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Identifier: Series 10

Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

The papers of Robert L. Burwell, Jr. (instructor in chemistry) fill twenty-nine boxes and are arranged into: biographical materials (general materials, education, administrative duties), correspondence, teaching, research and consulting, professional organizations, speeches, and publications.

In Box 1 are several folders of biographical materials pertaining to Burwell's education and his service on various Northwestern University committees. The folders labeled "Personal Data" and "American Chemical Society Award (Lubrizol) for Petroleum Chemistry" include summaries of Burwell's research activities. Of considerable interest are the notes and reports produced by Burwell while serving on the Northwestern University Science Committee in 1960.

The correspondence files contain much material documenting Burwell's many trips and speeches; numerous letters of recommendation; visits from overseas scientists; and work with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Also included are four folders of refereeing correspondence (Box 5, Folders 11-13, Box 6, Folder 1) reflecting Burwell's views on the work and authors in his field during the period 1948 to 1982.

The teaching files include syllabi, problems, quizzes, exams, and notes for undergraduate courses, mostly physical chemistry and thermodynamics, taught by Burwell. The bulk of these files, however, relates to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Included are correspondence, reports of class and research work, and occasional notes and manuscripts produced jointly by the graduate student or fellow and Burwell. Curricular materials are arranged sequentially by course number.

Burwell was frequently a research advisor and a consultant for both industrial and governmental organizations, including the DuPont Corporation, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Science Foundation. His research and consulting files contain pertinent correspondence, reports, and notes.

The professional organization files document Burwell's substantial professional activities, particularly with the American Chemical Society, the Catalysis Society, the International Congress on Catalysis, and the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). The files include correspondence, drafts of reports, and, for IUPAC, a variety of materials relating to its information bulletins on nomenclature and definitions.

Burwell's speech files include notes, drafts, illustrative figures and related correspondence.

The publications files, comprising ten boxes, include drafts and correspondence relating to over 150 of Burwell's scientific publications. When available, a reprint of the published article is included. When Burwell submitted more than one manuscript to a journal at the same time all relevant materials are filed under the title that falls first alphabetically.


  • 1931-1986


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored off-site and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.


From the Collection: 33.00 Boxes

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Separated materials

Approximately four linear inches of general university material not relating to Burwell was transferred to the University Archives' general reference files. Approximately 58 linear inches of duplicates and 48 linear inches of extraneous materials were discarded. In the addition, a small amount of general university material was transferred to the University Archives general reference files. A small amount of material not relating to Burwell or the University was sent to the American Chemical Society. Approximately three linear inches of duplicate or extraneous materials were discarded.

Conditions governing access

The correspondence and teaching files subseries may be used only with permission of the University Archives.

Acquisition information

Robert L. Burwell, Jr. donated these papers to the Northwestern University Archives in 1986 (Accession #86-284). The addition was donated to the University Archives by Robert L. Burwell on April 18, 1989 (Accession #89-55).

Description of the addition

This addition to the Robert L. Burwell Papers fills four boxes and dates between 1936 and 1969. The papers are comprised of biographical materials, correspondence, research and consulting files, professional organizations files, one folder of teaching files, and two folders of publications. The biographical materials include an eight page transcript of a popularized account of catalysis for a 1951 radio interview A and a substantial amount of correspondence, records, and certificates documenting Burwell's twenty-five years in the U.S. Naval Reserve. The correspondence deals primarily with Burwell's research programs and materials, recommendations for individuals and positions, and various publications. The Chemistry Lecture Series folder contains letters pertaining to Burwell's development of the 1946-1947 Tuesday Evening Series for the University College on the Chicago Campus. The research and consulting files include two substantial sections: one relating to Burwell's work with the McGraw Electric Company of Elgin, Illinois, on their system of preventing corrosion; the other, as to his service as chairman of a conference for the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Technology of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council. This conference, held in Washington, D.C., in August, 1963, examined the status of research on catalysis in the U.S. The professional organizations files are concerned solely with the Division of Physical Chemistry of the American Chemical Society in which Burwell was active for over twenty years, holding several offices during that period.


William B. Beatty; August-October 1986 and July 1989.

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

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