Report and microfiche index to 700,000 letters (ISHTCP)

By Bruce R. Wheaton with the assistance of Robin E. Rider

Stuttgart: 1993. 16,000+ microfiche pages plus 300 page library- bound index and guide. $599. US currency. ISBN 3-928186-09-4.

After a decade-long search for documents, the Inventory of Sources for History of Twentieth-century Physics (ISHTCP) is now available. It consists of two sets of microfiche and a 300-page book.

The larger set of 48 fiche lists more than 12,500 pages of detailed information specifying the location of letters to or from physicists active in the period 1896-1952. The other set of 13 fiche provides a complete index on some 3,300 pages to the 75,000 non-physicist correspondents reported in the ISHTCP.

The accompanying hardbound book fully identifies all archival repositories listed on the fiche, all collections cited at those repositories, and all 5,600 persons identified by the project as physicists. The book also draws some demographic conclusions from this set of data on physicists, the largest ever assembled, and from patterns of correspondence among physicists.

This unique reference source provides detailed information on almost three-quarters of a million letters scattered in two thousand archival collections in thirty-five countries. Rather than being listed by collection, references to letters are ordered by the name of the physicist and the name of his or her correspondent. The collection and repository for each exchange of letters is identified in full. Correspondence exchanged between physicists is listed under both physicist names and is thus fully cross-referenced.

The scope and coverage of the project are unprecedented. All relevant collections in major libraries and cooperating archives in the world are listed, including the U.S. Library of Congress, the Deutsches Museum, the Bibliotheque Nationale, the Royal Society and Royal Institution of London and almost five hundred other archives, libraries, and private collections. Included are the entire holdings of the Archive for History of Quantum Physics, together with all additions made since its creation in 1962.

Under the name of each ISHTCP physicist one will find all available information on all letters open to scholarly investigation written to or by that individual.

Historians, philosophers, sociologists, and scientists will find this amalgamated inventory invaluable for locating documentary material for their research.

Librarians can find in a single location all currently known information on archival holdings for any ISHTCP physicist, i.e., those who in the period 1896 to 1952 published more than a few articles using the tools and techniques of physics in any of seven major international journals of physics.

The systematic search in 6,000 locations for correspondence with these persons produced records on the microfiche for more than 3600 physicists; but all 5,600 names are listed, together with schematic biographical data, whether letters were found or not.

This report and index describe not only the criteria and fruits of the search but also the system created for converting archival information into a permanent machine-readable form that can be easily updated and augmented in the future. The system is in no way restricted to physics or to the twentieth century; it is directly applicable to other subjects and times. This is but the first case to which its power has been applied.

The ISHTCP is a comprehensive, compact, and easy-to-use resource on the development of modern physics. Use of the ISHTCP requires no more than access to a 48x microfiche reader, now standard for catalog information at many libraries.

More information and an interactive demonstration? Try the InterNet: (CASE sensitive)

The methodology of the ISHTCP project is described further in: Bruce R. Wheaton, "Inventory of Sources for History of Twentieth-Century Physics," Isis, 75 (1984) 153-7.

"The Inventory of Sources for History of Twentieth-Century Physics... is an enormously valuable reference work for historians of science."
-- Stephen G. Brush, Isis, 85 (1994), 671.
"Every historian of modern physics should have access to it, and no research library will be complete without it."
-- Jeff Hughes, British Journal for History of Science, 29 (1996), 376-7.

The microfiche snapshot of the database published in 1993 is arranged alphabetically by physicist. In the ISHTCP database demonstration you have the option of how you wish this information arranged: as on the microfiche, or by non-physicist correspondent, or by archive, or by collection. The program also allows formatted printing.

Customized searches of the ISHTCP database can also be performed. By special request, the database may be searched by:
* physicist
* non-physicist correspondent
* archive
* collection

Data output is produced at cost on paper, microfiche, or magnetic media.

* For more information by post, contact TAPSHA (Technology and Physical Science History Associates). Inquiries by post should include a stamped return envelope or International Reply Coupon.

1136 Portland Avenue
Albany CA 94706 USA
001.510.5243216 Voice call to fax @ 9600

TAPSHA welcomes additions and corrections to the ISHTCP database if submitted in electronic form. Please see the chapter titled "Updates" in the published Report for information on a gratis computer program to do so. With such help from all users, this resource will grow in usefulness to all of us.