Sherman Frankel papers
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. 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
Sherman Frankel (1922-2019) was a particle physicist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania from 1950 until his retirement in 1993. Born to Polish-Jewish immigrant parents in Brooklyn, New York, his upbringing was largely secular. He earned his bachelor's degree in physics from Brooklyn College in 1943, after which he worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Radiation Laboratory (popularly called the "Rad Lab") from 1943 until 1945. During this time Frankel helped develop radar technology. In 1945 he enrolled in the University of Illinois Graduate Program in Physics, studying under renowned physicist Maurice Goldhaber (1911-2011). At first unable to find a position as an assistant professor at an Ivy League university, in 1950 Frankel contacted the University of Pennsylvania Physics Department Chair Gaylord Probasco Harnwell (1903-1982), who offered Frankel a position as instructor in the department. Frankel was promoted to Assistant Professor on May 19, 1952, and became a Professor in 1960. Years later, in his "Special Biography" of Harnwell (included in Box 2 Folder 10), Frankel would claim that he had been kept out of work for a brief time after graduate school because the FBI had warned several universities about the possibility that he was a communist, given the his interest in socialism during his undergraduate and graduate years and the subsequent anti-communist hysteria that took hold after World War II.
Frankel indeed had taken a deep and often vociferous interest in local, national, and international politics throughout his life. The majority of his published and unpublished writing, in fact, has little to do with physics proper, but rather centers on what Frankel called International Security and Arms Control/Physics and Public Policy or "ISAAC/PAPP" for short. Defining himself within this field allowed him to combine his concerns about nuclear warfare, his interest in politics and international affairs, and his scientific training. He wrote extensively for both specialist and popular publications on the themes encompassed by ISAAC/PAPP. Specifically, much of his mature work is devoted to the possibility of accidental nuclear missile launch and theorizing post-launch controls (PLCs) for nuclear weapons. He completed a draft for a book on this subject in 1991, but the project was never published.
In addition to his own pursuits, Frankel was a frequent participant in international conferences and a member of several learned societies. He regularly attended the annual meetings of the Niels Bohr Institute, for example, and raised funds on its behalf; in 1991 he also attended the first International Andrey Sakharov Memorial Congress on "Peace, Progress, and Human Rights" in the Glastnost-era USSR as an honored guest.
Frankel lived and worked in Philadelphia for over fifty years, and was an avid commentator on local affairs. His gift for satire is attested in the dozens of articles, op-eds, and letters to the editor published under his own name or his pseudonym "Frank Shim" in largely Philadelphia and New York-area newspapers. These pieces focus on politics and city life, ranging from lampoons of politicians to humorous musings on how to improve the garbage pickup system in his own Center City neighborhood.
Frankel earned emeritus status upon his retirement from the University of Pennsylvania in 1993. He continued to write op-eds and letters to the editor, as well as correspond about nuclear policy. He passed away on May 30, 2019 at the age of 96.
This collection comprises materials written by or otherwise related to Sherman Frankel, a particle physicist who began teaching at the University of Pennsylvania in 1950 and continued until his retirement from Penn in 1993, at which time he earned emeritus status. The collection spans the period from shortly before Professor Frankel's graduation from Brooklyn College in 1943, to his time at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Radiation Lab, his graduate studies at the University of Illinois, and through his tenure as a professor of physics and the University of Pennsylvania.
As such, this collection is divided into four series: I. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Radiation Laboratory and before; II. University of Illinois Graduate Program in Physics; III. University of Pennsylvania Department of Physics and after; IV. Correspondence. Series I. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Radiation Laboratory and before largely contains materials related to Frankel's tenure at the "MIT Rad Lab" from 1943 to 1945, during which time he helped develop radar technology. Some declassified, early radar photos are included in Box 1 Folder 3, "Tokyo H2X photographs." This series also contains commemorative and informational material on the Rad Lab.
Series II. University of Illinois Graduate Program in Physics contains materials related to Frankel's studies from 1945 to 1949, including some class notes and his doctoral thesis. This series also contains some limited correspondence as well as his earliest surviving letter to the editor included in the collection (Box 1 Folder 15), which is a genre he would continue writing for the rest of his life.
Series III. University of Pennsylvania Department of Physics and after is the most extensive series in this collection, covering the period from 1950-2008. Writings on physics proper are surprisingly scarce, apart from the three pieces included in Box 1 Folder 19 and the class notes compiled in Box 2 Folders 4-5. Most of Frankel's writing is instead devoted to what he termed International Security and Arms Control/Physics and Public Policy ("ISAAC/PAPP" for short), a field which allowed him to combine his concerns about nuclear warfare, his interest in politics and international affairs, and his scientific training. He wrote extensively for both specialist and popular publications on this theme. Specifically, much of his mature work is devoted to theorizing and debating post-launch controls (PLCs) for nuclear weapons. This series also contains Frankel's extensive satirical newspaper articles, op-eds, and letters to the editor, which humorously comment on politics, current affairs, and life in Philadelphia.
Series IV. Correspondence consists of eight folders of material which are largely correspondence but include the letters, articles, brochures, and other material that Frankel attached and sent. Folder titles in quotes are the titles that Frankel used and have been retained. Frankel's folder titles tend to relate directly to the material enclosed, though it is unclear why the folder "Nathan" is titled as such (Box 3 Folder 3). For the most part, the articles included in these folders are found elsewhere in the collection.
This collection would be of interest to researchers studying Sherman Frankel's life and works specifically as well as debates about nuclear weapons and policy more generally.
Gift of Dr. Ruzena Bajcsy, 2019.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Cory Austin Knudson
- Finding Aid Date
- 2019 October 30
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.