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
Born on January 5, 1904 in New Bedford, Massachusetts, William Jacob Knox, Jr. was an African-American chemist and the only African-American supervisor in the Manhattan Project from 1942 to 1945. From 1921 to 1925, William attended Harvard University, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry. He went on to earn a master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in organic chemistry in 1929 and a doctoral degree in chemical engineering in 1935.
Lawrence Howland Knox was born on September 30, 1906. Lawrence received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Bates College in 1928, then went on to receive a master's of science degree from Stanford University in 1931. He earned his doctoral degree in organic chemistry from Harvard University in 1940.
After serving as a professor in the chemistry department at North Carolina A&T College from 1935 to 1942, William Jacob Knox, Jr. was appointed head of the department of chemistry at Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama. One year later in 1943, he joined a team of scientists at Columbia University who worked on the Manhattan Project. William was credited with conducting nuclear research of gaseous diffusion techniques used for the separation of uranium isotopes. His efforts in the development of uranium contributed to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. William then went on to become a research assistant at the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York from 1945 to 1970. He was awarded a total of twenty-one patents while working for the company. William was also an active social justice activist. He was a founding member of the Urban League of Rochester, which was established in 1965. He was also a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Lawrence Howland Knox joined his brother William in 1944 in the Division of War Research at Columbia University, where he studied radiation and contributed to the Manhattan Project alongside his older brother. In 1948, Lawrence was invited by fellow American chemist and Manhattan Project colleague William von Eggers Doering to serve as resident director at the Hickrill Chemical Research Foundation in Katonah, New York, where he specialized in long-term, speculative research. He also served alongside American chemist Paul Doughty Bartlett in his work on testing organic mechanisms in chemistry, particularly the bicyclic molecule.
Lawrence Howland Knox passed away on January 6, 1966.
William Jacob Knox Jr. passed away on July 9, 1995.
Leon B. Gortler – Knox Family Collection, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Gortler, Leon B. and Stephen J. Weininger. "Chemical Relations: William and Lawrence Knox, African American Chemists." Distillations (July 2, 2010). https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/chemical-relations-william-and-lawrence-knox-african-american-chemists.
The Leon B. Gortler – Knox Family Collection contains materials created and collected by Leon B. Gortler, pertaining to the Knox Family, particularly brothers and African-American chemists William Jacob Knox, Jr. and Lawrence Howland Knox. The collection is arranged into the following two series:
- Knox Family Research Files
- Publications and Presentations Files
The Leon B. Gortler – Knox Family Collection was donated to the Science History Institute by Leon B. Gortler in March 2023.
The Leon B. Gortler – Knox Family Collection was processed by Sean Cureton in April 2023.
- Bartlett, Paul D.
- Doering, W. von E. (William Von Eggers), 1917-
- Knox, Clinton E. (Clinton Everett), 1908-1980
- Knox, Lawrence H. (Lawrence Howland), 1906-1966
- Knox, William J., Jr. (William Jacob), 1904-1995
- Weininger, Stephen J.
- Columbia University. Division of War Research
- Eastman Kodak Company
- Harvard University. Chemistry Department
- Hickrill Chemical Research Foundation
- Manhattan Project (U.S.)
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Chemistry
- National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
- Stanford University. Department of Chemistry
- Talladega College
- Urban League of Rochester, N.Y
- Science History Institute Archives
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid created and encoded into EAD by Sean Cureton.
- Finding Aid Date
- 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 Leon B. Gortler – Knox Family Collection. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.
This series contains research materials about various members of the Knox Family, which were created, collected, and maintained by Leon B. Gortler. The contents of the Knox Family Research Files are arranged into the following two sub-series:
- Biographical Research Files
- Miscellaneous Research and Correspondence Files
Arranged alphabetically by subject, this sub-series contains research files created, collected, and maintained by Leon B. Gortler. These files concern various members of the Knox Family related to William Jacob Knox, Jr. and Lawrence Howland Knox.
The contents of the Biographical Research Files consist predominantly of correspondence and historical records. Other materials include an interview transcript with Lawrence Howland Knox's son, Lawrence Howland "Terry" Knox, Jr., as well as correspondence, papers, and other miscellaneous materials pertaining to relations of the Knox Family.
Arranged alphabetically by subject, this sub-series contains ephemeral materials created, collected, and maintained by Leon B. Gortler. These files concern various subjects related to Gortler's research of the Knox Family.
The contents of the Miscellaneous Research and Correspondence Files consist mainly of publications, correspondence, and notes about the Knox Family. The materials collected here represent pieces of research and correspondence that are supplementary to the larger collection.
This series contains materials pertaining to publications and presentations created by Lawrence Howland Knox and Leon B. Gortler. The files in this series include correspondence, notes, publications, and presentations. The contents of the Publications and Presentations Files are arranged into the following two sub-series:
- Lawrence Howland Knox Publications Files
- Leon B. Gortler Publications and Presentations Files
Arranged alphabetically by subject, this sub-series contains publications authored by Lawrence Howland Knox and collected by Leon B. Gortler. These files concern subjects predominantly pertaining to the professional work and career of Lawrence Howland Knox.
The contents of the Lawrence Howland Knox Publications Files consist of published papers. The materials contained in this sub-series were written by Lawrence Howland Knox with subjects pertaining to his work and research within the field of chemistry.
Arranged alphabetically by subject, this sub-series contains publications and presentations created, collected, and maintained by Leon B. Gortler. These files concern various presentations and papers written by Gortler and Stephen J. Weininger about William Jacob Knox, Jr., Lawrence Howland Knox, and the Knox Family.
The contents of the Leon B. Gortler Publications and Presentations Files consist mainly of correspondence, drafts, and final copies of publications and presentations written by Gortler and Stephen J. Weininger about the Knox Family. The items contained in this sub-series represent Gortler's completed efforts stemming from his research of the Knox Family represented by the collection.