Papers and correspondence of David Joseph Bohm, 1917-1992

Scope and Content

The material in the archive was gathered and catalogued at different times, as outlined below.

Material from 1933-1996, received in 1997
This material was received from Professor B.J. Hiley, via Birkbeck, University of London, in 1997.We would also like to thanks Dr Olival Freire Jr for his advice and making available photocopies of material held in Brazil.

Section A: Biographical (A1-A130)
There is significant biographical material in the collection. It spans 1933-1996. There is material relating to the impact of Bohm's ideas on others. There are also obituaries and tributes, interviews, discussions and Dialogues with Bohm, including those at Ojai, California. Bohm's ideas attracted much interest and there are significant number of articles and papers inspired by him. Material directly recording his life and career is comparatively slight but there are papers relating to Bohm's difficulties with the House Committee on Un-American Activities 1949-1951. There is a list of Bohm's publications at A.130.

Section B: Drafts, publications, lectures (B1-B82)
There are drafts by Bohm of papers and lectures, mostly unpublished, including some drafts on quantum theory, although the bulk are of a philosophical nature. There are also copies of a few of his published works and book reviews by others of Bohm's work and drafts by F.D. Peat drawing on Bohm's work which were found with the papers.

Section C: Correspondence (C1-C92)
The correspondence, is divided into two sequences. There is a sequence of general correspondence, including photocopies of correspondence with Einstein ca 1950-1954 which include discussion of quantum theory as well as Einstein's advice on Bohm's career. Other significant correspondents are R. Karnette, H.M. Loewy and M. Phillips. The second sequence is photocopies of the voluminous correspondence on a wide range of philosophical and scientific subjects with the American artist and theorist Charles J. Biederman, 1960-1969.

Section D: Audio-Visual Listing
Contains cassette tapes, CDS and DVDs. Of particular note are the audio cassette tapes of broadcasts on Radio France in 1982 and the proceedings of the memorial meeting to Bohm held at Birkbeck College London in May 1993. The Library is grateful to Lee Nichol for making the Ojai Dialogues available on CD.

Supplementary catalogue - material from 1933 - 2005, received in 2006
This material was received from Professor B.J. Hiley, via Birkbeck College London, in November 2006.
This material, which spans 1933-2005, forms a valuable additional resource for the study of Bohm's life and thought. There are some documents that directly relate to material presented in the 1997 catalogue outline above. The catalogue entries in this volume have been numbered to follow on from the earlier catalogue.

Section A: Biographical (A131-A134)
This includes a copy of the Royal Society biographical memoir of Bohm, additional interviews and dialogues material, including a series of contributions to the magazine Revision, and some additional material relating to the Ojai Dialogues of 1989. There are further articles about Bohm showing the continuing interest his life and ideas inspired. Life and career material includes documentation of his election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society including letters of congratulation. The original catalogue contained a solitary letter of congratulation, from Brian Josephson, which reinforced the picture of him as a loner shunned by the mainstream scientific establishment. The addition to this of congratulations from figures such as Lord Flowers, Sir Roger Penrose and Abdus Salam indicates the high regard in which he was widely held. The section also has a little personal correspondence, which includes documentation of visits to North America in the 1970s and 1980s, and material relating to his wife Saral Bohm that shows her promoting her husband's ideas after his death

Section B: Drafts, publications and lectures (B83-B192)
This covers the period 1951 to 1998. Of particular note is the further material presented on the themes of wholeness and fragmentation and the implicate order. The section also presents significant documentation of Bohm's ideas in quantum theory. Drafts by Bohm include series of lectures 'On plasma physics', delivered at the University of Rome in May 1958 and on 'General theory of collective coordinates', University of Bristol, about the same date.
Bohm's wider vision is documented in papers delivered at various meetings, such as 'An inquiry into the function of language and thought' (Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, March, 1971), 'Insight, imagination, reason and the nature of knowledge' and 'Consciousness' (Syracuse University, September 1982), and 'Fragmentation and wholeness' (Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule, Zurich, Switzerland, 1986). The coverage of Bohm's published output in the original catalogue was rather thin; this catalogue presents significantly more material documenting his publications. It includes articles on quantum theory from the 1950s onwards, drafts of Causality and Chance in Modern Physics (1957) and the final chapter of Wholeness and the lmplicate Order (1980), and a posthumously published work 'Cosmos, Matter, Life and Consciousness', in The Spirit of Science. From Experiment to Experience, 1998 from a lecture originally given in 1983.

Section C, Correspondence (C93-C137)
This section presents important new material on Bohm's life and ideas. It includes a bound volume of correspondence with the philosopher J.G. Bennett (1962-1964) largely arising from ideas put forward in Bennett's book The Dramatic Universe, much influenced by G.I. Gurdjieff. There is correspondence with A. Kahler and her daughter H.M. Loewy 1950-1951, in which Bohm discusses his difficulties with the Un-American Activities Committee, his move to Brazil and future plans.
There are exchanges with D.L. Schindler, editor of Communio, a Roman Catholic journal, arising from Schindler's review of Bohm's Wholeness and the Implicate Order. Correspondence with F. Wilhelm includes discussion of the thought and personality of J. Krishnamurti, who was a profound influence on the thought of both men, and further discussion of Krishnamurti is to be found in the typescript transcripts of correspondence with Yitzhak ('Isidore') Woolfson, Bohm's brother-in-law. This correspondence also discusses individuality, the nature of understanding, memory and the Arab- Israeli conflict. There is an extensive set of photocopies of manuscript letters from Bohm to the mathematician Miriam Yevick. The letters cover the early 1950s after Bohm's move to Brazil and cover his experiences there, his future plans, and the state of the world, as well as the development of his ideas in quantum theory.
There is also an index of correspondents.

Second Supplementary Catalogue - material from the late 1940s to early 1950, received 2008 (B193-B262)
The material was received from Dr Richard F. Post via the American Institute of Physics in January 2008.

This material is papers of David Bohm that were passed to Dr Post, then of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, possibly via R.K. Wakerling in 1954.

The original folder (1954) is retained at B.193. Subsequently the notes were divided into eight numbered folders and this arrangement has been retained as the basis for the organisation of the material, as it may bear the vestige of a previous, original arrangement.

The material is chiefly manuscript drafts on aspects of nuclear physics by Bohm. The great bulk is undated but a few items can be assigned to the late 1940s, prior to his departure from the USA in 1951. The material may have been assembled by Bohm for his lectures in physics as assistant professor at Princeton University and/or in drafting his 1951 book Quantum Theory. It thus predates the drafts and papers listed in the first two catalogues. The material has been assigned to section B of the Bohm archive, Drafts, Publications and Lectures, and numbered to carry on in sequence.

Where copyright allows, we have linked scanned copies to the catalogue records. This is an on-going project, and more will be added as the project progresses.

From 2016 - 2019 we have received further materials from Michal Woolfson, following the death of Saral Bohm in 2016. We are in the process of working through this material and will add it to the listings in due course.

Administrative / Biographical History

Bohm was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on 20 December 1917. He studied at Pennsylvania State University, graduating in 1939, then moved to the California Institute of Technology for post-graduate work, completing his Ph.D. in 1943 at the University of California at Berkeley under J.R. Oppenheimer. He then worked on the Manhattan Project at the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory.
In 1947 he was appointed Assistant Professor at Princeton University. He worked there until 1950, when Princeton refused to renew his contract after he had fallen foul of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. While working at the Radiation Laboratory during the war Bohm had been active in the Federation of Architects, Engineers, Chemists and Technicians (FAECT) trade union.
In 1949, as Cold War tensions increased, the Committee on Un-American Activities began investigating staff who had been working there. As a member of FAECT and as a former member of the Communist Party Bohm came under suspicion. He was called upon to testify before the Committee but pleaded the Fifth Amendment refusing to give evidence against colleagues. After the USSR tested its first atomic device in September 1949 it was thought that atomic bomb secrets must have been passed to the USSR. It was alleged that members of the FAECT had been in a Communist cell working at Berkeley during the war.
In 1950 Bohm was charged with Contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions before the Committee and arrested. He was acquitted in May 1951 but Princeton had already suspended Bohm and after his acquittal refused to renew his contract. Bohm left for Brazil in 1951 to take up a Chair in Physics at the University of So Paulo. In 1955 he moved to Israel where he spent two years at the Technion at Haifa. Here he met his wife Saral, who was an important figure in the development of his ideas. In 1957 Bohm moved to the UK. He held a research fellowship at University of Bristol until 1961, when he was made Professor of Theoretical Physics at Birkbeck College London. He retired in 1987.

Bohm made a number of significant contributions to physics, particularly in the area of quantum mechanics. As a post-graduate at Berkeley he discovered the electron phenomenon now known as 'Bohm-diffusion'. His first book, Quantum Theory published in 1951, was well-received by Einstein among others. However, he was unsatisfied with the orthodox approach to quantum theory and began to develop his own approach, expressed in his second book Causality and Chance in Modern Physics published in 1957. In 1959, with his student Yakir Aharonov, he discovered the 'Aharonov-Bohm effect', showing how a vacuum could produce striking physical effects. His third book, The Special Theory of Relativity was published in 1965.

Bohm's scientific and philosophical views were inseparable. In 1959 he came across a book by the Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti. He was struck with how his own ideas on quantum mechanics meshed with the philosophy of Krishnamurti. The two first met in 1961 and over the following years had many conversations or dialogues. Bohm's approach to philosophy and physics are expressed in his 1980 book Wholeness and the Implicate Order , and in the book Science, Order and Creativity , written with F.D. Peat and published in 1987. In his later years, partly through his connection with Krishnamurti, Bohm developed the technique of Dialogue, in which a group of individuals engaged in constructive verbal interaction with each other. He believed that if carried out on a sufficiently wide scale these Dialogues could help overcome fragmentation in society. Bohm led a number of Dialogues in the 1980s and early 1990s, the most well-known being those held at Ojai Grove School in California. Bohm was elected FRS in 1990. He died in 1992. See B.J. Hiley, 'David Joseph Bohm', Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society , 43, 105-131 (1997).

Arrangement

The collection has been arranged into 4 sections:

  • BOHM A - Biographical material
  • BOHM B - Drafts, publications and lectures
  • BOHM C - Correspondence, index of correspondents
  • BOHM D - Audiovisual material

Access Information

By appointment. Users should contact the Subject Librarian for the School of Science (e.illingworth@bbk.ac.uk)

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of David Joseph Bohm (1917-1992) by T.E. Powell and P. Harper, NCUACS catalogue no. 66/4/97, 53pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath

Conditions Governing Use

For any questions around use of material held in the David Bohm archive, please contact Emma Illingworth, Subject Librarian, School of Science, Birkbeck Library e.illingworth@bbk.ac.uk or on 020 7631 6062.

Accruals

Additional material received following the death of Saral Bohm in 2016 which is in the process of being appraised and accessioned.

Related Material

Other material on David Bohm's life and work is held at:

American Institute of Physics. Center for History of Physics. Neils Bohr Library One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA David Bohm Oral History interview at the Neils Bohr Library

The Albert Einstein Archives Dept. of Manuscripts & Archives The Jewish National & University Library The Hebrew University of Jerusalem POB 34165 Jerusalem 91341, Israel Tel.: +972-2-6585781 Fax: +972-2-6586910 email: einstein@vms.huji.ac.il

The Neils Bohr Archive (Rosenfeld papers), Niels Bohr Institute Blegdamsvej 17 DK - 2100 Copenhagen Denmark Phone: (+45) 35 32 52 10 Fax: (+45) 35 32 50 16

Princeton University Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library 65 Olden Street Princeton, NJ 08544 Telephone: (609) 258-6345 Fax: (609) 258-3385 email: mudd@princeton.edu

Columbia Oral History Research Unit Columbia University, 535 W. 114th Street, MC 1129, 801 Butler Library, Box 20 New York, NY 10027 Phone: (212) 854-7083 Email: mailto:oralhist@libraries.cul.columbia.edu

Register of the Sir Karl Raimund Popper Papers Hoover Institution Library & Archives, Stanford University Stanford, California 94305-6010 Phone: (650) 723-3563 http://www.hoover.org/library-and-archives