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William T. Powers Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 11/3/5/7
The William T. Powers collection fills 61 boxes. It 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 (PCT). The collection also contains three machines created by Powers to help people better understand his theories.

The papers span the period 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 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 significant for understanding the basis of Perceptual Control Theory and other theories based on it, such as the Method of Levels (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 Control Systems Group (CSG), 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 bulk of the collection is divided into two broad sections: documents written by William T. Powers; and writings by other scientists.

The first major section, boxes 1-17, contains 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 These documents include biographical information, unpublished papers, rough drafts of both essays and books, correspondence written by Powers (some of it on CSGnet), old notebooks, and certificates. This section also contains biographical information about Powers, as well as his résumé (Box 15, Folder 16); and various notebooks from Powers' time as an undergraduate at Northwestern. Notable items in this section are some letters between Powers and B. F. Skinner, and papers written by Powers at the time of Skinner's death.

The second major section, boxes 18-53, includes 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. Because the majority of the correspondence was already alphabetized when the Powers collection was received, other materials were incorporated into the existing sequence. This section of the papers 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.

The collection also contains three machines created by Powers. One is called "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 suitable for display.

Dates

  • 1927-2012

Creator

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 McCormick Library at specialcollections@northwestern.edu or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.

Extent

61 Boxes

Overview

William T. Powers received a B.S. in physics from Northwestern University in 1953. While working at the Argonne Cancer Research Hospital at the University of Chicago, he developed the ideas that led to the hierarchical control model of behavior (later termed Perceptual Control Theory). Powers designed equipment (most notably for use in astronomy) while he continued to develop his theory. 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.

Arrangement

The bulk of the papers of William T. Powers is in two large divisions: documents written by William T. Powers; and writings by other scientists. Each group is arranged in a single alphabetic sequence (title, personal name, oganization, or topic), using Powers' own titles wherever possible. These materials are followed by a group of miscellaneous materials, Powers' science fiction writings, and three machines constructed by Powers to illustrate the principles of Perceptual Control Theory.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The William T. Powers Papers were donated to the Northwestern University Archives as Accession # 14-173 on August 4, 2014, and Accession # 15-111 on June 18, 2015 by the Powers Family.

Separated Materials

None.
Title
Guide to the William T. Powers (1926-2013) Papers
Author
Simon Lothschutz and Brandon Scott, 2015-2017.
Date
10/13/2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Repository Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Contact:
Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US
847-491-3635