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Kurt M. Mislow Papers

Identifier: 2019-019

Scope and Content

The Kurt M. Mislow Papers contain the professional and personal papers of German-American organic chemist Kurt M. Mislow. The collection is arranged into the following nine series:

  1. Correspondence Files
  2. Academic Files
  3. Publication and Presentation Files
  4. Meeting Files
  5. Personal Files
  6. Printed Materials
  7. Audio-Visual Materials
  8. Images
  9. Addendum - Notebooks


  • Creation: 1897-2018
  • Creation: Majority of material found within Bulk 1935-2009


Language of Materials

A majority of the materials in this collection are in English and German. Also includes small amounts of materials in French, Italian, Greek, Slovak, Russian, Czech, Chinese, Dutch, Spanish, and Danish.

Access Restrictions

The Kurt M. Mislow Papers are open to researchers with the exception of the following file:

Box 21 Folder 17 is closed to researchers until July 2, 2059.

Copyright Information

The Science History Institute holds copyright to the Kurt M. Mislow Papers. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Background Note

Kurt M. Mislow (1923-2017) was a German-American organic chemist. He was a noted pioneer in stereochemistry and was responsible for introducing the concepts of symmetry and chirality to the field.

A German Jew, Kurt M. Mislow was born in Berlin, Germany on June 5, 1923 and spent the early part of his childhood in Dusseldorf, Germany. Mislow moved with his family to Milan, Italy in 1936 to escape persecution by the Nazis. When Italy expelled foreign born Jews, the Mislow Family moved to England in 1938. In England, Mislow finished his high school education at the Shoreham-by-the-Sea Grammar School and gained admission to the University of Cambridge, but his education was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II.

In 1940, due to his German nationality, Mislow was briefly interned as an enemy alien by British authorities. That same year, Mislow and his family received affidavits from his uncle, the well-known photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, which permitted them to emigrate to the United States. The Mislow Family moved to the United States in late 1940, where they settled in New York City.

After his arrival in the United States, Mislow briefly attended Columbia University. In 1941, he was awarded a scholarship by Tulane University, where he earned his B.S. in Chemistry (1944). He continued his education at the California Institute of Technology, where he earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry (1947). At Caltech, Mislow conducted research under the supervision of American organic chemist and future two-time Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling.

Shortly After earning his Ph.D., Mislow joined the faculty of New York University’s Department of Chemistry. He rose through NYU’s faculty ranks, serving as Instructor (1947-1951), Assistant Professor (1951-1956), Associate Professor (1956-1960), and Professor (1960-1964). At NYU, Mislow became a noted pioneer in the field of stereochemistry, the study of the three-dimensional arrangement of molecules and atoms in space. While conducting research on the stereochemistry of biphenyls, he introduced the concepts of symmetry and chirality to stereochemistry, which became key to understanding how molecular structure relates to function. These two concepts helped make stereochemistry fundamental in a number of scientific disciplines, including physics, biochemistry, genetics, and pharmaceuticals.

Mislow joined the faculty of Princeton University’s Department of Chemistry in 1964, where he served as the Hugh Stott Taylor Professor of Chemistry (1964-1988) and Department Chairman (1968-1974). At Princeton, he continued his stereochemical research into symmetry and chirality, which included designing and synthesizing complex organic molecules that validated these two concepts. He also studied the structure of molecular rotors and gears. Mislow retired from Princeton at the rank of Professor Emeritus in 1988. In retirement, he devoted his attention to molecular topology (“rubber sheet” geometry), analyzing deformable chiral molecules such as knots and links.

In addition to his stereochemical research, Mislow was noted for his abilities as a teacher, teaching both undergraduate and graduate level chemistry classes over the course of his career. Several graduate students and fellows who studied under Mislow became prominent chemists in their own right, including Dennis A. Dougherty, Mark M. Green, and Jay S. Siegel. Mislow was also concerned with the social and political aspects of scientific research, which led him to teach the graduate level course “Social Responsibilities and Rights of Scientists” at Princeton.

Mislow authored and co-authored numerous scientific journal articles and papers over the course of his career. He was also author of the chemistry textbook Introduction to Stereochemistry (1965). Mislow was awarded two John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships (1956 and 1974) and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship (1959-1963). He was also the recipient of numerous awards, including the James Flack Norris Award (1975), William H. Nichols Award (1987), and Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award (1995).

Kurt M. Mislow passed away on October 5, 2017.


Kurt M. Mislow Papers, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


35.5 Linear Feet (23 Record Boxes, 1 Half Hollinger Box, 2 Hollinger Boxes, 1 Audiocassette Box, and 1 CD-ROM Box.)


Correspondence, professional files, personal files, manuscripts, printed materials, notebooks, audio-visual materials, and photographic materials of German-American organic chemist Kurt M. Mislow.

Acquisition Information

The Kurt M. Mislow Papers were donated to the Science History Institute by Jacqueline Mislow in two accretions: 2019 and 2022.

Related Materials

There are no other known archival collections created by Kurt M. Mislow preserved at the date of processing.

Processing Information

The Kurt M. Mislow Papers were processed by Kenton G. Jaehnig in September 2021 and January 2023.

Kurt M. Mislow Papers
Finding aid created and encoded into EAD by Kenton G. Jaehnig.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023: Revised by Kenton G. Jaehnig

Repository Details

Part of the Science History Institute Archives Repository

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia PA 19106 United States
215.873.5265 (Fax)