Science History Institute Receives Grant to Digitize Oral Histories of Immigrant Scientists

The Science History Institute has been awarded a grant from the National Archives’ National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the project “Science, War, and Exile: Oral Histories of Immigration and Innovation.” The grant is part of the NHPRC’s efforts to improve public access to historical records.

The project will run for two years and make freely accessible and searchable the oral histories of 70 eminent scientists and scientist-entrepreneurs in the chemical sciences and technology who immigrated to the United States during the 20th century. The oral histories provide moving testimony and insights into the nature of immigrant scientists’ scientific work and enterprise, as well as their struggles and successes in weaving themselves into the cultural fabric of American life. Many of these stories recount in vivid detail the historical events and social conditions that led these men and women to immigrate to the United States, including the Nazi occupation of Europe, political repression in Cuba and Brazil, anti-Semitism in Turkey, South African apartheid, the ill-fated Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and the anti-intellectualism and deprecation of science during the Cultural Revolution in China.

“The NHPRC grant will allow the Center for Oral History not only to highlight the memories of emigrants and their experiences of war, exile, and immigration, but also allow others to both read and hear history simultaneously” said David Caruso, director of the Institute’s Center for Oral History. “We will be layering transcripts with our audio and/or video recordings using a web application known as the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer, giving users of our site greater accessibility to our collection of oral histories with emigrants and the ability to experience not just what our interviewees said, but also the gravity of their voices—their tones, inflections, and emotions—of the profound memories they shared with us.”

For more information, see https://www.sciencehistory.org/news/nhprc-grant-immigrant-scientists