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John King papers

Identifier: MC-0713

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the professional activities of John King, professor emeritus of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His papers, spanning from 1935 to 2015, comprise curricula, notes, publications, video, speeches, correspondence, and photographic materials. The bulk of the material concerns the teaching of physics through experiments on both a high school and college level. Course materials in the collection are primarily from introductory physics courses, but also include curricula from an interdisciplinary course on religion and science. Recorded lectures from 8.01X Physics I and 8.02X Physics II are among the videos in the collection. Also included are films produced by the Physical Science Study Committee with the intent of teaching science to high school students. Notes and photographs in the collection largely document King’s work developing the Corridor Laboratory and take-home experiments that were part of the curriculum at MIT in 8.01x, 8.02x, and Technology-Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) courses. These experiments were also included in texts co-authored by King, including ZAP! A Hands-on Introduction to Electricity and Magnetism and Physics Project Labs. Publications in the collection include manuscripts for these texts and writings on the teaching of Physics. Additional materials documenting King’s work for TERC concern improving math and science education. The collection also documents other professional interests of King, including molecular beams, fuel efficiency in automobiles, and humanitarian demining.


  • 1935 - 2015


Conditions Governing Access

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

John Gordon King, 1925-2014, was professor emeritus of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He received his SB, 1950, and PhD, 1953, in physics from MIT. At MIT, he was instructor, 1953 to 1955; assistant professor, 1955 to 1958; associate professor, 1958 to 1965; professor, 1965 to 1974; Francis L. Friedman Professor of Physics, 1974 to 1996; and professor emeritus, 1996 to 2014, in the Department of Physics. From 1973 to 1976, he served as associate director of the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE). He was also director and principle researcher of the Molecular Beam Laboratory for over 50 years.

Much of King’s work concerned the teaching of physics through film, experiential learning, and null experiments. During the 1950s and 1960s, he produced and acted in eight educational films on physics as part of the Physical Science Study Committee. In 1966, he initiated the Project Laboratory at MIT, which allowed students to design their own experiments. He would go on to found the Corridor Lab, a series of showcase experiments that allowed students to test basic physics principles. He also worked to create take home experiment kits for high school and college students. In 2000, he received the Oersted Medal, the highest award of the American Associations of Physics Teachers (AAPT).


9.45 Cubic Feet (9 record cartons, 1 legal manuscript box)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

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

Related Materials

Jerrold R. Zacharias papers, MC 31.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Oral History Program, oral history interviews on the Physical Science Study Committee, MC 602.

Physical Science Study Committee records, MC 626.

Anthony P. French papers, MC 690.

MIT150 records, AC 600.

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 John King
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

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