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J. C. R. Licklider papers

Identifier: MC-0499

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The collection includes writings, presentations, research proposals, and conference descriptions, which document Licklider's career and research interests, 1941-1995; MIT course materials, 1957-1984, which document courses taught by Licklider on computer programming and related public policy issues; documentation concerning GRAPPLE, 1983-1985, a system developed at the Laboratory for Computer Science by the Graphical Programming Group, which included Licklider; and records about lawsuits involving Infocom, a software company in which he was an investor. Also included are personal records, which include genealogical records, employment applications, and security clearances, 1940-1989.


  • Creation: 1938 - 1995


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.


Joseph C. R. Licklider (1915-1990), BA, 1937, MA, 1938, Washington University; PhD, 1942, University of Rochester, was a research associate, Swarthmore College, 1941-1942; research associate and fellow, Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory, Harvard University, 1942-1946; and lecturer, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, 1946-1950. He was associate professor of electrical engineering, then economics and social science at MIT, 1950-1957; he was concurrently group leader in the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, 1952-1955, and member of the MIT Acoustics Laboratory, 1951-1955. He was head of the department of psycho-acoustics, engineering psychology, and information systems research and vice president, Bolt, Beranek and Newman, Inc., 1957-1962; director for Information Processing Techniques and Behavioral Science, Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), US Department of Defense, 1962-1964, 1974-1975; and consultant, Thomas J. Watson Research Center, International Business Machines Corporation, 1964-1967. He returned to MIT as a visiting professor, 1966-1967, and remained as professor of electrical engineering, then computer science, 1967-1985. He was director of MIT Project MAC (later renamed the Laboratory for Computer Science), 1968-1970, and organizer of the Cambridge Project, 1969-1974. From 1985 until his death in 1990 he was professor emeritus at MIT.

Licklider's pioneering work in computer science included establishing the basis for concepts such as time sharing and resource sharing. He was also interested in improving the dialogue between humans and computers, a concept he called "man-computer symbiosis" about which he wrote extensively in the 1960s. He contributed to the fields of computer networking and information storage and retrieval, and he was the second director of Project MAC at MIT, which was one of the first large-scale experimental computer science research projects in the nation. He was also the author or co-author of a number of articles and books, including "Man-Computer Symbiosis," 1960, and Libraries of the Future, 1965.


25.2 Cubic Feet (25 record cartons, 1 half manuscript box)

Language of Materials



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

Source of Acquisiton

Materials were given to Distinctive Collections (formerly the Institute Archives and Special Collections) in September 1996 by the Licklider family, and transferred from CSAIL in 2004 and 2005.

Appraisal note

Needs review.

Related Materials in the Institute Archives

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Laboratory for Computer Science Records (AC-0268).

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Laboratory for Computer Science Research Records (AC-0282).


  • Licklider, J. C. R. Libraries of the Future. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1965. MIT Libraries.
  • Licklider, J. C. R. "Man-Computer Symbiosis." IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics, 1960.

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 J. C. R. Licklider
Ready For Review
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