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Jan Michael Minkowski papers

Identifier: MS-0319
The papers of Johns Hopkins University professor, Jan Michael Minkowski, document his demanding course work and research at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, 1946-1948, and his teaching and research career at Hopkins, 1960-1987. Along with his student papers are lecture notes, and other course material from classes taught by Dr. Minkowski in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Included are notes and contract information from Dr. Minkowski's position as research scientist in the Radiation Laboratory and later, Head of Physical Research, the Carlyle Barton laboratory (1952-1970). Also in the collection are reprints of his journal articles, and a few non-published writings. The papers largely detail Dr. Minkowski's classroom teaching and his research in the fields of solid state physics, quantum optics, and microwaves. Dr. Minkowski's professional work is well documented, but his personal life is not represented in the collection.

The papers have been artificially arranged into four series - Series I: Student Papers; Series II: Course Material; Series III: Carlyle Barton Laboratory; Series IV: Writings. Whenever possible, Dr. Minkowski's files have been left intact and his subject headings retained. The bulk of the material devoted to classes taught at the University has been grouped by course title and arranged chronologically. Most of the collection is in English with the exception of Dr. Minkowski's student paper from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (E.T.H.) which are in German. One part of the collection, Series 2 Box 7, will remain closed because of the private nature of student work and recommendations for students prepared by Dr. Minkowski.

Final items in the collection are specific to Dr. Minkowski's laboratory work: slides, quartz tapers, beryl tapers, sapphire tapers, S-band window, maser crystals, and other unidentified crystals and metals.

A complete listing of items in the collection can be found in the Container list.


  • 1946-1987


Conditions Governing Access

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

Collection is open for use except for Box 7; these files contain student records, which are subject to FERPA restrictions.

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.


10.97 Cubic Feet (7 record center cartons, 4 legal size document boxes, 1 custom box (14 x 10.5 x 4 inches))

Biographical Note

Jan Michael Minkowski was born March 7, 1916 in Zurich, Switzerland and spent his childhood years in Warsaw, Poland. He graduated from King Batory's School in 1934. In 1934-35 he received his reserve training in the Polish Army and afterwards entered the Warsaw Institute of Technology to study electrical engineering. Minkowski's graduate work was delayed by the outbreak of World War II in Europe. As a reservist in the cavalry signal corps of the Polish army, Minkowski was mobilized and served as 1st lieutenant in the Polish army from 1939-1945. Minkowski was captured by the Russians and put to work in a labor camp in the vicinity of Smolensk. In an exchange of prisoners, Minkowski was turned over to the German army and kept in prisoner of war camps until 1945 when he was liberated in Bavaria by the U.S. Army.

Minkowski worked for a time for the YMCA in Germany aiding other displaced persons and those recently liberated from concentration camps. When he was able to collect the proper personal documentation, he left for Switzerland. In 1946, he was admitted to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (E.T.H.) Department of Mathematics and Physics. Minkowski studied experimental physics with Professor Paul Scherrer and theoretical physics with the Nobel Prize recipient, Wolfgang Pauli. In 1949, Minkowski received the degree of Diplomierter Physiker from the E.T.H. and stayed on for the following year as an assistant at the Institute for Theoretical Physics.

In 1950, Minkowski emigrated to the United States and became a member of the research division of the Erie Resistor Corporation in Erie, PA. In 1951, he came to Baltimore and joined the Radiation Laboratory (later the Carlyle Barton Laboratory) of The Johns Hopkins University. In 1961, he was appointed lecturer in the Electrical Engineering Department (now the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering) of the University. He completed his Ph.D. at JHU in 1963. He was appointed associate professor in 1981. He taught courses in quantum optics and optical information processes until his retirement in 1987 at which time he became Professor Emeritus. Dr. Minkowski's later research included the border area between information theory and quantum theory. He was the owner of 7 patents and the author of more than 30 journal articles. Jan Minkowski died February 5, 1991.


The papers were given to the University by Mrs. Anne Shreve Minkowski, February 1992.

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Joan Grattan in February 1992.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

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