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William T. Powers Notebook: Hard-Hand Coordination, etc., 1956 - 1958

 File — Box: 17, Folder: 2
The William T. Powers collection fills 61 boxes and includes Powers’ correspondence with his fellow scientists, reviews of other scientist’s material, other scientist’s reviews of Powers’ materials, and Powers’ own personal papers whether or not related to Perceptual Control Theory. The collection also contains three machines created by Powers to help people better understand his theories.

The papers span the period of 1927 – 2012. The great majority of the Powers-centered work spans the second half of the twentieth century, as he did most of his Perceptual Control Theory work during this period. The papers that span the period of 1927 – 1950 are essays and documents other scientists wrote, on which Powers initially based his own research. The bulk of the papers within the collection contain material of significant importance to understanding the basis of Perceptual Control Theory and other theories based on PCT (Perceptual Control Theory), such as the Method of Levels (MOL), a technique of psychotherapy, and Responsible Thinking Process (RTP), a method for applying PCT to discipline in public schools. The remainder of the collection includes papers related to the CSG (The Control Systems Group), other scientist’s reviews of PCT., diagrams and cartoons related to PCT., papers on cybernetics, publications on RTP, and articles related to William T. Powers.

The collection is divided into two separate alphabets. The first alphabet, boxes 1 – 17, include all documents written by William T. Powers. These documents include biographical information, unpublished papers, rough drafts of both essays and books, correspondence written by Powers (some of it on CSGnet), old notebooks, and certificates. The second alphabet, boxes 18 – 53, includes assorted copies of other scientists’ work such as essays and research papers, correspondence written by other scientists to Powers, correspondence from Powers to other scientists, and other miscellaneous materials related to Powers’ career. The very last part of the collection contains three machines, each of which Powers created himself to illustrate the principles of PCT.

The first 17 boxes in the collection primarily contain subjects directly related to Powers. The collection is organized so that items which Powers authored or co-authored are placed in the first half of the collection and alphabetized. The first half of the collection also contains biographical information about Powers, as well as his résumé (Box 15, Folder 16). This part of the collection also contains various notebooks from Powers time in Northwestern’s undergraduate school. Notable items in this half of the collection are some letters between Powers and B. F. Skinner, and papers written by Powers at the time of Skinner’s death.

The next 36 boxes in the collection primarily include copies of other scientists’ papers and essays on which Powers based his work. Because the majority of the correspondence was already alphabetized when the Powers collection was received, the rest of the collection was simply incorporated into the already existent alphabet with the correspondence. The collection is alphabetized by last name, or if no name is given, by the name of the the organization. This half of the collection also contains many documents relating to CSG, the Control Systems Group. (Powers’ titles were retained.)

Box 54 contains Powers’ science fiction writings. Four additional boxes contain tapes, cassettes, videos, and oversized notes.

Completing the collection are three machines created by Powers. One he titled “The Problem Solving Machine”, the others were for the general purpose of demonstrating early basic concepts of Perceptual Control Theory. The Machines are in a deteriorated state, which compromises their function, but they are in good enough condition for display.


  • 1956 - 1958

Conditions Governing Access

The Papers are open to researchers without restriction, but copyright to all materials is retained by the donors.

This collection is stored off-site and requires 48 hours advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the Northwestern University Archives at or 847-491-3136 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.


From the Collection: 61 Boxes

Repository Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US