12
Webster, David Locke
Westinghouse Co. McCurdy, W. H.
Whitaker, Douglas (acting Vice-President, S. U.) 3-26
White, F. W. (New Zealand physicist) 1-4
Wilbur, R. L.
Williams, W. Ewart 2-16
Willis, Hugh
Wilson, Edgar Bright 1-10
Woodyard, J. R.

Collection Contents


Series 1 Correspondence 1928-1949

Box 1, Folder 1

Correspondence 1928-1934

Box 1, Folder 2

Correspondence 1936, January-August

Box 1, Folder 3

Correspondence 1936, Sep-Dec

Box 1, Folder 4

Correspondence 1937, Jan-Apr

Box 1, Folder 5

Correspondence 1937, May-Oct

Box 1, Folder 6

Correspondence 1937, Nov-Dec

Box 1, Folder 7

Correspondence 1938, Jan-Apr

Box 1, Folder 8

Correspondence 1938, May-August

Box 1, Folder 9

Correspondence 1938, Sep-Dec, plus 1938, undated

Box 1, Folder 10

Correspondence 1939, Jan-Feb

Box 1, Folder 11

Correspondence 1939, Mar-May

Box 1, Folder 12

Correspondence 1939, June-July

Box 2, Folder 13

Correspondence 1939, Aug-Sep

Box 2, Folder 14

Correspondence 1939, Oct-Dec

Box 2, Folder 15

Correspondence 1940, Jan-Feb

Box 2, Folder 16

Correspondence 1940, Mar-Jul

Box 2, Folder 17

Correspondence 1940, Aug-Oct

Box 2, Folder 18

Correspondence 1940, Nov-Dec, also 1940 undated

Box 2, Folder 19

Correspondence 1941

Box 2, Folder 20

Correspondence 1942

Box 2, Folder 21

Correspondence 1943, 1944

Box 2, Folder 22

Correspondence 1945

Box 2, Folder 23

Correspondence 1946

Box 3, Folder 24

Correspondence 1947, Jan-Sep

Box 3, Folder 25

Correspondence 1947, Oct-Dec

Box 3, Folder 26

Correspondence 1948, Jan-May

Box 3, Folder 27

Correspondence 1948, Jun-Dec

Box 3, Folder 28

Correspondence 1949, Jan-May


Series 2 Biographical Materials

Box 3, Folder 29

Death of W.W. Hansen

Scope and Content Note

Contents of file include texts of eulogies; telegrams of condolence; obituary clippings; Memorial Resolution of the Stanford Academic Council; article on beryllium poisoning; published Biographical Memoir of William Webster Hansen, 1909-1949, by Felix Bloch, presented to the National Academy of Sciences, 1952; The Uncommon Man, 1951.
Box 3, Folder 30

Death of W.W. Hansen

Scope and Content Note

Contents of file include official documents, bills, receipts re. last illness and death of W.W. Hansen.
Box 3, Folder 31

David Locke Webster - Correspondence and notes relating to the estate of W.W. Hansen

Scope and Content Note

Contents of this file include numerous memos written by Dr. Webster "for the record" re. the Hansen "Papers"; correspondence re. disposition of certain of Hansen's effects, including notes for a book (see also folder 5-51 "Ruling Engine").
Box 3, Folder 32

Biographical material

Scope and Content Note

Contents of this file include Hansen's birth certificate; a mathematical problem he worked as a child; his Stanford transcripts; his thesis; an announcement of his marriage; and a personnel security questionnaire.
Box 3, Folder 33

Bibliographies; Lists of Activities

Scope and Content Note

Contents include Bibliography in Felix Bloch's Biographical Memoir of W.W. Hansen, and a statement of Hansen's (1937) listing his publications and activities at that time.
Box 3, Folder 34

National Research Fellowship application for (1933),

Scope and Content Note

Contents of file include several copies of application form filled out by W.W. Hansen, as well as copies of abstracts of scientific papers by Hansen, submitted with his application.

Series 3 The Klystron

The Klystron

Box 4, Folder 35

The Klystron

Scope and Content Note

Contents include "Statement of William W. Hansen", n. d., typed, 48p., with typed comments by D.L. Webster, 4 p.; "The Klystron as a generator of very short waves", by W.W. Hansen, R.H. Varian, et al., 2 p., typed carbon copy, n. d.; "Causes of frequency variation in Klystron oscillators", by W.W. Hansen, R.H. Varian, et al., typed carbon copy, 12 p., n. d.
Box 4, Folder 36

Clippings re Varian Brothers

Box 4, Folder 37

Orders for the Klystron

Scope and Content Note

Includes invoices, checks, instruction manuals, and some correspondence re. Klystrons made in 1940 at Stanford and sold to Sperry Gyroscope Co.
Box 4, Folder 38

Popular accounts of its development

Scope and Content Note

Includes magazine articles; TV show script; Varian Associates, Inc. 25 year anniversary booklet. Also copy of typescript of Edward Ginzton's account, The $100 Idea., ca. 1974

Series 4 Stanford University 1942-1949


Physics Department

Box 4, Folder 39

Records, including announcements; class teaching assignments; some committee minutes; and copies of the departmental newsletter. 1945-1949,


Microwave Laboratory 1942-1948

Scope and Content Note

Folders 4-40 through 4-42 contain correspondence, chronologically arranged, re. the establishment of the Microwave Laboratory at Stanford (reorganized and renamed W.W. Hansen Laboratories of Physics in 1953), with some correspondence on the physics department. According to a memo written by Prof. D.L. Webster Dec. 19, 1949, and included in folder 4-40, Prof. Webster arranged this correspondence from the files of Prof. Hansen after the latter's death.
Box 4, Folder 40

Microwave Laboratory, correspondence on the origins of 1942-43

Box 4, Folder 41

Microwave Laboratory, correspondence on the origins of, 1944-Jun 1945

Box 4, Folder 42

Microwave Laboratory, correspondence on the origins of, July 1945-1948

Box 4, Folder 43

Microwave Laboratory - miscellaneous

Scope and Content Note

Includes "The Microwave Laboratory; a plan for the foundation of a laboratory at Stanford University"; Dec. 30, 1942; n.a.; typed carbon copy. Also newspaper clipping re. the lab.

Linear Electron Accelerator Project 1946-1948

Box 4, Folder 44

Report no. 1, mimeo copy, with D.L. Webster's comments (holograph) [1946],

Report no. 1, mimeo copy, with D.L. Webster's comments (holograph), [1946],

Box 4, Folder 45

Reports nos. 2 and 3 [Report no. 4 is missing] Dec 18, 1946, and Jan 4, 1947

Box 4, Folder 46

Reports, nos. 5-9, (March 1947-July 1947)

Box 4, Folder 47

Reports, nos. 10, 11, 12 (1947-1948)

Box 4, Folder 48


Scope and Content Note

Contents include some correspondence; clippings; draft sketch of floor plan; "Proposed billion volt accelerator, rough draft", typed carbon copy, n.a., n.d.; "Proposal for the production of super energy electrons", n.a., n.d.; "Survey of possible experiments with linear electron accelerators", by Leonard Schiff, Nov. 1949, report no. 102.

Series 5 Notes, Publications, and Other Papers 1932-1949

Box 4, Folder 49

"Notes re. E and M, 1932"

Scope and Content Note

Research notes of W.W. Hansen and D.L. Webster.
Box 4, Folder 50

Sparrows Point - Manx Fisher Collision at Sea, 1947

Scope and Content Note

Two-boat collision at sea caused by radar failure. W.W. Hansen retained as consultant expert. Folder contains research notes, correspondence, etc. re. the case.
Box 5, Folder 51

The Ruling Engine

Scope and Content Note

W.W. Hansen's notes and other material on a design for a ruling engine. This project was not completed before his death. The folder includes correspondence, post 1949, between D.L. Webster and various individuals interested in Hansen's designs.
Box 5, Folder 52

Antenna Research

Scope and Content Note

"Proposed program, slot antenna research", typescript, n.d.; "Miniature slot antennas", typescript, n.d.; article by Virgil A. Countir.
Box 5, Folder 53

Publications, misc. -- pre-1940

Box 5, Folder 54

Publications, misc. -- 1941-1949

Box 5, Folder 55

Miscellaneous notes and Unpublished Manuscripts

Box 5, Folder 56

Miscellaneous graphs

Box 5, Folder 57


Scope and Content Note

Folder includes copies of actual patents plus correspondence re. them.
Box 5, Folder 58

Personal Finances

Scope and Content Note

Folder includes income tax information, life insurance payments, lists of stocks, etc.
Box 5, Folder 59


Box 6


Scope and Content Note

Diaphragms made for Hansen's accelerator in 1946 or 1947; Tophet A (nickel chrome); Klystron grids; 2 strips 35 mm. microfilm (notebooks of W.W. Hansen?).
Box 6, Folder 60




Scope and Content Note

Contains clippings, photos, and other memorabilia, a few items of correspondence (most were removed). Scrapbook evidently kept by W.W. Hansen's mother.


Scope and Content Note

Contains primarily photos and reprints. Probably kept by W.W. Hansen's mother.