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Karl Taylor Compton Lecture Series collection

Identifier: AC-0175

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Scope and Contents

The Karl Taylor Compton Lecture Series at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was established in 1957 to honor Karl Taylor Compton, who served as president of MIT from 1930 to 1948 and chairman of the MIT Corporation from 1948 to 1954. The purpose of the lectureship is to bring to the campus “scholars noted for their universality of thought and influence on human values.” The lecturers are chosen from a broad spectrum of fields, including science, philosophy, religion, education, and the humanities. This collection contains correspondence and background material about the lectures; and audio tapes of the lectures of Otto Struve (1959), Andre Lwoff (1960), John Kemeny (1980), Freeman Dyson (1982), and Isidor I. Rabi (1962). Also included are tapes of the panel discussion “40 Years After: Los Alamos, MIT, and the Bomb” by men who worked in MIT’s Radiation Laboratory or on the Manhattan Project: Francis Low, Victor Weisskopf, Martin Deutsch, Bernard Feld, Anthony French, D. H. Frisch, Philip Morrison, Cyril S. Smith, Jerome Weisner, and Jerrold Zacharias.

Further information about some of the lectures:

1957 - Niels Bohr – The Tech 77, no. 38 (November 5, 1957)

1959 - Otto Struve – Technology Review 62 (1959-1960), January, p. 11

1960 - Andre Lwoff – Technology Review, June 1960, p. 23

1962 - Isador I. Rabi – Technology Review 64 (1961-1962)

1969 - Hubert H. Humphrey - The Tech 89, no. 17 (April 15, 1969)

1972 - Jerome Bruner – The Tech, April 4, 1972

1975 - György Kepes - President's Report 1976, p. 68

1978 - Linus Pauling – The Tech 98, November 21, 1978

1980 - John Kemeny – Article based on lecture in Technology Review (June/July 1980, p. 65

1989 - Yasuhiro Nakasone - MIT Office of the President Records (AC 180), box 117.

1993 - John Armstrong - President's Report, 1994

1997 - Oscar Arias Sanchez - MIT News Office

1998 - John H. Gibbons - The Tech 118, no. 53 (October 27, 1998)

Some of the more recent lectures are available on MIT’s Compton Lecture website at


  • Creation: 1957 - 1999


Access note

This collection is open.

Conditions Governing Use

Condition of media needs to be reviewed. There may be restrictions on use.

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 Karl Taylor Compton Lecture Series was established in 1957 to honor Karl Taylor Compton, who served as president of MIT from 1930 to 1948 and chair of the Corporation from 1948 to 1954. The purpose of the lectureship is to bring to the campus “scholars noted for their universality of thought and influence on human values.” Niels Bohr, Nobel Laureate, recipient of the first Atoms for Peace award, and head of the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of Copenhagen, was the first holder of the lectureship. (President's Report Issue for the year ending October 1, 1957).


2.2 Cubic Feet (1 record carton, 2 manuscript boxes, 2 half manuscript boxes, 1 compact disk box)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

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

Location of Copies - digitization

digital files (.wav file format) created as use copies exist for audio lectures recordings. Digitization done in 2008 onto CDs (one reel or cassette per CD).

Related Materials

Materials in Distinctive Collections:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Office of the President Records, 1930-1959 (AC 4), boxes 60 & 61.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the Dean for Student Affairs, Records of Associate Dean Robert Holden (AC 115), boxes 3 & 12. (includes videocassette recording of McGeorge Bundy lecture)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the Provost, Records of Special Assistant to the Provost Louis Menand (AC 78), boxes 3 & 22.

Lectures available at MIT Tech TV:

2007 - Edward M. Kennedy, US Senator, Massachusetts

2008 - Jeff Bingaman, US Senator, New Mexico

2008 - Tom Brokaw, Former anchor and managing editor, NBC Nightly News; Author

2008 - Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda

2009 - Steven Chu, Secretary of the US Department of Energy

2010 - David Milliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom

2011 - Janet Napolitano, Secretary of US Department of Homeland Security

Physical Description

Otto Struve: 7-inch reel tapes, recorded at 7 1/2 ips; Andre Lwoff: 7-inch reel tapes, recorded at 3 3/4 ips; and Isidor Rabi: reel tape recorded at 7 1/2 ips. John Kemeny, Freeman Dyson, and "40 Years After" lectures are on audiocassette tapes. Philip Morrison: reel tape, recorded at 3 3/4 ips.

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.

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Revision Statements

  • 2021 August 13: 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