Wil Lepkowski Papers
Held at: Science History Institute Archives [Contact Us]315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Science History Institute Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Wil Lepkowski (September 3, 1934-July 16, 2019) was a science journalist and senior correspondent at Chemical & Engineering News (C&E News). He wrote on topics relating to science and technology such as chemical safety, international science, technology policies, and the 1984 Bhopal disaster.
Lepkowski received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry at the University of Massachusetts and a Master of Science in biochemistry at Ohio State University. He then went on to be a fellow in the advanced writing program at Columbia University. He started his career in journalism in 1960 at the Providence Journal and then became a medical science writer at John Hopkins University. Lepkowski later worked for Business Week and was a senior correspondent at Chemical & Engineering News at the American Chemical Society.
On the night of December 2, 1984, the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) plant in Bhopal, India leaked the pesticide Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) gas. Over 600,000 people were exposed to MIC, killing between 3,800-16,000 people. While it is estimated that 3,000 people died instantly, the number of deaths and injuries from the exposure to MIC is estimated to be up to 20,000. The Bhopal disaster is considered to be one of the world's worst industrial accidents.
Lepkowski covered the Bhopal accident and its aftermath over the course of the rest of his career. In 2005, he became a fellow at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
"Obituary of Wilbert Charles Lepkowski." Adams Green Funeral Home, July 2019. https://adamsgreen.com/tribute/details/10765/Wilbert-Lepkowski/obituary.html.
Wil Lepkowski Papers, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
"Wil Lepkowski." Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes (CSPO). Arizona State University. Accessed August 30, 2022. https://cspo.org/people/lepkowski-wil/.
"Wil Lepkowski." Hmolpedia, 2020. https://www.eoht.info/page/Wil%20Lepkowski.
The Wil Lepkowski Papers contain the professional papers of American science journalist Wil Lepkowski. The papers mainly document Wil Lepkowski's involvement in covering the Bhopal disaster and its aftermath into the 2000s. The Wil Lepkowski Papers are arranged into the following seven series:
- Subject Files
- Printed Materials
- Legal Files
- Photographic Materials
- Oversized Materials
The Wil Lepkowski Papers were donated to the Science History Institute by Wil Lepkowski on January 24, 2018.
The Wil Lepkowski Papers were processed by Jahna Auerbach in August 2022. The original order of the collection was kept when possible, but a majority of the collection was given an artificial order due to the presence of unfiled and mislabeled materials.
- Science History Institute Archives
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid created and encoded into EAD by Jahna Auerbach.
- Finding Aid Date
- August 2022
- Access Restrictions
There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes and the collection is open to the public.
- Use Restrictions
The Science History Institute holds copyright to the Wil Lepkowski Papers. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.
Arranged alphabetically by sender, this series contains Wil Lepkowski's correspondence files. The materials in this series are professional in nature and relate to Lepkowski's reporting, writing, and research primarily pertaining to the Bhopal disaster.
Within the correspondence files, researchers can find professional correspondence between Lepkowski and various senders, which are often paired with drafts of articles and reports. There are also a substantial number of emails from Listservs relating to Bhopal. Letters from Wil Lepkowski can be found in the folder "Lepkowski, Wil."
Correspondence makes up the bulk of the materials in these files. Various accompanying materials, including printed materials, clippings, articles, and reports, are also preserved here. Some folders contain reports, photographs, or other miscellaneous materials sent with the correspondence.
Arranged alphabetically by subject, this series contains subject files created by Wil Lepkowski. Most of the series consists of subject files about Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) and the Bhopal disaster. Press releases, information kits, articles, and drafts of articles by Wil Lepkowski and his peers can be found in this series. Additionally, there are materials from organizations relating to the chemical industry, legal groups, unions, etc. Small amounts of files have materials relating to chemical safety and legal issues within the United States and in response to Bhopal. Materials relating to the chemical industry and chemical safety from communities in Kanawha County, West Virginia, Kingman County, Arizona, and other areas of the United States are also preserved here.
The Subject Files contain a mix of printed materials, reports, and notes. There are many materials created by other parties, but very little material created by Lepkowski himself. A small but noticeable amount of notes and notebooks are also preserved here.
This series of printed materials were collected by Wil Lepkowski. It is arranged into the following two sub-series:
- Printed Materials
Arranged alphabetically by subject, this sub-series contains a variety of printed materials, including annual reports, articles, journals, fliers, informational booklets, magazines, seminars, and conference materials. A majority of these materials were created in the United States and India.
Topics of interest include materials from Union Carbide Corporation, such as annual reports, copies of The Carbider, Union Carbide World, and materials from Union Carbide India Limited. Many materials are published in India, such as those created by India Today Magazine, India Petrochemicals Corporation Limited, and the India Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. Other topics represented in this sub-series include environmental issues, chemical safety, and reports on companies and the chemical industry in India. There is also a small amount of material about Indian travel and Indian culture.
Articles written by Wil Lepkowski, drafts, and any articles organized into subject files by Lepkowski are found in Series II.
Arranged alphabetically by subject, this sub-series contains newspaper and magazine clippings. The clippings cover the Bhopal disaster and its aftermath, global and domestic chemical industry topics, and science and technology. The clippings are primarily from United States and Indian news sources.
Arranged alphabetically and by subject, this series contains reports on the Bhopal disaster, Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) gas industrial hazard, environmental aspects, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) and India. The reports are created by organizations such as Union Carbide Company, Cremer and Warne, and Arthur D. Little Incorporated as well as environmental departments and toxicology research centers. Individual creators include but are not limited to, Jon Hawkinson, Yves Alarie, and Ward Morehouse. The materials in this series are mostly dated from the 1980s and 1990s.
Arranged alphabetically, this series contains statements, testimonies, court transcripts, and other legal documents pertaining to the Bhopal disaster, Union Carbide Company, and other chemical industry issues. The legal files largely pertain to the Bhopal disaster. Other subjects of interest include testimonies spanning from 1984-1992, United States Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of India cases, and other court cases involving Union Carbide.
Arranged by format, this series contains negatives, photographs, contact sheets, and color transparencies collected by Wil Lepkowski. The materials consist of images taken by the American Chemical Society, portraits, slides from presentations, and photographs from the International Conference on Industrial Crisis Management, which was held in September 1986. There is also a small, but notable, amount of 35 mm color transparencies paired with notes by Wil Lepkowski. It is unclear if these images were taken by Wil Lepkowski or sent to him.
Most of the images in this series were captured or developed between 1986-1988. Notes that accompany the images have been photocopied. Some black and white images and contact sheets are fused together and cannot be separated.