Skip to main content

Johns Hopkins University television programs collection

Identifier: COLL-0008

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of videocassette (VHS) copies of kinescopes of television programs produced by Johns Hopkins University between 1948 and 1960.

The Hopkins television series rely heavily on demonstrations by the scientists/guests but also include discussions, interviews, dramatizations, still photographs, and film clips to vary pace and add visual interest to the topics. Featured guests on the television series include noted scientists such as George Gamow (leading advocate of the big-bang theory of the universe), John Mauchly (inventor of the ENIAC, the first electronic digital computer), Harold Urey (Nobel prize winning discoverer of heavy water and deuterium and contributor to the atomic bomb development), James Van Allen (first interpreter of the findings confirming the existence of radiation belts around the Earththe Van Allen radiation belts) and Wernher Von Braun (pioneer rocket and missile engineer). Examples of other noteworthy guests are industrial designer (Lucky Strike packaging/Studebaker car), Raymond Loewy; folk singer, Mike Seeger; and television actor, John Astin (who was a Hopkins undergraduate before becoming known as Gomez Addams in "The Addams Family" and a role on "Night Court"). Hopkins doctors and faculty members also appear, including Hopkins president Milton S. Eisenhower, decipherer of the Dead Sea Scrolls William F. Albright, Elliott Coleman (founder of the JHU Writing Seminars and mentor to such writers as Russell Baker and John Barth), and Abel Wolman, whose research made water plentiful and safe to drink. Representatives from industries, such as McCormick & Co., Martin, DuPont, Monsanto, Westinghouse, and GE, as well as U.S. government agencies and the military also make presentations on the shows.

Because of television's impact on society in the latter half of the twentieth century, historians of culture, politics, science, technology, medicine, art, education and the medium itself are now using recorded television as a resource for their research. As the only substantial surviving collection of university produced educational television designed for a nationwide audience, these films are of great value to scholars in a wide range of fields from communications and media studies, to the history of science, technology, and medicine, to American cultural and social history.

As artifacts of the 1950s, the programs are valuable to historians studying that post-war decade, for Americans a time of great changes in attitudes, values, material expectations as the baby boom generation was born. Historians of popular culture will also have an interest in the television series, as it reflects the relationship between science and popular culture during the Cold War as well as common social practices of the 1950s. Both the substance and methods of the Hopkins programs should be of interest to historians of education. Historians of science, technology, and medicine will find the collection a valuable resource, as the Hopkins programs indicate the relationship between science and society and the ways in which academicians of this era chose to present science to the public. The postwar and Cold War eras are interesting to historians as periods of intense activity and shifting relationships, particularly those among universities, corporations, and government.

Likewise, historians of educational television and historians of the technology and the medium of television can also use the programs to study how technological changes have affected production values.


  • Creation: 1948-1960


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

The VHS user copies of the programs are open for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical / Historical

Between 1948 and 1960, Johns Hopkins University produced four educational television series: The Johns Hopkins Science Review (March 9, 1948 to March 6, 1955), Tomorrow (March 26, 1955 to June 18, 1955), Tomorrow's Careers (September 17, 1955 to May 29, 1956), and Johns Hopkins File 7 (November 11, 1956 to May 29, 1960). These were recorded on kinescopes, 16mm films that recorded the show as it was broadcast directly from a cathode-ray monitor.

Even before Baltimore had its first television station, Johns Hopkins University administrators began to study the new medium as a way to promote the university's educational mission. In 1947 the Baltimore Sun newspaper announced that it would operate WMAR-TV. The station's program director and Lynn Poole, Hopkins's first director of public relations, began working together to produce The Johns Hopkins Science Review, an eight-week half-hour program. Initially telecast on March 9, 1948, only to the Baltimore area, the Science Review expanded its viewership on December 17, 1948 from Boston to Richmond, Virginia at the invitation of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). Thus Johns Hopkins became the first university to produce a sustained weekly educational program on a television network. In January 1949, the show was carried across the newly opened cable link to the Midwest, and CBS broadcast sixteen new Science Review episodes throughout the spring of 1949. In November 1949, the Science Review switched local stations from WMAR to WAAM, an affiliate of the DuMont Network, America's fourth television network, which operated from 1946 to 1955.

In 1951, The Johns Hopkins Science Review became the first American program to be seen in Europe, when Radiodiffusion Franaise, through UNESCO, requested kinescope recordings for telecasting in France. The United Nations distributed the programs in fifteen foreign countries. In 1952, at the invitation of British Broadcasting Corporation, the show became the first U.S. organization to present programs in Great Britain, as well as the first U.S. network show, of any variety, regularly scheduled by the Canadian Broadcasting Company. That same year, Science Review was being broadcast in the United States coast-to-coast in twenty-one cities over the DuMont Network

In late March, 1955, The Johns Hopkins Science Review had run its course and was transformed into Tomorrow, thirteen episodes about occupations and professions, especially those with a shortage in the workforce. This series expanded with Tomorrow's Careers, which ran from September 17, 1955 to May 29, 1956. Seeking to appeal to a wider audience, the following series, Johns Hopkins File 7, focused not only on science, medicine, and technology, but also arts and humanities. As the introduction to every File 7 show reminded the audience, "All human advancement begins with education."

By the time the programs came to a close in May, 1960, victim to budget woes and program competition, they had already won a host of awards. The Science Review won the George Foster Peabody Award for outstanding educational program of the year in both 1950 and 1952. TV Guide and TV Forecast also honored the program with their awards in 1950. Other awards include a citation from the National Association for Better Radio and Television (1951), the New Jersey Teachers Association Award for Special Merit (1951), the Freedoms Foundation Medal of Honor (1952), and the Christopher Award (1954).


20 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



Johns Hopkins University produced four educational television series between 1948 and 1960: The Johns Hopkins Science Review, Tomorrow, Tomorrow's Careers, and Johns Hopkins File 7. This collection consists of videocassette (VHS) copies of kinescopes of those television programs produced dating from 1948 to 1960.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

The original collection consists of 715 16-millimeter black and white films, including 459 positive prints, 125 picture negatives, 124 soundtrack negatives, and seven composite negatives. Archival master copies of 334 unique episodes are on digital betacam. Users' copies are 30-minute half-inch VHS videocassettes, in black and white, with sound.

Other Finding Aids

An offline inventory exists and individual episodes are cataloged in the Johns Hopkins University Library catalog. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These films were likely transferred from their parent office.

Processing Information

This collection was processed in 2004 by Cathy Sabol.

Guide to the Johns Hopkins television programs collection
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA