Oregon State University


Research university; library system with holdings in many areas


The History of Science Collections at OSU span the entire record of scientific experimentation and advancement. From 15th century texts on medicine to research on modern fuel cell technology, the collections reflect the human wonder, curiosity, ambition, and discovery that has driven scientific progress and achievement for centuries. Encompassing many different types of primary sources, from landmark texts of the Scientific Revolution to archival collections of modern scientists, the collections document the histories of chemistry, the biological sciences, physics, quantum mechanics, genetics, medicine, agricultural sciences and husbandry, botany, natural history, nuclear history, and other scientific disciplines as they have transformed over time.

The cornerstone of the History of Science collections is the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers. Including Pauling’s research notebooks, correspondence, and scientific manuscripts, this collection documents the prolific career and contributions of the only winner of two unshared Nobel Prizes and one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century. This collection keenly reflects the spirit of scientific innovation and invention displayed throughout the History of Science Collections.

Archival and Manuscript Collections in the History of Science

Archival and Manuscript Collections in Natural Resources and Environmental History

All Archival and Manuscript Collections at OSU

McDonald Rare Book Collection The university’s premier collection of rare books. The collection spans the whole history of text and book production, from ancient cuneiform tablets (circa 3000 BCE), to illuminated manuscripts, to incunabula, to modern artists' books. The original emphasis of the McDonald Collection was fine illustrated books, fine press and fine bindings, but over time the collection has expanded to serve as the general rare book collection. (See also the Treasures of the McDonald Collection digital exhibit.)

History of Science Rare Book Collection The largest rare book collection in the Special Collections & Archives Research Center. Significant strengths include the history of chemistry, the history of physics, quantum mechanics, nuclear history, natural history, the history of botany, husbandry, cultivation and agricultural science, the history of technology, the history of mathematics, art and science, and the history of medicine, especially alternative health and nutrition. Other concentrations include the history of scientific modeling, history of engineering, history of scientific instruction, the history of fuel cell technology, and textile history.

History of the Pacific Northwest Collection Broad subject areas emphasized in this collection include books about Oregon, samples of Oregon literature, and selected books produced or published in Oregon, especially on the Willamette Valley. Rare materials printed in the Northwest or detailing Northwest history or western expansion are included, as are materials produced at OSU and by the OSU Press.

History of Atomic Energy Collection OSU's largest collection related to nuclear history. Comprised of thousands of books, serials, photographs, and cultural artifacts, this collection is a major resource for research on the political, scientific, economic, technological, and social issues that have characterized the nuclear age. Dating from the late 19th century to the present day, the collection contains sixteen series, including topics such as: early scientific discoveries, the Manhattan Project and World War II, military aspects of atomic energy, civil defense, nuclear testing, modern nuclear engineering, the effect of the atomic age on society and culture, biographies of key figures in nuclear history, and fiction, poetry, drama, and music related to the atomic age. It even has two Geiger counters! Board games, movie posters, and sound recordings round out this fascinating collection. Cataloging for the collection is ongoing. Search for cataloged items via the Advanced Keyword search, or use the Control-F keyword search on the full inventory of the collection.

Personal Library of Ava Helen and Linus Pauling This collection numbers over 4,750 titles and reflects Linus Pauling's mastery of and interest in numerous related scientific disciplines. Physical chemistry, quantum chemistry, physics, quantum mechanics, orthomolecular medicine, and nuclear history are all significant portions of the collection; literature, religion, peace studies, and many other areas are also included. Even Pauling’s science fiction pulps and crossword puzzle books are kept in the Pauling Library.

Al and Ruth Parr Rare Book Collection Donated in 2012, the Parr Rare Book Collection spans from the earliest days of printing in the late 1400s through the 19th century. Particularly strong in the history of science, travels and voyages, religion, and early printed books the Parr collection also has concentrations in literature (especially Samuel Johnson) and the publishers' bindings of the firm of A & C Black. The history of printing is also a particular emphasis of the collection.

F. A. Gilfillan Rare Book Collection A cornerstone rare book collection at OSU. Donated by F. A. Gilfillan and his family, the collection contains many fine exemplars of the history of the book, including a 13th century illuminated manuscript Bible, seventeen incunabula, and numerous early printed books in science, religion, philosophy, history, natural history, and literature. Notably, this collection contains works on alchemy, herbals and materia medica, and pharmacopoeia, and contains numerous editions of Pliny’s Natural History. Canine Research Collection In the fall of 2000, Noreen Cartwright donated her personal collection of rare dog and breeding books to the OSU Libraries Special Collections. That gift formed the nucleus of a Canine Research Collection to which additional donations have been made by other collectors. The collection provides opportunities for research on the history of canines and development of specific dog breeds as well as current issues in canine genetics and dog training.

Bart and Sally Hacker Nuclear History Collection Comprised of books, government publications and unpublished reports dealing with multiple aspects of nuclear technology and the atomic age, the Hacker Collection is especially strong in materials on nuclear fallout, radiation protection, and histories of the atomic age dating from 1975 on. The collection was donated by Barton C. Hacker, Curator of Armed Forces History at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and former OSU professor. Hacker's wife Sally was a professor of sociology at OSU until 1988.

Fred O. McMillan Collection of Northwest History This collection comprises nearly seven hundred titles on the history of the Pacific Northwest region ranging from the 18th to the 20th centuries. Particularly strong in accounts of voyages and travels to the area, as well as materials related to pioneers and emigrants, the McMillan Collection tells the story of discovery, settlement and growth in the Northwest.

Gerald W. Williams CollectionDonated in tandem with a massive collection of personal papers, photographs, artifacts, and ephemera, the Gerald Williams Collection focuses on forestry, environmental history, Native American populations, and geography in the region. Scarcer materials are housed in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center; other materials from William’s library are available in the library’s circulating collection.

Philosophy of Nature Collection The focus of this collection is material that illuminates the ways in which humans have conceptualized their place in the natural world as well as their relationship to nature, both individually and as societies. The theme is inclusive, but takes as its central core the reconceptualization of humans and nature that occurred during the 19th century with the ideas and discoveries of, among others, Kant, Darwin, and Huxley. The collection also documents the effects of industrialization on Western society. The Philosophy of Nature Collection was acquired through the generosity of a grant from Michal and William Rieckmann.

Eric Englund Estate This library belonging to former OSU faculty member Eric Englund represents his professional interests in rural life, agriculture, and husbandry, as well as his wide-ranging tastes for voyages and travels, literature, and art from the 17th through the 19th centuries. The collection is also notable for its inclusion of important authors from the histories of economics and politics, including Hume, Malthus, and Mill.

Jack Lattin Entomology Collection A noted entomologist, Jack Lattin served in a number of capacities during his time at OSU, including: Director of the University Honors Program, Assistant Dean of the College of Science, Curator of the Systematic Entomology Laboratory, Acting Chairman of the Department of Entomology, and Director of the Western Forest Insect Biodiversity Center. He was also a collector of rare books on entomology, and used the collection he assembled to teach a popular history of entomology course in the department. Particularly focused on hymenoptera and hemiptera, the collection includes many examples of 18th and 19th century hand-colored entomological plates.

John Van Groos History of Mathematics Collection This collection broadly covers the history of mathematics from the mid 18th century to the mid 19th century. Titles cover arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and calculus, and are primarily of an instructive nature.

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Holding Highlights

  • Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers
  • Diverse nuclear history collections, including concentrations on nuclear weapons, testing, nuclear power, dosimetry, radiation safety, cultural responses, and nuclear sciences
  • History of Atomic Energy Collection (over 5000 print volumes, ephemera, and images)
  • 25,000 rare books, including concentrations in histories of chemistry, the biological sciences, physics, quantum mechanics, genetics, medicine, agricultural sciences and husbandry, botany, and natural history
  • Over 700 manuscript and archival collections on diverse topics in the history of science, including natural resources in the Pacific Northwest, environmental history, brewing history, forestry, alternative medicine, chemistry, botany, genetics, and physics

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