Skip to main content

Society for Social Responsibility in Science records

 Collection
Identifier: HC.MC-837

Scope and Contents note

The Society for Social Responsibility in Science records provide an in-depth look at the founding, history, activities and correspondence of the Society for Social Responsibility in Science. It dates from 1948 to 1976 and is divided into five series: "I. Founding documents," "II. Correspondence," "III. Committees," "IV. Miscellaneous," and "V. Publications." Included are minutes of council and annual meetings from the year before its inception in 1949 and until its culmination in circa 1976. There is extensive correspondence of officers, especially Victor Paschkis, Franklin Miller and Otto Theodor (Ted) Benfey, but also of other officers, including Herbert Jehle, Theodore Hetzel, Truman Kirkpatrick, Jane Oesterling and Edward Ramberg, often discussing what the core or nature of the organization should be. Probably the most stellar correspondent who also became a member of SSRS is Albert Einstein writing in 1950 on his involvement with atomic weapons as theoretical, rather than practical, and his decision not to be involved in war work. Other important scientists or others who were correspondents are: Emily Greene Balch, Hans Bethe, Max Born, Anton Carlson, Aldous Huxley, Kathleen Lonsdale, Samuel Marble, A.J. Muste, Shigeru Oae, Priyadaranjan Ray, Dorothy Thompson, Gilbert White and Norman Whitney. One of the primary topics, not only in the correspondence, but across the various efforts of the organization was how to attract and keep members. Toward this end, SSRS published a monthly newsletter, and all the extant copies of the SSRS newsletter from 1949 to 1974 have been assembled here.

Several committees were formed by the SSRS, one of them, the Occupational Division, offered assistance to scientists seeking employment. Other committees were the Education Committee providing programs for an understanding of the work of SSRS to the public; the Small Tools Committee, which put tools "on the ground" in various foreign countries in order to assist in a variety of development projects, especially subsistence rural living. It also distributed books which had belonged to scientists who no longer needed them; also, the Nominating Committee and Executive Committee.

Materials were received from O. T. Benfey and the bulk from Franklin Miller. While, in general, these materials were integrated, it was deemed appropriate to keep separate the correspondence donated by Benfey. Therefore, there is correspondence provided by Franklin Miller which includes letters by and to Benfey and there is correspondence provided by Ted Benfey which includes letters of Miller. For the sake of clarity, each set of correspondence is also identified with the donor's name. Housed with the correspondence donated by Benfey are also three folders relating to his publications. The arrangement of all the Miller materials was mostly provided by Franklin Miller.

All correspondence dates are standardized rather than transcribed, viz: year month day.

Though not all letters are listed individually, those that are highlighted are done so on the basis of content of the letter or historical importance of the letter writer.

Dates

  • 1948 - 1976

Creator

Conditions Governing Access note

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use note

Standard Federal Copyright Law applies (U.S. Title 17)

Biographical/Historical note

The Society for Social Responsibility in Science (SSRS) was founded in 1949, the convening meeting and Constituting Assembly both held at Haverford College. It was conceived as "an organization of workers in the natural sciences to maintain free inquiry concerning the relations of science and society, the maintenance of scientific integrity, a concern for the increasing use of science for destructive ends, a belief that science and technology should contribute to the benefit of mankind, never to harm or destroy, and that each person has the moral responsibility to consider the end results of his work as far as it can be seen". Although it did not identify itself as a pacifist or a Quaker organization, many members were also members of the Fellowship for Reconciliation (a pacifist organization). The group's constitution stated "Realizing our responsibilities to all of humanity, we a group of scientists and engineers, in order to direct our efforts and activities more effectively toward a constructive world peace and a human world, and to stand clearly against any war trend, whether in the United States, Russia or any other country…," in other words, indicating that they were not anti-Soviet, as many organizations of the time were, though they did not want to be perceived as Communist-leaning. As well, they planned to operate an employment service and an educational program concerning their society and to stimulate the formation of similar groups in other fields of human endeavor. SSRS published a monthly newsletter. It ceased operation in circa 1976.

Members of the organization included Albert Einstein, Max Born, Anton Carlson, Victor Paschkis, Franklin Miller, O. Theodor Benfey, Herbert Jehle, Kathleen Lonsdale, Theodore B. Hetzel and M. Jane Oesterling, among others.

In 1949, Franklin Miller, a Professor of Physics at Kenyon College, was one of the founding members of SSRS. He was president of SSRS from 1953 to 1955 and editor of the monthly SSRS Newsletter distributed to some 500 readers world-wide from 1949 to about 1960.

Victor Paschkis was born in Vienna in 1898 where he studied at the Vienna Institute of Technology. He received degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering in 1921 and 1922 respectively and a science doctorate in 1923. From 1922 to 1930, he worked in various German and Austrian industries. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1938. He worked in industry until 1940, then as Director of the Heat and Mass Flow Analyzer Laboratory at Columbia University. He was the author of several books and published in numerous technical and scientific journals, as well as in the Friends Intelligencer, including in the fall of 1948 after which the first meeting of SSRS was convened at Haverford College. He was the founder and president of SSRS from 1949 to 1950. Victor Paschkis was a member of the Society of Friends.

Otto Theodor Benfey (1925-) was born in Germany, received his B.S. from London University in chemistry in 1945 and a Ph.D. in 1947. He was a post-doc fellow at Columbia University in 1947. He came to Haverford College as an assistant professor in 1948. He served as president from 1952 to 1953, as well as librarian and delegate at large in the SSRS. Benfry was a member of the Society of Friends.

Theodore Brinton Hetzel (1906-1990) was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania and attended Haverford College, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1928. He completed graduate studies in mechanical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, the Technical University of Munich (Germany), and Penn State University. He returned to Haverford College in 1936 as a member of the faculty and later chair of the Department of Engineering, remaining on the faculty until 1972. Hetzel served on the Indian Committees of the American Friends Service Committee and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Adopted by the Seneca Indians, he was given the Indian name “Our friend.”

Sources:

(Information from internal evidence, from the T.B. Hetzel papers and from the July 27, 2007 letter and August 11, 2007 email of Franklin Miller (in box 1 of collection)).

Extent

7 Linear Feet (14 boxes)

Language

English

Abstract

The Society for Social Responsibility in Science was founded in 1949, the convening meeting and Constituting Assembly both held at Haverford College. It was conceived as an organization of workers in the natural sciences to maintain free inquiry concerning the relations of science and society. The collection provides an in-depth look at the founding, history, activities and correspondence of the Society for Social Responsibility in Science.

Custodial History note

Gifts of Otto Theodor Benfey and Franklin Miller, 1998 & 2007 respectively.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts of Otto Theodor Benfey and Franklin Miller, 1998 & 2007 respectively

Related Archival Materials note

Other repositories that contain SSRS materials include the Peace Collection at Swarthmore College.

See also: Collection 800 – Hires, Harrison (Collector), which includes 11 typed letters signed by Albert Einstein, some on Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists letterhead, October 19, 1946-December 1, 1952 relating to fundraising to forward public understanding of the implications of atomic energy, challenge of the perception of war with Russia and the challenge of the effective abolition of war et al.

Processing Information note

The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.

Finding aid entered into the Archivists' Toolkit by Garrett Boos.
Title
Society for Social Responsibility in Science records, 1948-1976
Author
Haverford College Library Special Collections
Date
October, 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
English
Sponsor
The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project. Finding aid entered into the Archivists' Toolkit by Garrett Boos.

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections Library

Contact:
370 Lancaster Ave
Haverford PA 19041 USA US