University of Chicago Library

Guide to the Thorfin R. Hogness Papers. 1945-1959

© 2007 University of Chicago Library

Descriptive Summary


Hogness, Thorfin R. Papers.




5 linear ft. (1 box)


Special Collections Research Center
University of Chicago Library
1100 East 57th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.


Thorfin R. Hogness, (1894-1976) Physical Chemistry Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Chicago (1930-1959); Director, Chemistry Division, Metallurgical Laboratory (1944-1945). The Thorfin R. Hogness Papers consist of material relating to the postwar scientists’ movement, including U.S. Senate and House bills and amendments as well as other print and near-print material.

Information on Use


The collection is open for research.


When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is: Thorfin R. Hogness Papers., [Box #, Folder #], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

Biographical Note

Thorfin R. Hogness served as Professor of Chemistry at the University of Chicago and served on important projects such as the Manhattan project and defense research.

A native of Minnesota, (9 Dec 1894), Hogness received his B.S. From the University of Minnesota in 1919 and his Ch.E. degree in chemical engineering in 1919. He began instructing at the University of California which granted him a Ph.D. in 1921. From 1926-1927 Hogness enjoyed a research fellowship at the University of Gottingen, Germany. He then joined the staff of the University of Chicago in 1930 as an associate professor and was appointed a full professor in 1938.

During WWII Hogness performed as a scientific liaison in London at the Office of Scientific Research and Development and then moved to ETOUSA (European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army) as a civilian intelligence officer.

In 1943 Hogness organized the Maryland Research Laboratory of the National Defense Research Committee and the Office of Strategic Services. Later that year he returned to the University of Chicago to develop the Manhattan project. Hogness was the director of the chemistry division of the Manhattan District Plutonium Project. After the projects fruition he convinced then Army Chief of Staff Dwight D. Eisenhower and Sen. Arthur H. Vandenberg that atomic power should be developed by civilian scientists rather than by military scientists. He claimed that it is “the hope of every nuclear scientist, as of every good “citizen of the world” that the atomic bomb will force all nations into an accord and make for a lasting peace.

Following WWII, Hogness continued at the University of Chicago where he worked on defense research, including the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles. In 1946, at the request of Albert Einstein, Linus Pauling along with Hogness, Hans A. Bethe, Selig Hecht, Philip Morse, Leo Szilard, Harold C. Urey, and Victor F. Weisskopf formed the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, of which Einstein was chairman. The most important task of this committee was to bring to the notice of people everywhere the tremendous change that had taken place in the world after the splitting of the atom and the production of the atomic bomb had become fact. In the words of the author Robert Jungk, “it was a crusade undertaken by men who were children in political affairs.” Hogness also participated in the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He directed the Institute of Radiobiology and biophysics from 1948-1951 and established the Chicago Midway Laboratories in 1951 where he remained until 1961.

Hogness’ titles include Qualitative Analysis and Chemical Equilibrium (with Warren C. Johnson, 1937) and Ionic Equilibrium (with Warren C. Johnson, 1937) in addition to numerous articles.

Hogness participated in many organizations that included; the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Emergency committee of Atomic Scientist, Sigma Xi and the American Association of University Professors.

In particular Hogness studied the ionization of gases by electron impact; photochemistry; chemistry kinetics; spectroscopy and physical chemistry applied to biological systems and respiratory enzymes.

Hogness passed on February 14, 1976 in San Jose, California.

Scope Note

The Hogness Papers consist mainly of printed and near-print materials (mimeograph, ditto, etc.) given by Thorfin R. Hogness (1894-1976), professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago, to Alice Kimball Smith to provide documentation for A Peril and a Hope: The Scientists’ Movement in America, 1945-47 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1965). The Papers are arranged in two chronological series, the first consisting of correspondence and near-print materials, the second of printed Senate and House bills and amendments and other government publications.

The scientists’ movement was a lobbying effort to influence Congress to establish civilian rather than military control of atomic energy. This effort grew directly from the frustrations of conducting research in the Manhattan Project, 1942-45. Under the military policy of compartmentation, each scientist was given access to the least possible information to minimize security risks. T. R. Hogness’s role in the Project was that of director of the chemistry division of the Metallurgical Laboratory (code name for the Project site in Chicago) in 1944 and 1945. In the postwar scientists’ movement, he was only one participant among many, but he was present at a luncheon in Chicago which precipitated the movement in September 1945, and later played an important role in securing passage of the McMahon bill which set up a civilian atomic energy commission.

Hogness and his Chicago colleagues became involved in the politics of atomic energy through a miscalculation on the part of the military. At the press conference announcing the opening of the University of Chicago’s Research Institutes, Samuel King Allison complained to newsmen about military domination of nuclear research. The next day, Allison and other Chicago scientists, including Hogness, were summoned to a luncheon at the Shoreland Hotel by Colonel Nichols, aide to the commanding officer of the Manhattan Project, General Leslie Groves. Nichols communicated a warning from Groves that public criticism might endanger chances of passing atomic energy legislation being prepared by the War Department (later introduced in the Senate as the May-Johnson bill). This was the first Hogness and the others had heard of any planned legislation. Groves’s warning, rather than silencing them, mobilized them for action. They feared that any legislation drafted without their knowledge would perpetuate military control of nuclear research.

The scientists’ worst suspicions were confirmed by the introduction of the May-Johnson bill on October 4, followed by only the briefest of committee hearings. They were offended by the bill’s omissions and by the apparently cavalier way it was handled as much as by its content. Most striking of the omissions was the lack of specific limits on government control of science or of any provision for exchange of information without penalty. The Atomic Scientists of Chicago was organized in mid-September to fight the bill. Similar groups formed at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Los Alamos, New Mexico, and other Manhattan Project sites.

The scientists lobbied successfully to reopen hearings on the May-Johnson bill. As a result of their mid-October testimony before Congress, the bill was withdrawn for revision. In December, scientists again testified before the Senate Special Committee on Atomic Energy, chaired by Brien McMahon of Connecticut. On December 20, McMahon introduced the McMahon bill, which incorporated some of the scientists’ recommendations. The scientists’ movement then directed its efforts to supporting the McMahon bill, mindful that the May-Johnson bill could be revived. T. R. Hogness had not testified in Washington in October or December, but he had made a special effort to keep up with the progress of the Senate hearings.

Early in March 1946, in the wake of a spy scandal in Canada, Senator Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan introduced the Vandenberg amendment to the McMahon bill, proposing the addition of a military liaison board to the atomic energy commission. In Vandenberg’s home state, Hogness and other Chicago scientists stirred opposition to the amendment with speeches in the cities of Grand Rapids and Flint. Vandenberg at first bridled at the scientists’ attacks, but his mood turned conciliatory after he began to receive mail from constituents opposed to his amendment. He accepted many of the scientists’ suggestions for modifying the McMahon bill, provided that the military aspect of atomic energy not be overlooked. Hogness, who, on closer acquaintance, had come to respect Vandenberg, served as a go-between in working out a compromise between the senator and the Emergency Committee for Civilian Control of Atomic Energy, a group which the scientists had organized in Washington specifically to fight the Vandenberg amendment. Hogness proposed that a military liaison committee be set up under the control of the civilian Secretaries of War and of the Navy. Accepting Hogness’s compromise, Vandenberg threw his support to the McMahon bill in the final stages of passage. President Harry S. Truman signed the bill into law on August 1, 1946. With this act, the atomic scientists’ movement achieved its primary goal.

Related Resources

The following related resources are located in the Department of Special Collections:


Other collections related to the Hogness Papers are the Samuel King Allison Papers and the atomic scientists’ collections, including the papers of the Atomic Scientists of Chicago, of the Association of Oak Ridge Scientists and Engineers, and of the Association of the Los Alamos Scientists.

Subject Headings


Series I: Correspondence and Near-Print Material

Box 1   Folder 1

  • "Message from the President. A message in writing from the President of the United States was communicated to the Senate by Mr. Miller, one of his secretaries. Development and Control of Atomic Energy. . . (H. Doc. No. 301). Harry S. Truman, The White House, October 3, 1945." Mimeograph, 17 leaves, number 1-17.
  • Holograph note in an unidentified hand, "This is the latest thing the At. Sci. have on this bill (May-Johnson)."
Box 1   Folder 2

Copy of Telegram, Arthur H. Compton to General Kenneth C. Royall at the Pentagon, October 21, 1945. "Statement by War Department to May Committee, To be Made October 22." Ditto, 4 leaves, numbered 1-4.

Box 1   Folder 3

  • 79th Congress, 1st Session. "S. 1557 in the Senate of the United States. November 6, 1945. Mr. [Joseph] Ball introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Special Committee on Atomic Energy. A Bill for the development and control of atomic energy." Mimeograph, 5 leaves, numbered 1-54.
  • Holograph notes in unidentified hand attached: "11/26/45. Copies to Dr. Libby, Dr. Schlesinger, Dr. Senior, Dr. Cole, Dr. Urey, Dr. Mulliken, Dr. Zinn, Dr. Seaborg, Dr. Franck, Dr. Daniels, (Dr. Hogness)."
Box 1   Folder 4

79th Congress, 1st Session. "S. 1557 in the Senate of the United States, December 20, 1945. Mr. McMahon introduced the following bill: A Bill for the development and control of atomic energy." Mimeograph, 14 leaves, numbered 1-14.

Box 1   Folder 5

"Possible Good Amendments to S. 1717 [The McMahon bill]". Mimeograph, 4 leaves, numbered 1-4.

Box 1   Folder 6

79th Congress, 2d Session. "S. 1824 in the Senate of the United States. February 9, 1946. Mr. Johnson of Colorado introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Special Committee on Atomic Energy. A Bill to provide temporarily for the development and control of atomic energy." Mimeograph, 15 leaves, numbered 1-15.

Box 1   Folder 7

"Analysis of S. 1824 (Johnson Bill II). February 14, 1946. RT." Ditto, 2 leaves, numbered 1-4.

Box 1   Folder 8

"Speech by T. R. Hogness before Emergency Conference for Civilian Control of Atomic Energy." March 21, 1946. Mimeograph, 3 leaves.

Box 1   Folder 9

Telegrams, Edward Levi, Chicago, Illinois, to Thorfin Hogness, Washington, D.C. April 6, 1946, 1 leaf. April 7, 1946, 3 leaves.

Box 1   Folder 10

"Proposed Change in Vandenberg Amendment [Section 10 of S. 1717]." Typescript drafts and Typescript carbons with corrections in the hand of T. R. Hogness. 29 leaves, mostly unnumbered.

Box 1   Folder 11

Correspondence between Thorfin R. Hogness and Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg. 9 letters dated between April 12, 1946 and May 1, 1947. Typescript and Typescript carbon, 9 leaves. Two newspaper clippings.

Box 1   Folder 12

  • "For the Faculty [of the University of Chicago]. T. R. Hogness (January 8, 1947). Restricted - Not to be published or quoted without permission of the author." Typescript carbon, 14 leaves, numbered 1-14
  • Convocation address by T.R. Hogness, 16 March 1959

Series II: Printed Material

Box 1   Folder 13

79th Congress, 1st Session. H. J. Res 269, November 1, 1945. Printed document.

Box 1   Folder 14

79th Congress, 1st Session. S. 1720 Kilgore National Science Foundation bill], December 21, 1945. Printed document.

Box 1   Folder 15

79th Congress, 2d Session. S 1850 [Second Kilgore NSF bill]. February 21, 1946. Printed document.

Box 1   Folder 16

79th Congress, 1st Session. S. 1717 (Report No. _____) (Committee Print No. 6), April 12, 1946. Printed document.

Box 1   Folder 17

79th Congress, 1st Session. S. 1717. (Report No. 1211), April 19, 1946. Printed document.

Box 1   Folder 18

In the House of Representatives, U. S., July 20, 1946. Resolved, That the bill from the Senate (S. 1717) entitled "An Act for the development and control of atomic energy" do pass with the following Amendments: . . . Printed document.

Box 1   Folder 19

80th Congress, 1st Session. S. 526 (Report No. 78), February 7, 1947. "Rational Science Foundation Act of 1947." [Smith bill] Printed document.

Box 1   Folder 20

80th Congress, 1st Session. S. 526, April 2, 1947, Amendment. Printed document.

Box 1   Folder 21

80th Congress, 1st Session. S. 526. May 14, 1947, Amendments. Six printed documents.

Box 1   Folder 22

80th Congress, 1st Session. S. 526, May 15, 1947, Amendment. Two printed documents.

Box 1   Folder 23

80th Congress, 1st Session. S. 526, May 16, 1947, Amendments. Two printed documents.

Box 1   Folder 24

Alden A. Potter, "The McMahon Bill-Soviet for Scientists." The Commercial and Financial Chronicle, August 8, 1946. Reprint.

Box 1   Folder 25

"Smearing the Scientists: Attempt to Discredit Civilian Atomic-Energy Control." Speech of Hon. Chet Holifield of California in the House of Representatives, July 22, 1947. (Washington, D. C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1947).

Box 1   Folder 26

"Sabotage of American Science: The Full Meaning of Attacks on Dr. Condon." Speech of Hon. Chet Holifield of California in the House of Representatives, March 9, 1948. (Washington, D.C., United States Government Printing Office, 1948).

Box 1   Folder 27

Transcript of consideration of Senate bill 1717 on the development and control of atomic energy, Congressional Record 92:104, Washington, D.C., June 1, 1946.

Box 1   Folder 28

"Lilienthal. Speech of Hon. Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan in the Senate of the United States, Thursday, April 3, 1947." Congressional Record, Reprint, "(Not printed at Government Expense)," Washington, D.C., undated

Box 1   Folder 29

International Control of Atomic Energy and the Prohibition of Atomic Weapons. Recommendations of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission. Department of State Publication 3646. (Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1949).

Series III: Writings

Box 1   Folder 30

  • Nuclear Fission as a Source of Competitive Energy
  • Speeches, undated