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Physical Science Study Committee records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MC-0626

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Scope and Contents

The collection comprises records produced by the Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC). Materials in the collection span the years from approximately 1956 to 1971, with the bulk of the records dating from the 1960s.

Materials include: educational transparencies, correspondence, meeting minutes and notes, reports, proposals, audio tapes, and film and lecture transcripts.


  • Creation: circa 1956-1971


Conditions Governing Access

Portions of this collection must be reviewed to identify any restricted material before access can be granted. Please submit your requests at least ten business days before your desired visit to allow time for this review. An archivist will respond within five business days to let you know whether your requested material is open. For complete information on this policy, see our Statement on Accessing Institute Records. Restrictions and materials requiring review are noted in the finding aid.

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.

Historical Note

The Physical Science Study Committee, and its subsequent offshoots, Educational Services Incorporated (ESI) and Education Development Center (EDC), sought to achieve a comprehensive change in the teaching of science, particularly physics at its inception, in the secondary school system. The genesis of the original committee was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1956 with a project initiated by Jerrold Zacharias, James Killian, and Francis Friedman.

James Killian, MIT President (1948-1959), President Eisenhower’s Special Assistant for Science and Technology (1957-1959), and key developer of NASA, summarized the influence of this committee’s seminal work in his memoir, The Education of a College President: “Out of [the Physical Science Study Committee] was to come a revolutionary physics course for high schools, and in fact a curriculum reform movement with worldwide impact in which first-rate scholars in our universities turned their creative attention to the development of better teaching in precollege schools. I had the privilege of participating in this process by enthusiastically supporting Professor Zacharias’s initial concept and by running interference for him in launching and funding the PSSC program.”(1) The chapter in which this remark appears, “Trailbreaking in Education: Two Exemplars,” provides a wonderful account of the history of the Physical Science Study Committee.


12.85 Cubic Feet (11 record cartons, 5 manuscript boxes, 1 half manuscript box, 1 CD box)

Language of Materials



The collection spans the years from approximately 1956 to 1971, with the bulk of the records dating from the 1960s.

Physical Location

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

Source of Acquisition

Box 18, which contains meeting minutes dealing with the founding of the Physical Science Study Committee, were given to Distinctive Collections (formerly the Institute Archives and Special Collections) & Special Collections in November 2013 by John Layman, the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) Archivist, under advice of Joe Anderson, Director of the Niels Bohr Library and Archives at the American Institute of Physics (AIP).

Related Materials

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Oral History Program, oral history interviews on the Physical Science Study Committee (MC-0602)

Educational Services, Inc. records (MC-0079)

Preliminary Guide to the Records of the Physical Science Study Committee
Preliminary Inventory
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 October 8: 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
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US