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Donald A. Glaser Papers (Caltech and University of California, Berkeley collections)

Identifier: temp2017-09-15T14:51

Scope and Contents

The collection is organized as follows: Series 1. Biographical and Personal Series 2. Education Series 3. University of Michigan Series 4. University of California at Berkeley Series 5. Bubble Chamber Series 6. Molecular Biology Series 7. Neuroscience Series 8. Audio-Visual

Series 1: Biographical and Personal Material is divided into ten subseries that cover a range of personal and general public items: Subseries 1: Family material. Subseries 2: Journal entries and notes revealing Glaser’s personal thoughts on work and life. Subseries 3: Job search and appointments. Subseries 4: Biographical write ups and interviews. Subseries 5: Correspondence. Subseries 6: Nobel Prize containing the bulk of Glaser's Nobel Prize material, including reception items and ephemera, clippings, and photographs from his 1960 trip. Nobel events occurring after 1960 are also represented. Subseries 7: Other awards and honors containing certificates issued by other distinguished institutions. Subseries 8: Photographs spanning from the 1910s to the 2000s, including personal and professional images. Subseries 9: Miscellaneous material containing general publications and talks, event ephemera, symphony patent documents, and sheet music. Subseries 10: Oversize material containing a 1960 Time-Life Nobel photo album, blueprints and photographs, a fellow certificate from the AAAS, and sheet music.

Series 2: Education consists of two subseries: Subseries 1: Case Institute of Technology. Subseries 2: California Institute of Technology.

Series 3: University of Michigan includes five subseries from 1953 to 1960. Subseries 1: Administrative material. Subseries 2: Scientific projects and research. Subseries 3: Student dissertations. Subseries 4: Teaching material. Subseries 5: Miscellaneous.

Series 4: University of California at Berkeley contains four subseries that extends from 1958 to 2006. Subseries 1: Administrative material. Subseries 2: Student dissertations. Subseries 3: Teaching. Subseries 4: Miscellaneous.

Series 5: Bubble Chamber is divided into five subseries starting in 1949 and ending in 1994. Subseries 1 consists of notebooks with research spanning before and after the invention of the bubble chamber. Subseries 2 contains undated reference notecards and loose leaf notes. Subseries 3 contains publications on the bubble chamber, written by others as well as Glaser. Subseries 4 contains material related to the 40th anniversary conference on the bubble chamber. Subseries 5 consists of miscellaneous material, including bubble chamber photos, correspondence, and bubble chamber-inspired lyrics.

Series 6: Molecular Biology extends from 1963 to 2005. Glaser’s work during this period also included research in microbiology and theoretical biology and lead to the designs of the Cyclops, an automatic cell inoculator, and well as the Dumbwaiter, an automated system for the growth and analysis of large numbers of bacterial colonies. There are eight subseries: Subseries 1: Notes, lectures, and talks. Subseries 2: Publications by others. Subseries 3: Publications by Glaser. Subseries 4: Scientific and technical documents. Subseries 5: Biotechnology. Subseries 6: Miscellaneous. Subseries 7: Oversize material. Subseries 8: UC Berkeley Virus Lab and departmental material.

Series 7: Neuroscience consists of four subseries and covers Glaser’s work from the 1980s into the 2000s. Subseries 1 includes notes organized by subject. Subseries 2 features writings and talks relating to his vision research. Subseries 3 includes technical, administrative, and other papers. Subseries 4 contains born-digital material, the majority of which consists of animated images used for visual experiments.

Series 8: Audio-Visual spans from 1949 to 2006 and is arranged by media type. The series contains five subseries: Subseries 1: Photographic glass slides. Subseries 2: 35mm slides. Subseries 3: Photographic negatives. Subseries 4: Audio. Subseries 5: Film and video.


  • 1918-2016
  • Majority of material found within 1949-2003


Conditions Governing Access

This collection has been fully digitized and can be accessed at Donald A. Glaser Digital Collection. For physical access to the papers, requests must be submitted in writing. The UC Berkeley portion is stored offsite.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Caltech Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and, unless explicitly stated otherwise,is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

Biographical / Historical

Donald Arthur Glaser was born on September 21, 1926 in Cleveland, Ohio. He received his B.S. in Physics and Mathematics from the Case School of Applied Science in 1946, and a PhD in Physics and Mathematics in 1950 from the California Institute of Technology where Nobel Laureate Carl Anderson was his advisor. He joined the faculty at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1949 where his interest in elementary particles led to the invention of the bubble chamber in 1953. Glaser moved to UC Berkeley in 1959 and in 1960, at the age of 34, won the Nobel Prize in Physics. Shortly after he moved to Berkeley, his research shifted to automated experimentation in molecular and cell biology. He worked in UC Berkeley’s Virus Lab, conducting experiments with bacteria and bacterial viruses called phages and mammalian cells. He designed automated equipment that made it easier to grow these cells and to study how they grow, repair themselves, and reproduce. His work in this area led to cofounding one of the first biotechnology companies and eventually to Cetus Corporation. Glaser shifted his research interests toward neuroscience and the visual system by 1981 and continued work in this field into the 2000s. Glaser passed away on February 28, 2013.


15.97 linear feet (41 boxes (Caltech Collection); 17 cartons (UC Berkeley Collection))


Donald Arthur Glaser (1926–2013) earned his PhD in Physics and Mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 1950 and won the 1960 Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the bubble chamber. He then changed his research focus to molecular biology and went on to co-found Cetus Corporation, the first biotechnology company. In the 1980s he again switched his focus to neurobiology and the visual system. The Donald A. Glaser papers consist of research notes and notebooks, manuscripts and printed papers, correspondence, awards, biographical material, photographs, audio-visual material, and born-digital files.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Donald A. Glaser papers were generously given to the Caltech Archives by Lynn Glaser in 2015.


The collection is fully digitized and will be made available online by the beginning of 2018.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Kristen Abraham, Bianca Rios, and Mariella Soprano. Processing began in 2015 and was completed in 2017.
Finding Aid for the Donald A. Glaser Papers, 1943-2013, bulk 1949-2003
Bianca Rios and Mariella Soprano
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Repository Details

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

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