Marvin Camras papers, 1938-1964
Laboratory notes, correspondence, office files, patent materials, publication, technical literature collected by Marvin Camras in the process of his ca. 30 years as a research scientist at Armour Research Foundation and Illinois Institute of Technology Research Institute in the area of magnetic recording. See additional detail in "Summary" paragraph above. Also see detailed folder listing available as a pdf document attached to this record. Original Series is 141 Boxes, arranged as 1000+ folders. Also includes the follow Addenda: Addenda 1: Other materials found in collection, 2 boxes. Addenda 2: Materials removed from file cabinets April 2001, sorted by drawer, 14 boxes. Addenda 3: Journal Subscriptions, 21 boxes. Addenda 4: Other Materials, including Patents, Liscense Reports, ARF/IITRI Reports, 16 boxes. Addenda 5: Numbered patent reports boxed separately, 9 boxes.
- Camras, Marvin (Person)
Language of Materials
Records are in English.
Conditions Governing Access
Available for Research
Marvin Camras Papers Acc. No. 1998.053 in IIT Archives/Paul V. Galvin Library/Illinois Institute of Technology/Chicago, IL 60616 Finding Guide to Professional Papers (1938-1985) Transcript of Oral History [See Acc. No. 1998.119 for the oral history transcript.] Compiled and edited by Thomas J. Misa, ca. 1985 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: This project began at the initiation of Anita Anderson, Special Collections Librarian at IIT's Galvin Library [since retired].... We are indebted to John Kalvelege who completed the formidable task of describing the Camras papers folder by folder, and to Dr. Bayla Singer for conducting background research. We are furthermore indebted to Dr. Mark Clark, then of the University of Delaware, who conducted the oral history with Marvin Camras, and to Rebecca Newton, who efficiently made the typed transcription. All of us are indebted to IIT's Education and Research Initiative Fund, which granted funds to organize and preserve the papers, and to the IEEE Life Member's Fund and History Committee, which granted funds for conducting and transcribing the oral history itself. A copy of this finding guide is deposited with the IEEE History Center located at Rutgers University. INTRODUCTION Marvin Camras (b. 1916 [Camras died in 1995]) is a pioneer in the field of magnetic recording. Beginning in the 1930s with a wire-based system and then switching to magnetic coatings on paper tapes and disks, Camras invented and developed such technologies as multi-track tape recording, magnetic sound for motion pictures, videotape recorders, as well as the technique of high-frequency bias recording; together these innovations presently contribute to a $30 billion industry. For this and related work Camras has collected more than 500 patents and been named a Fellow of the IEEE and AAAS among other professional societies. Topping a long list of professional honors, he was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 1985 and awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1990. [See Marvin Camras, "Origins of Magnetic Recording Concepts," J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 77 (April 1985): 1314-19; and Kenneth A. Brown, "Marvin Camras," Inventors at Work (Redmond WA: Tempus Books of Microsoft Press, 1988), 69-89.] The Camras archive can support historical research in several areas in addition to magnetic recording per se. During World War II, Camras began his long and prolific career at the Armour Research Foundation, now IIT Research Institute (IITRI). His biography charts the day-to-day activities of a privately-funded research institution - forerunner to today's "research parks" and a distinctive technological institution of the mid-20th century. Moreover, as the inventor of so fundamental a technology, Camras's contacts have ranged from the military services to Hollywood and across industry. Study of his career also promises to illuminate themes of general interest to technological historians, including the nature of inventive creativity and the position of an independent inventor in the 20th century. FINDING GUIDE TO PAPERS The very riches of the Camras materials slowed our progress through these materials. We discovered that the 24 file-cabinet drawers contained extremely detailed materials (personal and professional letters, Laboratory notebooks, editorial Correspondence, patent applications, patent reviews) documenting Camras's lengthy and prolific career as an inventor. Camras spent four productive decades at IITRI; these papers cover that entire time. We are convinced that these materials - 950 folders in 87 Hollinger boxes - form a valuable and permanent archive of significant historical interest. The organization of the papers has not been changed from that existing when Camras donated his papers to the Special Collections division of Galvin Library. He filed materials by subject, correspondent, and date. The materials have been simply removed from manila folders and placed into sequentially numbered acid-free folders. The finding guide appended here was sorted first by subject and then by year to show prospective users where materials of a similar nature are physically located in the collection. For the most part, the papers are physically in good shape. A small, second batch of papers was very recently given to the library; this finding guide does not describe this addition. Anita Anderson has prepared a list of United States patents (1944-1986) held by Camras as well as a second finding guide sorted by folder number. TRANSCRIPTION OF ORAL HISTORY
Marvin Camras (1916-1995), a research scientist at Armour Research Foundation (later Illinois Institute of Technology Research Institute), experimented in magnetic wire sound recording, inventing and improving machines and wire coatings. He is best known for his development of the first commercially practical magnetic recorder in 1944 and was popularly known as "The Father of Modern Magnetic Recording." Much of the work was done during WW II under contract with the U. S. government. Over the years, Camras received ca. 200 patents for his inventions and improvements. Through Armour Research Foundation, these were made available for commercial production via licensing to such companies as General Electric, 3M, and Eastman Kodak which produced various models as military equipment, business machines, and for home use. Still later, Camras expanded his research into tape recording and audio recording for film and television. His research efforts became the basis for today's audio and video recording and computer data storage. Camras studied at Armour Institute of Technology (a predecessor of Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago) where, in his senior year, he built and demonstrated a machine which recorded and immediately played back sound. He received degrees in electrical engineering from IIT in 1940 and 1942. An honorary doctorate was awarded to him in 1968. He joined Armour Research Foundation (IIT's contract research affiliate) directly after his graduation and continued at ARF and IITRI without interruption, retiring as senior scientific advisor ca. 1986. He then joined the IIT faculty as a full-time research professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, retiring in 1994. Camras received various awards during his lifetime including: The National Medal of Technology, 1990; Inventors Hall of Fame, 1985; Inventor of the Year Award, 1979 (The Patent Law Association of Chicago); John Scott Medal; Washington Award of the Western Society of Engineers; John H. Potts Memorial Award, IEEE Consumer Electronics Award; U. S. Camera Award for Outstanding Contribution to Motion Picture Photography; the Institute of Radio Engineers PGA Achievement Award; the IEEE Information Storage Award; and the Coors American Ingenuity Award, 1992. He received the IIT Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 1948, the Alumni Medal in 1978, and was inducted into IIT's Hall of Fame in 1981. He was honored posthumously with the creation of IIT's Camras-NEXT (National Excellence in Technology) Scholarships. He was a member of the National Academy of Engineers, and a Fellow of IEEE, the Acoustical Society of America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. Camras was married to Isabelle Pollak Camras and had four sons and one daughter. He pursued photography (entering photos in local shows) and music (including making violins and giving lectures) as serious hobbies. He lived in the Chicago area his whole life. He is the author of Magnetic Recording Handbook, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., ca. 1987; Magnetic Recording on Steel Wire, Chicago: the author, 1942; and the editor of Magnetic Tape Recording, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, ca. 1985. He gave his collection of professional papers and equipment to the Paul V. Galvin Library (IIT, Chicago) in 1987 where they are available for research in IIT Archives. Information complied by Catherine Bruck, University Archivist, October 9, 2001, from materials in IIT Archives/Drop Files/Marvin Camras. Camras was married to Isabelle Pollak Camras and had four sons and one daughter. He pursued photography (entering photos in local shows) and music (including making violins and giving lectures) as serious hobbies. He lived in the Chicago area his whole life. He is the author of Magnetic Recording Handbook, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., ca. 1987; Magnetic Recording on Steel Wire, Chicago: the author, 1942; and the editor of Magnetic Tape Recording, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, ca. 1985. He gave his collection of professional papers and equipment to the Paul V. Galvin Library (IIT, Chicago) in 1987 where they are available for research in IIT Archives.
Catherine Bruck, University Archivist