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Collection of Papers and Records of the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Identifier: AC-0185

Scope and Contents

The collection comprises materials related to the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The collection spans the years of 1941 to 1991 and include administrative records, publications, and memorabilia.


  • 1941 - 1991


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.

Historical note

Radiation Laboratory Organization

Division 1
Division 2
Buildings and Maintenance
Division 3
Personnel and Shops
Division 4
Division 5
Transmitter Components
Division 6
Receiver Components
Division 7
Division 8
Fire Control and Army Ground Forces
Division 9
Airborne Systems
Division 10
Ground and Ship
Division 11
Division 12
Field Service

Historical note

Radar, an acronym for radio detection and ranging, was patented by British scientist Sir Robert Watson Watt for meteorological applications in 1935. Since practical applications for airborne microwave radar had not been developed before World War II, the government of Great Britain requested assistance from the United States to develop this capability. Britain's secret Tizard mission was dispatched to Washington, DC, in September 1940 to introduce the 10 centimeter cavity magnetron. Beginning in late 1940 and continuing through World War II, large-scale research at the Radiation Laboratory, which operated as part of Division 14, Radar, of the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) and was sited at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was devoted to the rapid development of microwave radar.

The "Rad Lab" designed almost half of the radar deployed in World War II, created over 100 different radar systems, and constructed radar systems on several continents. Physicist Lee DuBridge directed the Radiation Laboratory. From a staff of 30 physicists the lab grew to comprise almost 3,900 research and support staff by late 1945. The Radiation Laboratory was officially terminated on December 31, 1945, but the NDRC set aside funds for a Basic Research Division to continue from January 1 to June 30, 1946, under the direction of MIT professor Julius A. Stratton, and it was known as the NDRC Research Laboratory of Electronics. Beginning July 1, 1946, the laboratory continued operations as the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics.


23.6 Cubic Feet (1 record carton, 75 manuscript boxes)

Language of Materials



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

Related Archival Materials

The official records of the Radiation Laboratory are housed at the New England Regional Branch of the National Archives as part of Record Group 227, Records of the Office of Scientific Research and Development. NARA, Waltham, Massachusetts.

California Institute of Technology. Guide to the Papers of Lee A. Dubridge, 1932-1986.

The records of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,Office of the President, 1930-1959, contain correspondence between MIT president Karl T. Compton and Radiation Laboratory administrators. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Distinctive Collections, AC 4.

Draft and abbreviated version of "History of Radar in World War II," by Henry Guerlac, 1947. Massachusetts Instiute of Technology, Department of Distinctive Collections, MC 95.


  • Burchard, John E. Q.E.D.: M.I.T. in World War II. New York: J. Wiley, 1948. MIT Libraries: D810.E45.M3.B947
  • Five years at the Radiation Laboratory. Cambridge: MIT, originally published 1946, reprinted 1991. MIT Libraries: QC475.F565 1991
  • Guerlac, Henry E. Radar in World War II. New York: American Institute of Physics, 1987. MIT Libraries: D810.R33.G84 1987
  • Oral histories documenting World War II activities at the MIT Radiation Laboratory, IEEE History Center:
  • Radiation Laboratory Series, 28 volumes prepared by the Radiation Laboratory Office of Publication, edited by Louis Ridenour. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1947 and 1948. Publication sponsored by the United States Office of Scientific Research and Development, under contract with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Contains results of five years of intensive technical research on radar carried out at the Radiation Laboratory during World War II, summarizing latest information on microwave radar and modern electronics. MIT Libraries: TK6573.M41
  • Trump, John G. A War Diary. 1973. MIT Libraries: D810.S2.T78
  • Radiation Laboratory research reports and memos (#1-#1083) 1941-1945. MIT Libraries: TK6573.M41.A4
Guide to a Collection of Papers and Records of the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Revision Statements

  • 2020 December 17: Added additional publications.
  • 2021 August 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
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US