UC Berkeley Library

History of Science and Technology

Content section: 

Overview

Northern California boasts rich natural resources, material wealth, and a culture that fosters scientific discovery and technological innovation. The Bancroft Library holds extensive collections of primary and secondary sources covering an array of scientific and technological fields, focusing on the history of science and technology in California and the American West. These collections document the region's natural history and the scientific and technological achievements of its denizens.

The Bancroft Library’s history of science and technology collections contain printed works, archives, and manuscript documents such as personal papers, corporate records, oral histories, and pictorial images.  Formats range from handwritten and printed to audio or video recordings and multimedia.

Faculty Papers

Faculty papers collections are connected to teaching and research in science and technology at the University of California, Berkeley. With the establishment in 1972 of the History of Science and Technology Program, The Bancroft Library increased its role in acquiring Berkeley faculty papers in these fields.

  • There are approximately 200 distinct collections, ranging in size from a single portfolio to more than 200 cartons each.
  • The histories of many fields are represented, including physical, mathematical, earth, life, and human sciences, engineering and applied sciences, and general topics in science, technology, and the public interest.
  • Special attention is given to Berkeley's Nobel laureates and to the development of the Radiation Laboratory (now the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory). Papers of staff scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory without appointments in teaching or research units on the Berkeley campus are out of scope.
  • The focus of the collections is on the 20th and 21st centuries, although some include the late 19th century.
  • Faculty papers are primarily in English, although the international, multilingual character of modern science and technology is reflected in correspondence and documents also in other (mainly European) languages.
  • The primary formats found in the collection of faculty papers include manuscript materials such as writings, correspondence, course materials, records of university departments or units, records of professional organizations, grant proposals, reports and related materials, subject and research files, and research notebooks. Collections also include digital files and data, photographs and other pictorial materials, audio and videotape, film, and other media.

Manuscript Collections

The manuscript collections are archival collections other than faculty papers.

  • They include more than 250 collections ranging in size from 1 portfolio to more than 200 cartons, with special emphasis on early modern European and American science and technology, with particular strengths in the 18th century.
  • Subject strengths include science and technology in California and the American West, radio and electronics (especially in the San Francisco Bay Area), development of the Radiation Laboratory (now the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), and Nobel laureates with a connection to California.
  • Prominent 18th century collections include the papers of Rudjer Boscovich, Pierre-Simon Laplace, and the Accademia del Cimento.

Rare Book Collections

The collection of printed books complements the general coverage of the manuscript collections.

The collection is especially strong in early modern natural philosophy, the history of mathematics (including textbooks), early modern electricity, and publications of scientific academies and societies.

Oral Histories

The History of Science and Technology Program and the Oral History Center have conducted numerous interviews with people involved in such scientific fields as physics, chemistry, medical physics, virology, operations research, aeronautics, and the development of radio and electronics, as well as innovations in technology and the development of the Radiation Laboratory (now the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory).

In addition to bound, edited interview transcripts, the collection includes many tape-recorded interviews, and, in some cases, related manuscript materials.

For more information on The Bancroft Library's oral history program, see The Oral History Center.