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Rudolph A. Marcus Papers

Identifier: 10227-MS

Scope and Content

Organized in forty-one archival boxes, the Marcus papers are organized into the following six series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. California Institute of Technology
  3. Teaching
  4. Research files
  5. Talks, Conferences, and Meetings
  6. Biographical


  • 1951-2001



The collection is open for research with the exception of the following files: 2.4, 6.37, 40.10, 19.12, 20.5, and boxes 10-11, and 16, that are closed due to their personal confidential matters. Researchers must apply in writing for access.

Publication Rights

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 Archivist. 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.


Chemist Rudolph A. Marcus received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1992 for "his contributions to the theory of electron transfer reactions in chemical systems." The Marcus theory sheds light on diverse and fundamental phenomena such as photosynthesis and cell metabolism, and serves as the basis for all subsequent theoretical developments in the field of chemical reaction rates.

Marcus was born in Montreal, Canada on July 21, 1923. He received his B.Sc. in chemistry from McGill University in 1943. Upon receiving his Ph.D. from McGill University in 1946, he was accepted to the postdoctoral program at the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa, conducting experimental research with E.W.R. Steacie on gas phase reactions. In 1949 he became a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina, conducting theoretical research with O.K. Rice, formulating the RRKM theory [Rice-Ramsperger-Kassel-Marcus] of unimolecular reactions.

In 1951 he joined the faculty of the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn and subsequently developed the theory of electron transfer reactions in solutions and at various interfaces. In 1964 he became Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Illinois and was later head of its Division of Physical Chemistry. Marcus joined the faculty of the California Institute of Technology in 1978 as Noyes Professor of Chemistry, a position he has held since then.

Marcus's research has covered a variety of other areas in physical chemistry, including reaction coordinates and Hamiltonians, semi-classical theory of collisions and of bound states, intramolecular dynamics, and nuclear tunneling paths in reactions.

Throughout his scientific career, Marcus managed to be active in a variety of societies and professional organizations. He served as a member and then as chairman of the National Research Council–National Academy of Sciences Committee on Kinetics of Chemical Reactions (1973-1977), and as a member and co-chairman of the Executive Committee of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1979-1984). He also served as a member of the Presidential Chairs Committee, Republic of Chile, during 1994-1996, and as an advisor to the Chinese Academy of Sciences since 1995.

Marcus has received numerous honors in addition to the Nobel Prize. These include the Wolf Prize in Chemistry (1985), the National Medal of Science (1989), the Joseph Hirschfelder Prize in Theoretical Chemistry (1993), and various American Chemical Society awards such as: Langmuir Award in Chemical Physics (1978), Gibbs Medal (1988), Richards Medal (1990), Linus Pauling Award (1991), Remsen Award (1991), the Edgar Fahs Smith Award (1991), and many others. He is also the recipient of a number of honorary degrees of Doctor of Science from several U.S. universities and foreign universities as well.

Marcus's work has been recognized with his election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1970 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1973. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society since 1990, and a member of its Council since 1999. He is an honorary member of the International Society of Electrochemistry (1994), a foreign member of the Royal Society of London (1987), a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (1998), a foreign fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (1993), and an honorary member of the Korean Chemical Society (1996).


20 linear feet (41 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Rudolph A Marcus papers consist of working papers, correspondence, publications, and biographical material. Marcus is best known for his contributions to the theory of electron transfer reactions in chemical systems, for which he won the 1992 Nobel Prize in chemistry.


The correspondence, Series 1, makes up about a third of the collection and ranges from the early 1960s to 2001. It contains both incoming and outgoing correspondence organized in alphabetically ordered folders.

Series 2 contains material that relates directly to the California Institute of Technology. This series deals with the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, as well as various other institutional matters.

Teaching materials such as course and lecture notes, class assignments, and exams, were placed within Series 3. This series contains teaching material from the 1970s during Marcus's time at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the 1980s and 1990s at Caltech.

Marcus's research files, Series 4, are subdivided into three categories. The first subseries contains grant proposals Marcus submitted while at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and at Caltech. The second subseries contains technical reports written while at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, and the last subseries contains only a few manuscripts written in the early 1950s to the late 1980s.

Marcus's travel files were organized within Series 5. They include his talks and lectures in conferences and meetings. A wide variety of talk-related documents, from talk outlines and notes to related correspondence, are all organized in chronological order.

Series 6 contains a small amount of biographical material. Researchers should note that the Nobel Prize material has not yet been deposited in the Archives.

Acquisition Information

The papers were donated to the Caltech Archives by Rudolph A. Marcus himself in 1998 and were physically transferred to the Archives on January 6, 2005.

Related Material

Researchers should also refer to Marcus's oral history interview, conducted by Shirley K. Cohen in 1993, which is deposited in the Caltech Archives.

Finding Aid for the Rudolph A. Marcus Papers, 1951-2001
Processed by Nurit Lifshitz.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

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

1200 East California Blvd.
MC B215-74
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