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Richard W. Dodson Papers

Identifier: 2014-016

Scope and Content

The Richard W. Dodson Papers contain the personal papers of American scientist Richard W. Dodson. The collection is arranged into the following six series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Professional Files
  3. Scientific Files
  4. Personal Files
  5. Printed Materials
  6. Oversized


  • Creation: 1921-2008
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1934-1988


Language of Materials

Collection materials are mostly in English. A small amount of materials in German, French, and Portuguese are also included in this collection.

Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes and the collection is open to the public.

Copyright Information

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

Background Note

Richard W. Dodson was an American scientist and the founding chairman of Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Chemistry Department. Born in Kirksville, Missouri on January 15, 1915, Dodson attended Northeast Missouri Teachers College for two years, and transferred to the California Institute of Technology (CalTech), where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry in 1936. He furthered his education by earning his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Johns Hopkins University in 1939. In his Ph.D. dissertation, Dodson reported on some of the early research on nuclear fission in the United States, and on the applications of radioactive tracers to the study of chemical reactions. From 1939 to 1940, he remained at Johns Hopkins to continue his nuclear fission product studies.

In 1940, Dodson was awarded a National Research Fellowship at the California Institute of Technology to conduct further research on nuclear fission. That same year, this fellowship was discontinued when he joined the National Research Defense Committee. At the NRDC, he contributed to the American war effort during World War II by conducting research on chemical warfare at Cal Tech and Northwestern University. In 1943, Dodson moved to Los Alamos National Laboratory to work on the Manhattan Project. At Los Alamos, he continued to aid the American war effort by serving as Group Leader and later Assistant Division Leader in the laboratory’s Chemistry Division.

Immediately after the end of World War II, Dodson joined the faculty of Cal Tech as Assistant Professor of Chemistry. In 1947, he was appointed Associate Professor of Chemistry at Columbia University. At Columbia, he rose to the rank of Professor of Chemistry in 1953, a position he held until 1982.

In 1947, shortly after his arrival at Columbia, Dodson was asked to join the newly established Brookhaven National Laboratory to found the new facility’s Chemistry Department. Serving as Acting Chairman (1947-1948) and Chairman (1948-1968), Dodson spearheaded the Chemistry Department’s rapid growth from humble beginnings to a position of world renown. In addition to his leadership of Brookhaven’s Chemistry Department, Dodson continued to be a well-regarded scientist in his own right. Pursuing his research interests of radiochemistry and physical chemistry, he conducted extensive research on the kinetics of electron-transfer reactions and complex-ion equilibria. Dodson stepped down as Chemistry Department Chairman in 1968 to devote full-time attention to his scientific research, but remained at Brookhaven as a Senior Chemist until his retirement in 1982. After his retirement, he continued to serve Brookhaven as a consultant.

In addition to his professional duties and scientific research, Dodson engaged in a number of extracurricular activities within the scientific community. Over the course his career, he held leadership roles with several scientific organizations, including the United States Atomic Energy Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Richard W. Dodson passed away on June 13, 2002.


Richard W. Dodson Papers, Chemical Heritage Foundation Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


22.4 Linear Feet (16 Boxes (15 Record Boxes, 1 Hollinger Box, and 1 Oversized Box))


Correspondence, professional files, scientific files, personal files, and publications of American scientist Richard W. Dodson.

Acquisition Information

The Richard W. Dodson Papers were donated to the Science History Institute (formerly the Chemical Heritage Foundation) by Don Dodson and Robert Dodson in April 2014.

Related Materials

There are no other known archival collections created by Richard W. Dodson preserved at the date of processing.

Processing Information

The Richard W. Dodson Papers were processed by Kenton G. Jaehnig in April 2015.

Richard W. Dodson 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
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Science History Institute Archives Repository

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