Materials Research Activities

William O. Baker's papers relating to materials research 1959-1972

William O. Baker's papers, 1959-1972

William O. Baker of the Bell Laboratories sat on many of the important committees related to the Interdisciplinary Laboratories established at US universities from 1960 onwards. He passed on some of these papers to Jesse Ausubel, now a Program Director at the Sloan Foundation, who again has passed them on to us. An overview of the papers follows below. We have interviewed Dr. Baker; a transcript is forthcoming and the streamed audio file is avaliable here (QuickTime):

  • Letter from Glenn T. Seaborg (Chancellor of University of California, Berkeley) to Baker
    • cover letter, March 25, 1959, calling attention to a proposal described in an attachment
    • attachment: proposal (March 10, 1959) authored by Professors Leo Brewer, E. M. McMillan, K. R. Parker, K. S. Pfitzer, and A. W. Searcy to establish an interdepartmental Inorganic Materials Laboratory at Berkeley - page 1, page 2
  • Minutes of meeting, April 8, 1959, Coordinating Committee on Materials Research - page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6, list of committee members. The CCMR was to "plan for meeting the needs of the federal government in the field of materials" and to "devise a program for initiating action using presently budgeted funds". During the meeting the materials programs and future plans of the following agencies were summarized: Atomic Energy Commission (p.2), Bureau of Mines (p.2), National Science Foundation (pp.2-3), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (p.3), Department of Defense (pp. 3-4), National Bureau of Standards (p.4), Bureau of the Budget (p.4).
  • New York Times article dated July 16, 1960: "U.S. Aids Research in New Materials - Gives Basic-Study Projects to 3 Universities in Drive to Fill Technological Gap". It describes the first three contracts awarded by DARPA (Department of defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency) to Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Northwestern University to start Interdisciplinary Laboratories for materials research.
  • Letter from J. R. Townsend, Special Assistant in the Office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering to Baker, April 2, 1959. Thanks for samples of recent materials developments by the Bell Labs as illustrations of the products of materials research. The samples were used at a National Academy committee meeting on "Scope and Conduct of Materials Research" and also at a meeting of the Defense Policy Council. Townsends estimates that the samples "did much to help sell a $20 million augment to the general materials program and the proposal to do more fundamental research in materials which may amount to $2 or $5 million." (The samples provided by Baker themselves are not included here.)
  • White House press release, October 12, 1961, on the award of a DARPA contract to the University of North Carolina. (The difficult-to-read text at the top reads: Immediate release, October 12, 1961, Office of the White House Press Secretary, Chapel Hill, North Carolina). Bound with this release are a short notice from The Washington Post (at top of middle column) that President Kennedy had ad-libbed a speech given at the University of North Carolina and a cover letter from Earl C. Vicars of DARPA to Baker.
  • Presentation by Baker to the President's Science Advisory Committee, December 16, 1965, arguing for more funding for chemical research. Page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6, page 7, page 8, page 9. "[M]odern chemistry represents the closest approach yet achieved to the smooth translation of new basic science into applications and eventually into economic benefits … [A] market abundance or at least sufficiency of chemists trained in basic academic work, with perhaps a few curriculum or subject matter nudges toward the materials and bioscience hybridizations, which represent the great growth opportunities of the next few years, could be a really major force in accelerating the applications of science for the public good." (pp. 6-7)
  • Excerpts from the report on the Interdisciplinary Laboratories as submitted to the Director of ARPA, 30 August 1966. Page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6. Lists the beneficial effects of the IDLs:
    • Student increase of 200% (the aim had initially been 75%) in the US and the successful export of the field to Japan via visiting Japanese returning home. (pp.1-2)
    • Central research facilities and the intensive use of major research tools at universities. (p.2)
    • Increase in the quality of academic research compared to industrial labs. (p.2-3)
    • Fostering of interdisciplinary exchange. "The original goal was probably naively conceived in the government … frontal attempts have not been particularly successful … We specifically should not look for a "togetherness club" in which everyone talks and works with everyone else … We should, however, expect that occasionally the metallurgist should become interested in and adopt areas of interest from solid state physics, for example, and vice versa." (p. 3)
    • Interdisciplinary Research Overlay and Educational Policy. (pp. 3-4)
    • Joint appointments, collocation (this term refers to shared buildings), and impact on students. (p.5)
    • Overall goals and recommendations (pp. 5-6)
  • List of attendees for IDL review, November 10, 1966
  • A 1970 review of IDLs:
  • Report for members of the Committee on the Survey of Materials Science and Engineering (COSMAT):
    • cover letter from Victor Radcliffe to COSMAT members and Committee Chairman Dr. Cyril S. Smith, March 13, 1972
    • "The ARPA interdisciplinary laboratory program" by M. J. Sinnott, O. C. Trulson, and H. H. Test, all members of ARPA's Materials Sciences Office, February 1, 1971. Page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6, page 7, page 8, page 9, page 10, page 11, page 12, page 13, page 14, page 15, page 16. Also two tables listing for each of the 12 IDLs: funding levels in 1972; total funding from inception to 1972. ARPA "is basically an initiatory, not an operating agency. It starts programs, gives the momentum, but then transfers responsibility in order to free its hands to take on new types of projects. The more it transfers, the more successful it considers its operation." (p.4) … "The primary difficulty was not merely that more effort in materials technology was needed, but instead, that much of what was being undertaken was lacking in sophistication and effectiveness because it was not well grounded upon adequate scientific understanding of the physical phenomena involved." (p.5) … "The Department of Defense requested interested universities to submit proposals for participation in the ARPA program. From the 76 proposals received, a total of twelve major university contracts were initiated during the period 1960-1962 … There a now five other IDL contracts in addition to those supported by ARPA, three receiving funds from NASA and two from the AEC. (p.6) … The "pattern set by ARPA in the IDL laboratories has been emulated in a number of other institutions, both universities and companies. There are a significant number of university-wide material research centers or their equivalent which have emerged at universities not directly related to the government IDL Program. Even the words 'materials science' have propagated widely." (p.7) … In terms of the original objectives of expanding education and research in this field, success of the IDL programs is obvious … The second important result of the IDL Program has been the development of the recognition of materials as a generic field. It is now widely recognized that there exists very significant similarities between many classes of materials with respect to structure, phenomena, properties and processing. Another way of saying the same thing is to point out that it is now accepted that the word "materials" incorporates the words metals, ceramics, polymers, semiconductors, superconductors and many other previously existing terms." (p.11)
This page was last updated on 7 May 2002 by Arne Hessenbruch.