Henry W. Kendall

Henry Way Kendall (1926–1999) was a distinguished American scientist and activist. A leading nuclear physicist, Dr. Kendall was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1990, along with his colleagues Jerome Friedman and Richard Taylor, for their work on subatomic particles. He was the J. A. Stratton Professor of Physics at MIT. A founder and leader of the Union of Concerned Scientists, he was active and highly influential in areas related to energy, defense, and the environment. Recognized for his broad scientific knowledge and engagement in critical issues, he was often called upon to speak, serve on panels and committees, and testify in government hearings. Among his many interests, he was a world-class mountain climber, an underwater explorer, and an accomplished nature photographer. Holdings at the NCT Archive include a general archive of Henry W. Kendall papers, an archive specifically related to the Nobel Prize, and an extensive collection of Henry W. Kendall’s photography.

The archive of the papers of Henry W. Kendall contains published writings on scientific and public interest matters, documentation of his physics research and teaching, records of public testimony, audio and video recordings of speeches and presentations, professional correspondence, press coverage, awards and honors, and photographs of Dr. Kendall and colleagues.

The Henry W. Kendall Nobel Prize archive is a subset of the papers of Henry W. Kendall specifically related to his receipt of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1990 and his participation in the Nobel Jubilee and Nobel Debate in 1991. This archive was commissioned by Dr. Kendall and compiled under his supervision in 1998, with additional material added after his death. Contents include official documents, printed materials, related correspondence, press coverage, photographs, and video and audio recordings.

The Henry W. Kendall Photographic Collection contains a large number of photographic images taken by Henry W. Kendall, including spectacular nature photographs, many of them taken on his mountaineering and diving expeditions. Formats include slides, negatives, prints and films.


Henry Way Kendall was born in Boston in 1926, the first of three children of Henry P. Kendall and Evelyn Way Kendall. He graduated from Amherst College in 1950 and earned a doctorate in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955. While on the faculty at Stanford University, he began the research on subatomic particles that earned him the Nobel Prize. He joined the faculty of MIT in 1964, continuing his involvement in research with the Stanford Linear Accelerator and serving actively as a teacher throughout his academic career. He and Ann Goldman Pine married in 1972 and were divorced in 1988.

While engaged in research and teaching, Kendall was also active in writing, analysis, and public activities related to U.S. energy and defense matters and global issues of environmental pressures, arms control, resource management, population growth, and climate change. A founding member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, he served as Chair of its Board from 1974 to 1999, taking a leading role in many of its investigations and reports. He served as a consultant to the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the World Bank, and the United Nations, and testified before Congress and governmental agencies on multiple issues including nuclear power, the threat of nuclear war, and energy policy.

In addition to his extensive scientific and advocacy work, Henry W. Kendall led an active life. He participated in major mountain climbing expeditions, carrying cameras to record spectacular scenes. He did exploratory and salvage diving and made advances in underwater photography. He took an active interest in maritime history and the collections of the Kendall Whaling Museum.

A true Renaissance man, Dr. Kendall was an aviator, a sailor, an inventor, a pursuer of multiple hobbies and interests, and a generous philanthropist. Personally and professionally active until his sudden death, he died at the age of 72 in February 1999 in a diving accident while accompanying a National Geographic expedition in Florida.

Further information about the life and career of Henry W. Kendall may be found in a biographical memoir by several physics colleagues published by the National Academy of Sciences, a brief autobiography prepared by Dr. Kendall for the 1990 Nobel Prize Annual, and in the records of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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