Electron Microscope Records, 1936-1971

Overview of the Collection

Electron Microscope Records
1936-1971 (inclusive)
2.75 Linear feet of shelf space, (3 boxes)
Collection Number
Archive 394 (collection)
Record books and images from the electron microscope built and used at Washington State College circa 1935 by Paul Anderson and Kenneth Fitzsimmons.
Washington State University Libraries' Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC)
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
Terrell Library Suite 12
Pullman, WA
Telephone: 509-335-6691
Access Restrictions

This collection is open and available for research use.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

The invention and construction of the first electron microscope dates to the very early 1930s, in Europe. While the first North American electron microscope is popularly credited to the University of Toronto in 1938, physicists Kenneth E. Fitzsimmons and Paul A. Anderson completed construction of one at Washington State College in 1935, and were operating it from 1936 to 1938. The work ended when Fitzsimmons took a one-year leave of absence after the 1938 school year.

The original electron microscope went into storage, and was rediscovered in 1965 by scientists Edward Steever and Dan Marlow. They reassembled and restored it, and it has been display on the WSU campus since. As of 2019, it is at the entrance to the Franceschi Microscopy and Imaging Center in the basement of Abelson Hall.

Much of the information here comes from Zensaku Yoshii’s 1970 article Pioneers of Electron Microscopy at Washington State University and their Work, which can be found in folder 7 in this collection.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists of original record books, drawings, and photographs dating from the original use of the microscope in 1935-1938. Additional photographs from its reconstruction as well as some subsequent writings about it date from 1965 to 1971. Collected articles related to it date from 1938 to 1971, with one 2018 press article added.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions apply.

Preferred Citation

[Item description]

Electron Microscope Records, 1936-1971 (Archives 394)

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Arrangement of the collection is more or less based on material format, with the record book and other print items, including photographic prints, organized chronologically and located in box 1. Glass plates and photographic negatives, including some positive transparencies, can be found in box 2. Finally, large drawings are housed in separate flat oversized folders.

Acquisition Information

The records of the Anderson-Fitzsimmons electron microscope were donated to the Washington State University Libraries’ Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC) by Arthur L. Cohen of the WSU Electron Microscope Center on February 3rd, 1987, and retained as UA1987-12.

Processing Note

The records were processed in August 2019 by University Archivist Mark O’English. Images were housed in protective Mylar sheets at that time, and the rolled oversize items were humidified and flattened by conservator Linnea Rash. In addition to two 1970-1971 articles about the microscope already present, articles from 1938 and 2018 were added to the collection at this time.

Separated Materials

Records from Art Cohen pertaining to student activism at WSU in 1969-1970 were separated out and placed with other Cohen papers (MS2015-18, box 5). A draft copy of a 1980 student Ph.D. thesis relating to electron microscopy (but unrelated to the 1935-1938 electron microscope) was discarded as the final copy is already held in the WSU archives.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Box Folder
1 1 Correspondence, July 8, 1935. Paul Anderson to "Fitz" (Ken Fitzsimmons) detailing his efforts to find equipment for the microscope.
1 2 Record book, 1936-1955. Pages 1-33 detail operations and observations of the electron microscope, 1936-1938. These include photographs both of the equipment and of results from their research. Subsequent post-1938 pages are from unrelated research.
1 3 Thirteen 8" x 10" photographic prints varying from 2" x 3" to 3.5" x 4.5" in size. Five images are of the original electron microscope; the other eight appear to be results from its use. Circa. 1936-1938.
1 4 Three 8" x 10" photographic prints of the original electron microscope. 3. Ca. 1936-1938
1 5 Twenty 3.5" x 4.5" photographic prints of the reconstructed electron microscope, taken in the mid to late 1960s and originally housed in an envelope addressed to Ed Steever. There are fundamentally only 9 images here, though with multiple copies of most, some taken at just slightly different angles.
1 6 One 3.5" x 4.5" photographic print. 1 print. Ed Steever with record book, 1969.
1 7 Article Reprints. 1938, 1970, 1971, 2018
2 8 18 glass plate negatives of data charts. Undated.
2 9 Four glass plate negatives of electron microscope results. Undated.
2 10 Four glass plates. We think these are simply unused, but it is possible (if unlikely) that they were research byproducts, and so they have been retained here.
2 11 43 photographic negatives and transparencies. Undated, but presumably created 1965-1970. Most (25) are from the journal; two are from the 1938 Fitzsimmons article. The others are of equipment, and come from various sources.
2 12 15 lantern slides, presumably created ca. 1965-1970. Includes reproductions from 1936-1938 as well as images of the equipment in the 1960s.
2 13 11 lantern slides, presumably created for Arthur Cohen's 1971 talk at the Electron Microscopy Society of America. Includes reproductions from 1936-1938 as well as images of the equipment in the 1960s.
O.S. 14 Three original hand-drawings by Ken Fitzsimmons, detailing the magazine plate camera designed to take electron microscope photographs without disturbing the vacuum. These were published in his 1938 article, which is included in box 1, folder 7 of this collection.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Electron microscopes -- History.

Corporate Names

  • State College of Washington -- History.
  • Washington State University -- History.