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Atoms for Peace Awards records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MC-0010

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Scope and Contents

The collection contains subject files of the Atoms for Peace Awards Inc. executive secretary, Bryce Leggett, and his correspondence with Aage Niels Bohr, Sir John Cockroft, Georg von Hevesy, Sigvard Eklund, Dwight Eisenhower, James Killian, I. I. Rabi, Leo Szilard, and Eugene Wigner. Atoms for Peace was incorporated as a memorial to Henry and Edsel Ford to present awards to those making contributions to the peaceful uses of atomic energy. Also included are minutes of meetings, legal and financial papers, and biographies of nominees. Ten people were honored with Atoms for Peace awards, the first in 1957, and the last in 1969.


  • Creation: 1944 - 1972


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.

Historical Note

On July 20, 1955, in Geneva, Switzerland, President Dwight D. Eisenhower called for an international effort to apply nuclear science to peaceful purposes and expressed his hope that "private business and professional men throughout the world will take an interest and provide an incentive in finding new ways that this new science can be used . . . for the benefit of mankind and not destruction." In response, Henry Ford II, Benson Ford, and Henry Clay Ford proposed that the Ford Motor Company Fund authorize an appropriation of one million dollars to be granted at a rate of $100,000 annually for ten years to recognize outstanding contributions to the peaceful application of nuclear energy. The "Atoms for Peace Awards, A Memorial to Henry Ford and Edsel Ford," was established by the directors of the Fund to receive and administer the monies. The creation of the Awards was announced at the World Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva, Switzerland, on August 8, 1955, by Admiral Lewis L. Strauss, chair of the United States Atomic Energy Commission.

On August 12, 1955, James R. Killian, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, accepted the invitation of Henry Ford II to serve as chair of the Organization and Planning Committee for the Atoms for Peace Awards. Six other committee members were subsequently appointed to consider questions of policy and administration. Their decisions and recommendations, which included a suggested Certificate of Incorporation and By-Laws for the Atoms for Peace Awards, Inc., were submitted to the Ford Motor Company Fund. These were approved and, on behalf of the Fund, the committee members were named trustees of the new non-profit organization.

Award recipients were selected by the trustees from among the world's scientists, engineers, and others who, in their judgment, had made the greatest contribution to the development of peaceful uses of atomic energy. The award winners were chosen without regard for nationality or political ideology and received a cash honorarium accompanied by a commemorative medal. Individuals and organizations were encouraged to nominate any person who had made a significant contribution. An Advisory Committee on Nominations, appointed by the Board of Trustees, conducted the preliminary screening of the nominations and submitted its recommendations to the trustees who made the final decision. If the Board of Trustees failed to discover a candidate meriting the award, the award and medal were withheld during that year.

Recipients of the Atoms for Peace Awards

Missing Title

October 24, 1957
First Award: Niels Henrik David Bohr
January 29, 1959
Second Award: George Charles de Hevesy
May 18, 1960
Third Award: Leo Szilard and Eugene Paul Wigner
May 18, 1960
Fourth Award: Alvin M. Weinberg and Walter H. Zinn
April 6, 1961
Fifth Award: Sir John Cockcroft
October 24, 1963
Sixth Award: Vladimir Iosovich Vekslev and Edwin McMillan
November 14, 1967
Seventh Award: Bertrand L. Goldschmidt, W. Bennett Lewis, and Isidor Isaac Rabi
October 14, 1968
Eighth Award: Sigvard Eklund, Abdus Salam, and Henry DeWolf Smyth
May 14, 1969
Ninth Award: Aage Niels Bohr, Floyd LeRoy Culler, Jr., Henry Seymour Kaplan, Ben Ray Mottelson, Compton Alexander Rennie, Anthony Leonid Turkevich
May 14, 1969
Tenth Award: Dwight David Eisenhower


5 Cubic Feet (1 record carton, 10 manuscript boxes, 1 flat storage box)

Language of Materials



Atoms for Peace, Inc. was formed by the Ford Motor Company as a memorial to Henry and Edsel Ford to present awards to those who made contributions to the peaceful uses of atomic energy. In August 1955, James R. Killian, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, accepted the invitation of Henry Ford II to serve as chairman of the Organization and Planning Committee for the Atoms for Peace awards. The directors of the Ford Motor Company authorized an appropiation of one million dollars at a rate of $100,000 annually for ten years. Ten awards were given, the first in 1957, and the last in 1969. The collection consists of the records of executive secretary Bryce Leggett, and includes minutes of meetings and biographies of nominees.

Arrangement note

The records remain in their original folder units as established by Bryce Leggett, executive secretary of Atoms for Peace. The records were organized by Leggett into two files: a single alphabetical subject and correspondence series and an alphabetical nominee file.

Physical Location

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

Source of Acquisition

The records of Atoms for Peace Awards, Inc. were presented to Distinctive Collections (formerly the Institute Archives and Special Collections) in 1978 by James Rhyne Killian, president of the board of trustees for Atoms for Peace Awards from 1955 to 1969. An additional audio tape was given to the Archives in 1988.


  • Proceedings of the Atoms for Peace Awards, 1957-1969: A Memorial to Henry Ford and Edsel Ford. Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 1978. MIT Libraries (Institute Archives Reference Collection): QC792.7.P76
Guide to Atoms for Peace Awards Records
Elizabeth Craig-McCormack
(Copyright 1984)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Processing of the original accession was funded by the United States Department of Education, Title II-C.

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