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Midwestern Universities Research Association records

Identifier: uarc 449

Scope and Content

These records trace the history of the Midwestern Universities Research Association (MURA) from its beginnings in 1953 to its demise in 1973, leading to the formation of the Argonne Universities Association. They document the MURA's relationship to the Atomic Energy Commission, Argonne National Laboratory and Argonne Midwest Universities. Reports, meeting minutes, proposals, correspondence, and legal documents comprise the bulk of the collection.


  • 1953-1974


Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Items in the collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Historical Note

Midwestern physicists who had attended the dedication of the Cosmotron at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in the winter of 1952-1953 began discussing the need for a high energy research facility in the Midwest. In the spring of 1953, Professor Enrico Fermi addressed physicists from the Midwest at the Institute of Nuclear Studies in Chicago, giving his views. As a result, physicists from the Universities of Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Chicago formed an ad-hoc committee to guide the development of the facility. Dr. Donald W. Kerst (University of Illinois) was asked to act as the technical director. University presidents, comptrollers and other business officers cooperated. Meetings were held during 1953 and 1954 to discuss the development of a Cosmotron in the Midwest.

As early as 1953, the ad-hoc committee sought financial support from the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). The attempt was unsuccessful so the committee went to the National Science Foundation (NSF) which made a grant to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation for support of the project through the winter and spring of 1953 and 1954. (There was no formal corporation at that time to administer funds.)

On May 6, 1954, the name "Midwestern Universities Research Association, Inc." was approved at the first meeting of the organization committee. This meeting was held after the seven participating institutions agreed to sign the "Agreement for Cooperative Nuclear Research." These institutions included the Universities of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana, State University of Iowa and Iowa State College.

On June 10, 1954, representatives P. Gerald Kruger, Donald Kerst, John Williams, Laurence Lunden, Allan Mitchell and R. Rollefson from MURA met with AEC representatives, General K.D. Nichols and Messrs. Tammaro, McDanniel and Kolstad to discuss AEC support. General Nichols announced that the Commission had decided on the day previous to the meeting to support a group to study possible large machines at Argonne. The Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), located near Chicago had been operated by the University of Chicago since 1946. Mr. Tammaro indicated that Argonne had been told previously to stay out of the accelerator business and concentrate on the reactor program, but the Commission, now had revised its policy. However, MURA, as a group of Universities did not want to be subordinate to a single University, in this case the University of Chicago, that Argonne had never been in the machine business and would be tackling the problem without previous interest or experience.

During the summer of 1954, the AEC urged the technical group to move to ANL. The physicists were not attracted to this idea because they "felt that a university environment and a laboratory run by MURA was required to provide the proper environment and support to assure successful attainment of their objective." (See "Historical Sketch of MURA," 1957, p.4 in Reports and Proposals, folder 262.) Also during the summer of 1954, Keith Symon developed the Fixed Field Alternating Gradient (FFAG) Principle. This would enable scientists to construct an accelerator producing much higher intensity than before developed.

That same year the selection of a site for the MURA machine began. Institutions that participated were Iowa State College, State University Iowa, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Purdue and the Universities of Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Other institutions that participated in planning for the accelerator project were the Carnegie and Case Institutes of Technology, University of Chicago, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Washington University at St. Louis. Professor Leo Casagrande of Harvard University, a foundation and soil expert, was retained as a consultant.

On September 23, 1954, the Midwestern Universities Research Association became a corporation under the laws of the State of Illinois. The original members were the Universities of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Purdue and Indiana, Iowa State College and State University of Iowa. The University of Wisconsin joined the organization shortly afterwards. The AEC was again approached at this time, but support was refused and another grant was made to MURA by the NSF. On December 17, the University of Chicago was invited to become an associate member of MURA, but declined the invitation on January 19, 1955 because of ties to ANL.

In 1955, a proposal for cooperative research in high energy physics was submitted to the AEC and was rejected because it did not include ANL, and the AEC did not want to put money into a second laboratory.

On July 1, 1955, a patent agreement was established between MURA and the Research Corporation, a nonprofit New York foundation which distributes its total net income as grants-in-aid of research to colleges universities and scientific institutions. Its purposes as set forth in its charter are: "To receive and acquire inventions and to render the same more available and effective in the useful arts, To provide means for the advancement of scientific investigation by contributing the net earnings of the corporation to scientific and educational institutions and To receive other moneys and property and to apply the same to the objects specified." (See Annual Report, 1954 for the Purposes of the Research Corporation, folder 27.)

Also during 1955, discussions were held regarding the establishment of the Enrico Fermi Memorial Laboratory of High Energy Physics in Chicago. MURA was approached to see if it would be interested. There is no indication in the papers that MURA ever became involved, however. (See "Reports and Proposals" for the report on the Laboratory, folder 251.)

On August 3, 1955, the AEC met with university presidents of member institutions and indicated support of the MURA study program for the coming year. However, on August 26, Commissioner Libby said no support would be given MURA when he met in Washington with Professor D.W. Kerst, Mr. H.O. Farber and Dr. P.G. Kruger all from the University of Illinois. The NSF and the Office of Naval Research were approached and grants were received from them.

Between October 1955, and January 1956, the following institutions were elected to membership in MURA: Ohio State University, October 1955; Michigan State University, November 1955; Notre Dame, December 1955; Northwestern, December 1955; Washington University at St. Louis, January 1956. In December 1955, the University of Chicago was again invited to membership, accepted and was elected in January 1956.

On November 8 and 13, 1955 meetings were held between the AEC and MURA, and as a result, a cooperative dual accelerator program was established. A long range "dream" machine program under the direction of MURA would be undertaken. It was estimated it would take seven years to complete at a cost of $100,000,000 and it would be "the finest in the world." A formal proposal was submitted to the AEC on April, 1956. A crash program at ANL was also to be established. The Commission would authorize construction of an accelerator in the range of 12 Billion Electron Volts (BeV) at Argonne to be completed as soon as possible. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was constructing a machine with energies higher than any U.S. machine of this period and it would be in operation before the large Brookhaven National Laboratory machine which was scheduled for completion in 1960. This program would prevent the USSR from achieving undisputed leadership in the field.

In February 1956, a contract between MURA and the AEC was established. On March 15, 1956, the contract was signed for $450,000 in support of work to be done by MURA from February 6, 1956-September 30, 1956. Theoretical work started at Madison, Wisconsin, in June, 1956 and on June 10, a contract was let to IBM for delivery of a model 704 IBM computer for the MURA laboratory in Madison. However, on June 13, a letter to Father Hesburgh (Notre Dame) from Lewis Strauss (AEC) suggesting an ANL-MURA merger repudiated all agreements reached the previous November. During this period, site proposals from eleven institutions had been submitted to MURA and three sites were chosen as the most favorable. They were located at the Universities of Wisconsin and Minnesota, and at Purdue. In June, 1956, MURA transmitted to the AEC a "Report of Midwestern Universities Research Association Site Selection Committee" for its use in designating a site. Despite the November, 1955 agreement, the AEC added ANL as a fourth possible site.

In August, 1956 a meeting of MURA representatives and representatives of the University of Chicago and ANL took place. Chancellor Kimpton (University of Chicago) unsuccessfully suggested that a group of influential people from the Midwest representing science, education and industry be organized to take over the AEC contact for operation and management of ANL. Similar proposals were made by Father Hesburgh in June 1956 and would be made by Dr. Fred Seitz (University of Illinois) in early 1957, but were also rejected by the AEC. In October 1956, Dr. T. Johnson (AEC) and others met with MURA representatives. Dr. Johnson stated that: AEC wanted MURA to continue studying; the question of site would be postponed indefinitely; decision on the construction of a large machine would be postponed; no money for construction was being planned; AEC would consider construction of intermediate models at university and national laboratory sites. On November 30, 1956, in a letter to John Williams signed by Commissioner H.S. Vance, the following points were made: the AEC did not want to ask support from Congress for the MURA operation; the Argonne site was most favored by the Commission; MURA should associate itself organizationally with the management of ANL.

From 1955-1956 work was being done by several universities which included:

1) design and construction of radial sector FFAG accelerator by Illinois, Michigan, Purdue and Iowa. (This model was moved to Madison in October 1956 for tests and in order to continue studies on magnetic structures and orbit characteristics.)

2) design and partial construction of a separated FFAG accelerator to be used for further studies concerning high non-linear characteristics of the focusing forces and radio frequency accelerator systems at Illinois.

3) mechanically-modulated R-F cavity (to be moved to Madison for a study of R.F. accelerating systems) at Iowa State.

4) magnet models and measuring equipment at Purdue.

5) theoretical studies and computations using ILIAC and Wisconsin computer at Madison.

6) remodeling building and preparation for installation of IBM machine, October 19, 1956 and establishment of machine and electronic shops at Madison.

On May 23, 1957 a letter to John Williams to Lewis Strauss stated that the Commission would not establish another major laboratory in the Midwest, that MURA must eventually be integrated into the general program at ANL and that the site for the proposed accelerator would be decided by the Commission on the basis of which site would contribute most to maximum usefulness of the accelerator. He also repeated the Commission's desire to make ANL the instrument of cooperation between the universities in the Midwest and the AEC. The current position of the AEC was that the site would be at ANL. In response to Strauss's letter, MURA voted to continue scientific work at Madison. On July 11, 1957, MURA was granted tax exemption as a not-for-profit corporation.

By late 1957 the USSR had the world's highest energy accelerator (10 BeV) in operation. There was a general feeling among MURA people that the Russians were moving ahead of the United States with regard to nuclear research. That the AEC did not share this feeling is clear from a letter to Minnesota's Governor Orville Freeman early in 1958. In it the AEC stated that in 1954 construction had started at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on a 30 BeV accelerator which should be in operation in 1960 and would produce protons with energies three times as high as those of the largest known Russian machine.

On March 14, 1958 MURA prepared a proposal for a High Energy Research Facility and submitted it to the Atomic Energy Commission. Also in 1958, the design and construction of a new 40 million electron volt (MeV) two-way model was underway and theoretical studies and experiments with the two existing models continued. In 1959, the 40 MeV two-way electron model was completed and a proposal for a 15 BeV two-way electron model which was being considered in October, 1958 by the AEC, was withdrawn for further study because costs were too high. In 1960, progress was made in the design of a 15BeV high intensity proton accelerator and it was planned to submit a proposal to the AEC. Also it was decided to plan to operate the 40 MeV two-way model in the one-way mode.

In 1961, completion of the proposal for the high intensity proton accelerator was delayed because more tests were needed and there was a shortage of personnel arising from work done on the electron accelerator. Work was continued on a 50 MeV electron model and it was completed in August. MURA also planned to submit a proposal for a 10 BeV proton accelerator by the end of the year.On March 31, 1962, MURA submitted to the AEC a proposal for a 10 BeV particle accelerator which would utilize the FFAG principle. On December 15, 1962, MURA appeared before the Ramsey Panel (Ad Hoc Panel on High Energy Accelerator Physics of the General Advisory Committee to the AEC and the President's Science Advisory Committee) which recommended that the MURA accelerator proposal be submitted to Congress with an increase of accelerator energy from 10 to 12.5 BeV. The proposal was revised and resubmitted to AEC. (For further information see the 8th Annual Report to the Board of Directors for the Period October 1, 1962-September 30, 1963, attached to the minutes of the Annual Meeting of the Board of Directors, October 28, 1963, folder 105.)

In 1963 construction of a 30-inch hydrogen bubble chamber was completed and the bubble chamber was moved to Argonne. In 1964, the 12.5 BeV accelerator proposal was rejected for reasons stated in a January 22 letter from President Lyndon B. Johnson to Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey. Programs for the year consisted of 1) Zero Gradient Sunchrotrom (ZGS), 2) improvement program for the ZGS, 3) construction of research equipment for ZGS, 4) operation of 50 MeV accelerator, 5) independent linac studies, 6) a design study for an ultra energy accelerator which was started as a result of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy hearings. Much of this work was done in collaboration with the Particle Accelerator Division (PAD) of Argonne National Laboratory.

Associated Midwest Universities was an inter-university corporation with headquarters at Argonne. In 1956, an ad-hoc committee was appointed by Chancellor Kimpton to discuss means of strengthening relationships between Argonne and the Midwest universities. It was chaired by Dr. John Rettaliata (Illinois Institute of Technology) and became known as the Rettaliata Committee. On February 8, 1957, the committee submitted a report to the Chancellor. As a result, the AMU was established in 1958 and was composed of 33 academic and research institutions. The purposes of AMU, as stated in the Articles of Incorporation were:

1)To Promote, encourage and conduct research and education in all branches of science, including but not limited to nuclear science in relation to all other fields of science.

2) To establish means for facilitating the use of the Argonne National Laboratory and other laboratories by duly qualified personnel and students from the several cooperating institutions and other research and educational institutions.

3) To establish, maintain and operate laboratories and other facilities as necessary for research and education.

In January, 1964, the AMU-Argonne, Chicago-MURA Ad-Hoc Committee was established with three representatives from MURA, two from Associated Midwest Universities (AMU), one from ANL and one from the University of Chicago. Professor John Williams from the University of Minnesota represented AMU and served as chairman of the committee which became known as the Williams Committee. The two responsibilities of the committee were the problem of increasing the capabilities of the ZGS at Argonne National Laboratory, and the long-range problem of assuring the growth and development of high energy physics in the Midwest. After a series of meetings the Ad-Hoc Committee submitted its final report on September 23, 1964. The recommendations called for a new organization and a tripartite agreement between the Midwestern universities, ANL and the University of Chicago. On October 21, 1964, the AEC announced the approval of the Tripartite Agreement and it became effective in 1966.

Also in 1964, as a result of the Williams Committee Report, a task force on relationships between AMU members and the new Corporation known as the Argonne Universities Association (AUA) recommended that AMU continue its programs and operate with the same relationships it then had to ANL and the AEC until it became clear how (AUA), would function, what its responsibilities would be, and how adequately it would represent all Midwestern universities, both AMU and non-AMU. (See Appendix C of the minutes of a special meeting of AMU Council, December 20, 1964, folder 219)

In 1965 the Argonne Universities Association was established as an association of 26 universities. They included Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Loyola, Marquette, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue, St. Louis, Washington of St. Louis, Wayne State, Wisconsin, and the Carnegie, Case and Illinois Institutes of Technology.

During the period from 1964-1973, MURA was in the process of dissolution and liquidating assets. On June 19, 1973, the Articles of Dissolution of MURA were filed with the Secretary of State, State of Illinois.


6 boxes (6.0 cubic feet)


This collection consists of the records of the Midwestern Universities Research Association (MURA), a corporation consisting of Midwestern universities established in 1953 to develop a high energy nuclear research facility in the Midwest. The University of Minnesota was one of the seven founding members.


The records are arranged in the following order:

  1. I. Legal Documents. [Includes four subseries: Organizational Papers, Patents, Internal Revenue, and Contracts and Deeds.]
  2. II. Organization Committee of Midwestern Universities Research Association, Inc.
  3. III. Board of Directors. [Includes four subseries: List of Boards of Directors by Fiscal Year, 1955-1967; Annual Meetings; Other Meetings; Meetings Involving Other Organizations.]
  4. IV. Individual Members. [Includes three subseries: Lists of Individual Members by Fiscal Year, 1957-1972; Annual Meetings; Special Meetings.]
  5. V. Executive Committee.
  6. VI. Associated Midwest Universities.
  7. VII. Correspondence and General Files, 1953-1974.
  8. VIII. Site Data. [Includes three subseries: Site Proposals Submitted to MURA, 1956; Correspondence regarding Site Selection, 1955-1958; Site Reports.]
  9. IX. Reports and Proposals.
  10. X. Related Materials.

Source of acquisition

By action of the Midwestern Universities Research Association (MURA) Board of Directors and the individual members, the University of Minnesota Archives was designated the depository for all MURA corporate records with the exception of contract, fiscal and audit records which are on deposit at the Physical Sciences Laboratory, University of Wisconsin, Stoughton. Laurence R. Lunden, Vice President of Business Administration, University of Minnesota, 1959-1971, who had been active in the affairs of MURA from its beginning until its final dissolution in 1973, was largely responsible for the designation of the University of Minnesota as the official repository.

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Midwestern Universities Research Association Records, 1953-1974
Karen Klinkenberg
October 20, 2004
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