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Donald A. Schön papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MC-0535

Scope and Contents

The collection documents Schön’s research in organizational theory and urban planning and includes correspondence, publications, research files, reports, and working papers. Materials date from approximately 1970 to 1997.


  • circa 1970-1997


Access note

This collection is open.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Biographical Note

Donald A. Schön, 1931-1997, was a member of the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning from 1968 until his death in 1997.

Schön was born in Boston and raised in Brookline and Worcester. He graduated from Brookline High School in 1947, and Yale in 1951. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

He studied clarinet in Paris at the Sorbonne and Conservatoire Nationale de Music and was awarded the Premier Prix. After graduating, he received the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and continued at Harvard where he earned his masters and doctorate in philosophy in 1955.

Schön taught philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1953, followed by two years of service in the U.S Army. Concurrently, he lectured at University of Kansas City as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy.

He worked from 1957-1963 as senior staff member in the industrial research firm, Arthur D. Little, Inc., where he formed the new product group in the research and development division. Under the Kennedy administration, he was appointed director of the Institute for Applied Technology in the National Bureau of Standards, Department of Commerce, where he continued through 1966.

He then cofounded and directed the Organization for Social and Technological Innovation, a non-profit social research and development firm in the Boston area, through 1973. While at OSTI, in 1970, Schön was invited by the British Broadcasting Corporation to deliver the Reith Lectures on industrial technology and social change. He was the youngest invitee ever to give the Reith Lectures.

In 1972, Schön was appointed Ford Professor of Urban Studies and Education at MIT. From 1990 to 1992, he served as chair of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. At the time of his death, Schön was Ford professor emeritus and senior lecturer in the School of Architecture and Planning.

The Tech, Professor Emeritus Donald A. Schon, September 19, 1997


77.3 Cubic Feet (77 record cartons, 1 manuscript box)

Language of Materials



Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Processing Information note

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.

Preliminary Inventory to the Papers of Donald A. Schön
Ready For Review
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 October 4: Edited by Lana Mason for compliance with DACS single-level optimum requirements.

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
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