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George Placzek papers

Scope and Contents

The George Placzek papers include correspondence, work papers, manuscripts, administrative and financial material, and other printed matter related to George Placzek’s professional and personal activities. Some material relates to research undertaken for the Manhattan Project; documents concerning post-war declassification are also heavily represented. Notable correspondents include J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, and Hans Bethe.


  • 1932-1955


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are welcome to publish, reproduce, and use the Shelby White and Leon Levy Archives Center’s holdings in accordance with U.S. Copyright Law. Under the Fair Use doctrine, users may freely reproduce materials for personal research, teaching, and/or scholarship. Under the same doctrine, users may cite or publish selected passages and/or quotations for comment and criticism. In accordance to U.S. Copyright Law, researchers seeking to reproduce and/or publish materials in the entirety and/or for commercial purposes will require the permission of the copyright holder.

The Institute for Advanced Study holds the copyright to materials generated by Institute employees over the course of their work for the Institute. Where the Institute for Advanced Study holds the copyright, researchers are free to reproduce materials for one-time, non-commercial purposes. For all other cases, researchers are responsible for contacting the Archives Center to request permission at: For all materials for which the Institute is not the copyright holder, researchers that choose to pursue publication and/or reproduction are responsible for determining the individual who does hold the copyright and requesting permission directly from that individual. Researchers with questions regarding the reproduction or use of archival materials can contact the Archives Center to request help at:

Biographical Note

Theoretical physicist George Placzek was born on September 26, 1905, in Brno, Moravia, an area that is now the Czech Republic. His childhood was spent in Brno and Alexovice, where the Placzek family owned a textile factory. After receiving his PhD from University of Vienna in 1928, Placzek traveled throughout Europe for ten years, working alongside many of the era’s foremost scientific minds, including Enrico Fermi in Rome, Peter Debye and Werner Heisenberg in Leipzig, and Lev Landau in Russia, with whom he derived the Landau-Placzek formula for the ratio of diffusions of light. In 1932, Placzek landed at Niels Bohr’s Copenhagen Institute, where he remained until 1939, when he and many of his colleagues fled Europe for the United States. Placzek was a professor at Cornell University from 1939 to 1942, after which he worked for the General Electric Company until his arrival at the Institute for Advanced Study in 1948. In 1952, Placzek was granted Permanent Member status at the IAS, which he held until his death.

Placzek’s contributions to nuclear theory were substantial: his work with Bohr resulted in the first paper published on the general theory of neutron-based nuclear fission and, later, the discovery of the role of Uranium-235 in creating a nuclear reaction. During the Second World War, Placzek became involved in the Manhattan Project, heading up the Theory Group at Chalk River Laboratories in Montreal and assisting with the final work at Los Alamos. At the IAS, Placzek worked on neutron scattering problems, an understanding of which is crucial to many fields in physics. Placzek died in Zurich on October 9, 1955, at the age of 50.


2 linear feet

Language of Materials





The Deane Montgomery papers consist of correspondence and documentation related to the work of former Institute for Advanced Study School of Mathematics Permanent Member George Placzek from 1932-1955.

Arrangement note

The collection is arranged into twelve series, including three series of correspondence, arranged alphabetically by correspondent, and three series of unarranged papers. Other series are: financial records and accounting; IAS administrative papers; work papers; physics concepts; and declassified documents and declassification correspondence.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

No immediate source of acquisition is known for this collection.

Processing Information

Archivists housed this material in acid-free containers. Archivists arranged material into twelve series according to format.

Guide to the George Placzek papers
Finding aid prepared by Mary Silverstein LaMotte.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
This finding aid is written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2022-01-04: Caitlin Rizzo revised this finding to comply with DACS archival standards.