About the collection

From National Research Council Canada

About Dr. Gerhard Herzberg collection


G. Herzberg Collection




39 cm of textual records, 13 cm of photographic records, 8 cassettes, 7 videocassettes.

Custodial History:

Dr. Mortimer, Senior Archival Officer of the NRC, gathered the collection in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Material was given directly to the NRC Archives from Dr. Herzberg or his colleagues at the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics. The collection was arranged and described by Ann Roos in February of 1988. The photographs were added and the entire collection was revised by Lynn Delgaty in 2000.

Scope and Content:

Fonds consists of biographical information, articles, transcripts of interviews, speeches, indexes to his speeches, etc., clippings, press releases, correspondence, memoranda, audio cassettes, videocassettes and photographs. The material pertains to Herzberg, his career and the subjects he studied while at the NRC.

Finding aid

A finding aid is a document which details the holdings of a specific collection within an archives and allows the user/researcher to sift through a collection without handling the actual documents. It is very much like an inventory of a collection within a larger archives.

File list
Volume File Description
1 1 Biography
2 Physics in Canada: The Bulletin of the Canadian Association of Physicists
Special Issue, April 1972: Gerhard Herzberg: Nobel Laureate 1971
3 Herzberg Papers at the National Archives of Canada

Transcripts of interviews

Volume File Description
1 4 Interviews for radio, film or video:
CBC Radio "Quirks and Quarks" February 1976
WEKM 1976
Unidentified n.d.
5 Interview for Science Dimension n.d.
6 Interview with W. I. Atkinson 1983
7 Interview with Christine King 1986
8 Interview with M. McCarrey 1971


Volume File Description
1 5 Indexes (to speeches, etc.)
6 Herzberg: Pure Science & Government 1965
The Dangers of Science Policy 1969
Science and Culture 1970
In Defence of Basic Research 1970
7 Address to the Spectroscopy Society of Canada 1970
Research Climate and Scientific Accomplishment 1971
Government House Speech 1971
Linus Pauling Award Speech 1971
8 Government of Ontario Dinner Speech 1972
In Pursuit of Excellence 1973
Science and Society 1973
Installation Speech Carleton Universitv 1973
9 F.B.Watts Memorial Lecture 1974
SCITEC Forum 1974
Science and Society 1974
Science and the State 1976
10 Herzberg: Convocation Address, University of Western Ontario 1976
Gauss Bicentennial Symposium, Opening Address 1977
National Conference, Canadians for Health Research 1977
Commentary on Paper by Gerard Radnitzky 1976
11 The Importance and Needs of Canadian Research in Science 1978
Dinner Speech - McMaster University 1979
12 Physical Sciences in the Eighties 1985
Molecular Spectroscopy: A Personal History 1985

Press clippings

Volume File Description
2 1 Herzberg Clippings - Re: Nobel Prize 1971
2 Herzberg Clippings - Miscellaneous

G.H. office files (received March 6, 1992 from G.H.)

Volume File Description
3 1 Correspondence with Presidents 1963-1985
2 Miscellaneous memos 1950-1985
3 Herzberg and international relations 1949-1986
4 Correspondence to and from J.H.Locke and I.McDermaid 1974-1984
5 Institute of Advanced Studies, Proposal 1975-1983
7 G.H. and Public Relations 1956-1983
11 Herzberg Institute Action Plan for 1989/90 through 1991/92

Audio visual

Volume File Description
4 - G.H. oral history.
Taped between February 28th and March 2nd, 1989
8 TDK AD60 audio cassette tapes
- G.H. 85th Birthday Celebration
Monday, Nov. 6th and Tuesday, Nov. 7th, 1989
6 120 studio quality videocassettes
- Eminent Chemist Interview of Bryce Crawford and Gerhard Herzberg
The American Chemical Society
61 min. videocassette © 1991


Volume File Description
5 1 b. & w. photograph - G.H. with immediate family, age 7 years, Germany 1912
2 b. & w. negative - young G.H. with family
3 b. & w. portrait - G.H. 1928
4 b. & w. photograph - G.H. with family in Saskatoon c. 1939
5 b. & w. photograph - study of spectra explosives, Saskatoon c. 1944
6 b. & w. photograph - G.H. with M. Oliphant, C.J. MacKenzie c. 1949
7 b. & w. photograph, © NFB - G.H. in lab coat at blackboard
8 b. & w. photograph - G.H. with P. Dirac, T.Y. Wu
9 b. & w. photograph - G.H. with C.C. Costain, b.P. Stoicheff, D.A. Ramsay
10 b. & w. portrait - G.H., Director, Division of Pure Physics c. 1959
11 b. & w. photograph, Capital Press - G.H., Director, Division of Pure Physics
12 b. & w. snapshots, 1 colour - G.H. with Luise Herzberg on tour 1964
13 b. & w. portfolio - G.H., Director, Division of Pure Physics 1964
14 b. & w. portfolio, © Capital Press - G.H., Director of Pure Physics c.1964
15 b. & w. portfolio © Jon Joosten - G.H., Director, Division of Pure Physics
16 b. & w. portrait © Gaby - G.H., Director, Division of Pure Physics
17 b. & w. snapshots - G.H. with Luise Herzberg on tour 2
18 b. & w. snapshots - G.H. with Luise Herzberg on tour
19 b. & w. portrait - G.H., Director, Division of Pure Physics, 1970
20 b. & w. photograph - G.H, King Gustof Adolf, Nobel Award Ceremony, 1971
21 b. & w. photograph - G.H. at Optical Conference, 1972
22 b. & w. photograph - G.H. at Optical Conference, 1972
23 b. & w. photograph - G.H. and Mrs. Herzberg at Weizmann dinner, June 1972
24 b. & w. photograph © Hans Blohm - G.H.in the lab 1974
25 b. & w. portraits (2) © Hans Blohm - G.H.with lab coat 1975
26 b. & w. photograph - G.H. with Mrs. Herzberg in Peking
27 b. & w. photograph - G.H., Sagami Chemical Research Centre, March 1976
28 b. & w. colour snapshots - G.H., Sagami Chemical Research Centre, March 1976
29 b. & w. photograph - G.H. Université Laval conference held in Montréal 1979
30 b. & w. photograph - G.H Université Laval conference held in Montréal 1979
31 b. & w. photograph - G.H. with R.S. Mulliken, Conference c. 1979
32 b. & w. photograph - G.H., Calgary, October 1982
33 b. & w. photograph - G.H. with I.I. Rabi in lab NRC Sussex building nd
34 b. & w. photograph - G.H. with Hin Lew: Spectrum of H2O in lab Sussex Sussex Building. nd
35 b. & w. photograph - G.H. with Governor General Léger n.d.
36 b. & w. photograph - G.H. receives award n.d.
37 b. & w. photograph - G.H. on steps of NRC Sussex in winter, February 1985
38 b. & w. photograph - G.H. in spectroscopy lab n.d.
39 colour snapshots - G.H’s 80th birthday party at NRC
40 b. & w. engraving on paper - portrait of G.H. © Canadian Bank Note Co.

About Dr. Gerhard Herzberg (Biographical sketch)

Gerhard Herzberg was born on December 25, 1904 in Hamburg, Germany.

When he was twelve, he and a friend made a telescope by hand, grinding the lenses themselves so that they could take a look at the stars and planets on clear nights. After high school, he applied to Hamburg Observatory and was told not to pursue a career in astronomy unless he had a private means of support. Herzberg could not afford to study there. Instead, he enrolled in Technical University in Darmstadt to study the emerging field of technical physics. In 1928, he completed his Doctor of Engineering Physics degree. By this age, he had already published 12 papers and was quickly offered a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Göttingen, one of the best centers for physics at the time. While there, he worked under Max Born and James Franck on the spectra of simple nitrogen molecules. He also made contributions to the development of molecular orbital theory. He pursued this area of study in another year of post-doctorate study at the University of Bristol.

In 1930, he returned to Germany to lecture at Darmstadt. This position led him to J. W. T. Spinks from the University of Saskatchewan. The scientists collaborated and formed a lasting friendship. When the Nazi Party came to power in Germany, Herzberg was dismissed from the University because his wife was Jewish. It was 1934 and Herzberg sensed that he and his wife had to leave the country, so he asked Spinks to help him find work in Canada.

The University of Saskatchewan offered him a position, and in 1935, Herzberg and his wife arrived in Saskatoon with the little money and few pieces of equipment that they were allowed to take with them. The University of Saskatchewan did not have sufficient funding to purchase or maintain the intricate equipment that Herzberg needed to continue his work. He made the best of what he had for ten years, progressing with his studies of molecular and atomic spectroscopy. However, in 1945, the Yerkes Observatory of the University of Chicago offered him the opportunity to follow his interest in astronomy with state-of-the-art tools.

He left Canada, but only stayed until 1947 when the NRC offered to set up a new spectroscopic lab with the promise of adequate funding and personnel. In 1948, Herzberg began his work in Ottawa. A short time after, he was made Director of the Physics Division and started to make his laboratory a world leader in spectroscopy. At the NRC, he established two new research groups in Solid State and Theoretical Physics.

One of his greatest accomplishments came in 1959 when he obtained the spectrum of methylene after 18 years of study. To allow him to work well past the retirement age of 65, the NRC made Herzberg its first Distinguished Research Scientist in 1969. Herzberg received the most famous of his many awards in 1971. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for his contributions to the knowledge of electronic structure and geometry of molecules, particularly free radicals".

After this point, requests for lectures interfered with his productivity. Despite fame and age, he managed to keep up his work at the NRC and was honoured for it in 1974 when it was announced that the new Institute of Astrophysics that would carry out all astronomical and astronomy related activities would be called the Herzberg Institute. In 1987, he also had an asteroid named after him. Among these and other numerous accolades, Herzberg has been called the founding father of molecular spectroscopy and the foremost Canadian scientist. Gerhard Herzberg died in 1999.

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