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Victor Paschkis Papers

Identifier: SCPC-DG-119

Scope and Contents

Paschkis' papers include: attempts to write his autobiography; correspondence with his family members, especially wife Susanne, with friends, and with professional colleagues; articles and speeches by Paschkis; citation for the Max Born Memorial Medal; and, material relating to the Society for Social Responsibility in Science, as well as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Topics include technology and society, nuclear disarmament, and Christian pacifism. Correspondents include: Richard L. Deats, Carl Dreher, William F. Hewitt, Alice Mary Hilton, Heinrich Mugdan, Norman E. Polster, Michael J. Rabins, Hans Sachsse, Georg Wolfgang Schimpf, G. Gustav Van Beers, Clarence C. Walton, and Walter Weisskopf.


  • Creation: 1946-1976


Language of Materials

Materials are in English and German.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Physical Access Note

All or part of this collection is stored off-site. Contact Swarthmore College Peace Collection staff at at least two weeks in advance of visit to request boxes.

Conditions Governing Use


Biographical Note

Victor Paschkis was born in Vienna, Austria in 1898. There he earned three engineering degrees from the Institute of Technology. Paschkis was brought up as a Roman Catholic, but very much influenced by his mother's philosophy of compassion and love, he joined the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). According to his memoirs, Paschkis published an anti-war book during World War I with the French writer, Barbusse, though Paschkis was a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army on the Eastern Front. He moved his family to another part of Europe after hearing Hitler's promise about "rivers of blood" flowing; both he and his wife were part Jewish. He emigrated, along with his wife and children, to the United States in 1938.

Victor Paschkis was an outspoken opponent of the development of nuclear weapons, turning down the opportunity to work on the Manhattan Project, which developed the atom bomb. Paschkis served as the chairman of the National Friends Conference on Race Relations, the American Friends Service Committee's Race Relations Committee, and the Committee on Fair Employment. After retiring from his profession, he became active in the Society of Friends Fellowship House in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) and its Fellowship Farm in Pottstown (Pennsylvania).

Paschkis' career as a mechanical engineer was long and influential; his writings on heat transfer were known around the world. He was the founder in 1949, and first president, of the Society for Social Responsibility in Science, arguing that scientists and engineers could not ignore their consciences while at work but should behave as moral people there too. In 1972, Paschkis was a principal founder of the Technology and Society Division of ASME. At about the same time he also helped to form the Committee for Social Responsibility in Engineering, which evolved into the IEEE Committee on the Social Implications of Technology. At Columbia University's School of Engineering he was the technical director of the Heat and Mass Flow Analyzer Laboratory for a quarter-century before his retirement in 1966. While at Columbia, he refused to build an analog computer to do research into the mechanics of heat transfer until the university agreed not to use the computer for military applications. Some of the equipment he built while at Columbia was later used in a NASA moon-landing mission.

Paschkis' first wife, Susanne Mugdan, died in 1959. They had two children, Maria and Albert. Paschkis met his second wife, Marjorie Penny, at Fellowship Farm, where he lived and for which she was the director (along with Fellowship House; Marjorie died in 1983.

Victor Paschkis lived until he was 93; he died at the Frederick Mennonite Home (Pennsylvania) in 1991.


8.75 linear ft. (21 Boxes)


Victor Paschkis (1898-1991), born in Vienna, was a Quaker, a mechanical engineer, and a professor. He was the founder, and first president, of the Society for Social Responsibility in Science. He also served as the chairman of the National Friends Conference on Race Relations, the American Friends Service Committee's Race Relations Committee, and the Committee on Fair Employment. Paschkis taught at Columbia University.


This collection was sorted into several categories: material relating to Victor Paschkis' personal life and family (Series A); correspondence that is both personal and professional (Series B); writings, both personal and professional (Series C); involvements and speaking engagements (Series D); and reference material (Series E). Portions of this collection were in disarray, particularly his autobiographical writings, which were mixed up with his diaries/journals and letters. These were separated as much as they could be discerned without a knowledge of German. Paschkis' correspondence to/from persons involved in the same committees as he was found in various places. Most of this was removed to Series C. Some of Paschkis' subject material on heating and other topics not related to peace were discarded. However, if such material had a moral component, such as equal opportunity for all in being hired as an engineer, it was kept.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Victor Paschkis, 1978 [acc. 78A-061]

Separated Materials

  1. Scrapbook re: Albert Schweitzer
  2. Photographs
  3. Oversized certificates

Bibliographic References

Guide to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, 2nd ed., p. 51.

Legal Status

Copyright to the papers created by Victor Paschkis has been transferred to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Copyright to all other materials is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Processing Information

Collection processed and finding aid updated by Anne M. Yoder, Archivist, in December, 2014.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2018: The file list was standardized in Summer 2017 by Min Cheng in preparation for importing into ArchivesSpace. Elisabeth Miller added the notes in Fall 2017. This finding aid was updated by Wendy E. Chmielewski, Apri 2020.

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 or requesting repoductions from Swarthmore College Peace Collection Library

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