University of Chicago Library

Guide to the Norman Hilberry Papers 1961

© 2007 University of Chicago Library

Descriptive Summary


Hilberry, Norman. Papers




2 linear feet (1 box)


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


Norman Hilberry earned a doctorate in Physics from University of Chicago in 1941, and went on to serve in a number of administrative positions in research and development in the physical sciences. As a personal aide to Arthur Holly Compton, Hilberry participated in the 1942 Chicago Pile Experiment. This collection consists of a photograph album documenting Hilberry's 1961 visit to Japan, as a consultant to the Japanese Atomic Energy Commission.

Information on Use


Open for research. No restrictions


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

Biographical Note

Horace van Norman Hilberry was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from Oberlin College in 1921. Before arriving at University of Chicago, Hilberry served on the faculty of New York University, where he taught physics and conducted research in cosmic rays, physical optics and discharge of electricity through gases.

Hilberry earned a doctorate in physics from University of Chicago in 1941, completing a thesis entitled "Extensive cosmic-ray showers and the energy distribution of the primary cosmic rays." As a personal aide to Dr. Arthur Holly Compton, director of the Metallurgical Project, Hilberry participated in the Chicago Pile Experiment of 1942 as the “axe man”: If neutron detectors indicated a runaway reaction, Hilberry was to cut a rope that suspended a safety rod over the pile.

Hilberry went on to serve in a number of administrative positions, directing research and development projects associated with DuPont, Hanford Engineer Works, and the Manhattan District of the U.S. Corps of Engineers He became associate director of Argonne National Laboratory in 1945, then served as director from 1957 to 1961. He continued to work as senior scientist and consultant to the laboratory until 1964. Hilberry then joined University of Arizona’s department of nuclear and energy engineering, where he taught until his 1985 retirement. He died in 1986.

Scope Note

The collection consists of one item, an album of photographs documenting Hilberry’s 1961 visit to Japan as a consultant to the Japanese Atomic Energy Commission.

Related Resources

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




Subject Headings


Box 1

Photograph album, 1961