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David A. Marcus Letters, 1972-1985

By Finding aid prepared by Trevor Sandgathe

Collection Overview

Title: David A. Marcus Letters, 1972-1985

ID: MSS Marcus

Primary Creator: Marcus, David A.

Extent: 0.07 cubic feet. More info below.

Arrangement: The David A. Marcus Letters are arranged into one series: I. Correspondence, 1972-1985.

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


The David A. Marcus Letters are comprised of correspondence between Marcus and politicians, peace activists, religious leaders, scientists, and intellectuals between 1972 and 1983. Topics include the potential for nuclear conflict, the need for a global peace organization, and the future of humankind.

Scope and Content Notes

The David A. Marcus Letters are comprised of correspondence to Marcus from politicians, peace activists, religious leaders, scientists, and intellectuals addressing issues of nuclear war, longterm survivability of the human race, and anti-war strategies. The correspondence is a result of several letter-writing campaigns conducted by Marcus in 1972-1973 and 1982-1983 in which he requested commentary on global issues (primarily nuclear war) from experts in an array of fields. Correspondents include Norman Cousins, Glenn T. Seaborg, William A. Higinbotham, and Hans A. Bethe, among others. The collection also includes two letters written by Marcus, a draft of his short story "Angel of Death," two reprints, and an autographed photo of Willard Libby.

Biographical / Historical Notes

David A. Marcus, a practicing dentist and resident of Laguna Hills, California, was a peace advocate active in California during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1969, he wrote an article titled "The Age of Insanity" in which he explored the dangers of nuclear arms through the lens of a perceived global ethical decline. In 1971 he began a letter-writing campaign encouraging political leaders to adopt anti-nuclear policies. Marcus' belief in the need for a more robust international peace movement led him to propose development of a global peace organization under the leadership of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. He contacted the Nobel Institute, prize winners, and leaders of numerous peace organizations but ultimately failed to gain support. In addition to his activism, Marcus also collected memorabilia--chiefly correspondence and autographed photos--from politicians, celebrities, and intellectuals.

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 1 photograph; 1 box

Statement on Access: The collection is open for research.

Acquisition Note: The David A. Marcus Letters were purchased by the Oregon State University Special Collections in 1990 as part of the History of Atomic Energy Collection. The materials were separated from the larger collection in 2015 and are now held by the OSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center.

Related Materials:

The Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers (MSS Pauling) include a letter from Marcus to Linus Pauling in which Marcus expresses his condolences regarding the death of Ava Helen Pauling and asks Pauling's support for a global peace initiative. Enclosed are copies of correspondence with the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, George Karman (Princeton University), and E. I. Chazov (National Cardiology Research Institute). The collection also includes a reply from Pauling indicating agreement with Marcus' anti-militarization beliefs. The text of a 1975 letter from Marcus to Richard Feynman appears in Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track: The Letters of Richard P. Feynman held in the Oregon State University History of Science Rare Book Collection (RB HistSci).

Other collections with materials relating to nuclear warfare, international relations, and the antinuclear movement include the Charter Heslep Papers (MSS Heslep), the Theodore Rockwell Papers (MSS Rockwell), the Barton C. Hacker Papers (MSS HackerB), the Chih H. Wang Papers (MSS Wang), and the History of Atomic Energy Rare Book Collection (RB Energy).

Preferred Citation: David A. Marcus Letters (MSS Marcus), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.


Marcus, David A.

People, Places, and Topics

Antinuclear movement.
History of Science
Marcus, David A.
Nuclear warfare.
Peace movements.

Forms of Material

Photographic prints.

Box and Folder Listing

Series 1: Correspondence, 1972-1985
Box-Folder 1.1: Correspondence re: Global environmental problems, 1973
This file is comprised of responses to a letter written and distributed by Marcus in the summer and fall of 1973 in which he asks his correspondents' opinions on the issue of longterm human survival (especially regarding nuclear warfare and overpopulation). Respondents included Alan Guttmacher (Planned Parenthood Federation of America); Barry Commoner (Washington University); Paul R. Ehrlich (Stanford University); Frank Press (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); David M. Gates (University of Michigan); H. E. Carter (University of Arizona); Harvey Brooks (Harvard University); Hubert Heffner (Stanford University); Paul Verghese (Orthodox Theological Seminary); Glenn Campbell (Hoover Institution); Ivor H. Mills (University of Cambridge); W. A. Robson (University of London); G. W. Dimbleby (University of London); Roger W. Heyns (American Council on Education); and Christopher Cornford (Royal College of Art). The responses are generally positive, though many suggest rapid improvements in international problems may be necessary to prevent nuclear war or other global disasters. Marcus' original letter is present in this file.
Box-Folder 1.2: Correspondence re: Proposal to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, 1982
This file is comprised of responses to a letter written and distributed by Marcus in the spring of 1982 proposing that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee establish a world-wide antinuclear movement. Respondents include Jakob Sverdrup (Nobel Institute); Mary Zepernick (Women's International League for Peace and Freedom); Benjamin L. Hooks (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People); Ruth J. Hinerfeld (League of Women Voters); Philip Noel-Baker (House of Lords, Westminster); Francis Wolf (on behalf of Francis Blanchard, International Labour Office); and Dominique Borel (Comite International de la Crois-Rouge). Many of the responses indicate general support for Marcus' goals but suggest that the Nobel Committee may not be the appropriate governing body for such an organization. A letter from Jakob Sverdrup of the Nobel Institute states directly the Committee is unable to act in such a way.
Box-Folder 1.3: Correspondence re: Effect of nuclear war on the Earth's orbit, 1982
This file is comprised of responses to a letter written and distributed by Marcus in the spring of 1982 requesting information on the impact of a nuclear conflict on the Earth's orbit. Included are responses from Glenn T. Seaborg (University of California, Berkeley); Harvey Brooks (Harvard University); George Kistiakowsky (Harvard University); H. E. Carter (University of Arizona); Marvin L. Goldberger (California Institute of Technology); Hans A. Bethe (Cornell University); Jerome Grossman (Council for a Livable World); and William A. Higinbotham (Brookhaven National Laboratory). The responses uniformly deny that a nuclear war would affect the Earth's orbital path, but many do note the potential destructiveness of such a conflict. Marcus' original letter is present in this file.
Box-Folder 1.4: Correspondence re: "Angel of Death", 1982-1985
This file is comprised of responses to Marcus' short story "Angel of Death" in which Marcus (as protagonist) converses with an embodiment of death about the future of mankind, the threat of nuclear annihilation, and his own efforts to encourage anti-nuclear activism. Marcus received responses in the fall of 1982 from Clark M. Clifford (Clifford and Warnke Attorneys at Law); Norman Cousins (University of California); Philip A. Farris (on behalf of U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger); and Alan Cranston (United State Senator, California). The file also contains a letter from Harold Brown (Johns Hopkins University) from September 1985. Most responses to "Angel of Death" indicate agreement with Marcus' ideas but a letter from the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense emphasizes the principles of nuclear deterrence. The file also includes a 1984 typescript draft of "Angel of Death" featuring annotations from Marcus.
Box-Folder 1.5: General Correspondence, 1972-1984
This file is comprised of letters from politicians, activists, and intellectuals between 1972 and 1983 responding to Marcus' anti-nuclear activism. Included are letters from Rose A. Conway (on behalf of Harry S. Truman); Dennis Meadows (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); Jay W. Forrester (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); G. B. Re (on behalf of Pope John Paul II); Bernard T. Feld (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); Norman Cousins (University of California); Helen Caldicott (Physicians for Social Responsibility); William A. Higinbotham (Brookhaven National Laboratory); Emilio de Olivares (on behalf of U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar); Benjamin L. Hooks (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People); and Harold Willens (Nuclear Arms Freeze Initiative). Respondents generally express support for Marcus' anti-nuclear stance but decline to become involved in his personal projects (such as the development of a unified peace movement or the establishment of an International Peace Day). The file also includes several items that were likely attachments to correspondence to Marcus. These include an autographed photo of chemist Willard Libby, and reprints of V. C. Wynne-Edwards' "Population, Affluence, and Environment" and "Risk with Energy from Conventional and Nonconventional Sources" by Herbert Inhaber.

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