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Interview with Lew Allen, Jr., 1991-06-10 - 1994-04-04


Scope and Contents

An interview in four sessions, in June and July 1991 and March and April 1994, with Lew Allen, Jr., former director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (1982-1990) during a period that included the launches of Galileo to Jupiter, Magellan to Venus, and IRAS, the Infrared Astronomical Satellite, as well as Voyager 2’s Uranus and Neptune flybys. He recalls matriculation at West Point in 1943, receiving flight training, graduating in 1946. Four years in the Strategic Air Command studying nuclear weapons projects, then graduate school at the University of Illinois; PhD in nuclear physics, 1954. Assigned to the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (1954-1957); participates in bomb tests at Bikini, Eniwetok, and Nevada. Assigned to weapons development at Kirtland Air Force Base. Joins Office of Space Technology (1961-1965) in the Directorate of Defense Research and Engineering, under Harold Brown. To Office of Special Projects (again under Brown, now secretary of the air force) in Los Angeles, works on satellites (1965-1973). To CIA as deputy under James Schlesinger; soon appointed director of the National Security Agency. Recalls NSA’s attempts to steer clear of Watergate investigation. Becomes air force chief of staff in 1978. After retiring from the air force in 1982, he becomes director of JPL, retiring in 1990. In this wide-ranging interview, he discusses his nuclear weapons work, his air force career, his service in Washington, his tenure as JPL director, his chairmanship of a controversial NAS panel on export-control laws, and his assessment of the history and future of the U.S. space program.


  • 1991-06-10 - 1994-04-04
  • Publication: 1999


Conditions Governing Access

Most edited transcripts are available to researchers on the web at Audio recordings and additional transcripts are available in the reading room at the Caltech Archives. When additional restrictions apply to specific interviews, they are noted in the finding aid.


23 computer files : audio and transcript

1 books : 55 pages

3 sound cassettes

Language of Materials



Repository Details

Part of the California Institute of Technology Archives and Special Collections Repository

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