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Julius Adams Stratton papers

Identifier: MC-0431

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents of the Collection

This collection documents the activities of Julius Adams Stratton, former president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The collection is arranged in six series by original file groupings. Series 1 contains biographical and genealogical material about Stratton's family, including correspondence, diaries, and reminiscences by his father about his trip west in the mid-nineteenth century. The subject files, Series 3, document Stratton's professional and government activities with such entities as COMSER (Commission on Marine Science, Engineering and Resources), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, committees of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation, and a number of cultural and educational institutions. His tenure as trustee and chair of the Ford Foundation is documented in trip records and reports. There are MIT materials on the Corporation, the Alumni Association, and the Research Laboratory of Electronics and some material on his World War II work. The subject files include a considerable amount of correspondence with professional colleagues. Series 4 contains chronological files of Stratton's speeches, Series 5 contains publications and Series 6 contains calendars.

Background Material on MIT's Early Years, Series 2, is an extensive file of research materials for the book Stratton and his assistant, Loretta Mannix, were writing about MIT's philosophical origins, its founding, and its evolution in the nineteenth century. There are files on the history of technical education in Europe and America, on the Institute's early relations with Harvard, and on MIT's founder, William Barton Rogers, and his brothers and contemporaries. After Stratton's death, the book, Mind and Hand: The Birth of MIT, was completed by Philip Alexander and published by MIT Press in 2005.


  • Creation: 1854 - 1994
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1907 - 1994


Access note

This collection is not fully processed and 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.

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

Julius Adams Stratton, 1901-1994, earned an S.B. 1923 and S.M. 1926 in electrical engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the Sc.D. in mathematical physics in 1928, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Zurich, Switzerland. He was a research assistant in the Department of Electrical Engineering at MIT from 1924 to 1926 and joined the faculty of that department in 1928 as Assistant Professor of Electricity and Magnetism. In 1930 he transferred to the MIT Department of Physics where he became associate professor in 1935 and full professor in 1941. At the end of World War II, he transitioned the war time Radiation Laboratory to a new interdisciplinary Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT, serving as it's first director. He was a member of the 1947 Committee on Educational Survey (Lewis Committee) to review the state of education at the Institute; one of the recommendations of the committee led to the creation in 1950 of the School of Humanities and Social Science.

Statton was appointed as MIT's first provost in 1949 and received a concurrent appointment of vice president from 1951 to 1956, chancellor in 1956, and acting president in 1957 before serving as the 11th president of MIT, 1959 to 1966. At his retirement in 1966, at the then mandatory retirement age of 65, he was elected a life member of the MIT Corporation.

From MIT Stratton moved to the Ford Foundation. A trustee of the Ford Foundation, 1955-1971, he served as its chair from 1966 to 1971. Returning to MIT after the Ford Foundation, Stratton explored the early history of the founding of MIT, planning and writing a history later published as Mind and Hand: the Birth of MIT.

During World War II, Stratton was a research member of the MIT-based Radiation Laboratory, where he worked on the development of LORAN (Long Range Navigation). In 1942 he was assigned to Washington as Expert Consultant to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. In this post he chaired committees to improve the effectiveness of all-weather flying systems and ground radar, fire control, and radar bombing equipment. He also helped plan the use of radar in the Normandy invasion. In 1946 he was awarded the United States Medal for Merit in recognition of his services. Later in 1967 during the administration of president Lyndon Johnson he was appointed by the president as the chair of a new Commission on Marine Science, Engineering and Resources. The landmark report of the commission Our Nation and the Sea led to the establishment of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


78.6 Cubic Feet (73 record cartons, 15 manuscript boxes, 2 flat storage box)

Language of Materials



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

Related Materials

Stratton's official MIT records form two separate collections in Distinctive Collections:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the Chancellor, records of Julius A. Stratton as provost, vice president and provost, and chancellor (AC-0132).

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the President, records of Julius A. Stratton (AC-0134).

Catherine N. Stratton Papers, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Distinctive Collections, MC-0426.

Select Publications

  • Electromagnetic Theory, by Julius A. Stratton. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1941. (later published in French, Italian, and Russian).
  • Science and the Educated Man: Selected Speeches of Julius A. Stratton, with a foreword by Elting E. Morison. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1966.
  • Our Nation and the Sea, Report of the Commission on Marine Science, Engineering and Resources, Julius Stratton, chair, January 9, 1969
  • Mind and Hand: the Birth of MIT, by Julius A. Stratton, Loretta Mannix, and Philip Alexander. MIT Press, 2005.

Processing Information note

The component list entries are, for the most part, copied from the file list maintained by Stratton's long-time assistant, Loretta Mannix. Contents of some boxes have been verified for accuracy, however the component list may contain some inaccurate information. The locations of files where no box number is listed are currently unknown, and may have been moved, deaccessioned, or were never received.

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 Julius Adams Stratton
Ready For Review
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023 March 2: Revised by processing archivist Chris Tanguay in March 2023 to update access notes and enhance description.

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
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Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US