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Edmund C. Berkeley papers

Identifier: CBI 50
The Berkeley papers contain correspondence, notes, memoranda, lists, reports, reference material, financial records, publications, and photographs relating to Edmund C. Berkeley and Berkeley Enterprises. The earliest records in the collection relate to his insurance work, the applications of symbolic logic and computing machines to business, the formation of the Association for Computing Machinery, and his military service at Dahlgren. Later records focus on the publications and operations of Berkeley Enterprises, as well as Berkeley's social activism.

While the collection reflects Berkeley's eclectic interests, there are a few subjects that are prominent, such as robotics, social action groups of the 1960s, mathematical and logic games, and computing. Material relating to robotics and teaching machine development at Berkeley Enterprises includes notes, manual drafts, circuit diagrams, and correspondence on development and sales, as well as a few examples of the robot kits and teaching machines sold by the company. The day-to-day business of Berkeley Enterprises is also well documented through memos, financial records, and correspondence. There are some book drafts and a preponderance of background research material. LISP files contain manual drafts and computer printouts, but little correspondence.

Berkeley's interest in social action is demonstrated in files containing information on approximately 175 different organizations including files on SANE that document the growth of and relationship between peace groups in the 1960s. The photographs are largely of Berkeley, computing machines and components, and robots. The videotape was produced by the ACM in 1988 and features an interview of Berkeley.

Correspondents of note include Patrick J. McGovern, Norman Cousins, Linus Pauling, Corliss Lamont, Ivan Sutherland, Menachem S. Arnoni, Ivan Borisov, Svet Lavrov, Florence Luscomb, Hyman Ruchlis, and Richard Ruopp.

In the container list, C Ais Computers and Automation,BEis Berkeley Enterprises, and ECBis Edmund C. Berkeley.

The bulk of the collection is Edmund Berkeley's chronologically arranged numerical subject files. Dates in the Numerical Subject Files reflect the date of filing rather than date of contents, although they generally correlate with each other. The original folder headings have been retained in the list; an elaboration is provided in parentheses when appropriate. This series contains a wide array of material, including correspondence, memos, notes, publications, articles, and sometimes even artifacts.

Berkeley originally used a filing system consisting of nine classifications:

  1. 1. Philosophy
  2. 2. People
  3. 3. Accounts
  4. 4. Mathematics
  5. 5. Notes and references, information
  6. 6. Jobs and projects
  7. 7. Religion
  8. 8. Compositions, reports, writing
  9. 9. Miscellaneous accounts of property, achievements, notes
These categories were subdivided numerically, and some further subdivided numerically or alphabetically.

Around 1953 he revised this system and simply used consecutive numbers as new subjects were filed. This leads to some confusion, particularly with his use of hyphenated numbers that appear on the file folders. In many cases users of this collection must check two possible number combinations for the same subject (e.g. the subject of 4-11 is similar to 411). However, the use of hyphens is not consistent; for example, while 4-11 is similar to 411, 4-12 is not similar to 412. In the former case, users should check classification number 4 (mathematics and symbolic logic) and 411 (symbolic logic and boolean algebra in accounting.

The number 8was used to denote supply file(i.e. copies of an item reproduced for distribution). In the early years, memos and reports for Prudential were the only items to use this category, and the numbers following the 8were consecutive by date of production. Later, there were memos and reports on almost every subject, and the number following the 8denoted the subject. Most of the Prudential memos and reports were filed as #8; later materials have been filed under the second number (e.g., #8-108 is under #108). The number 5was used to designate notes. When the 5is followed by a dash and another number (e.g., 5-10), the materials have been filed under the second number, which denotes the subject.

Often Berkeley used letters to denote subcategories, but his use of them was very inconsistent. Some numbers were used for two different subjects, and these subjects are listed separately under the number.


  • 1923-1988


Language of Materials



CBI holds the copyright to all materials in the collection, except for items covered by a prior copyright (such as published materials). Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provisions of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code).


83 boxes (75 cubic feet)


Contains correspondence, notes, memoranda, lists, reports, reference material, financial records, publications, posters, advertisements, photographs, and a videotape relating to Edmund Berkeley and Berkeley Enterprises. The earliest records in the collection relate to his insurance work, the applications of symbolic logic and computing machines to business, the formation of the Association for Computing Machinery, and his military service at Dahlgren. Later records focus on the publications and operations of Berkeley Enterprises as well as Berkeley's social activism.

Biographical Note

Edmund Callis Berkeley received a BA in mathematics and logic from Harvard University in 1930 after which he worked for Mutual Life Insurance of New York as an actuarial clerk. In 1934 he took a position with Prudential Insurance of America where he eventually became chief research consultant. He joined the U. S. Navy in 1942 and worked at Dahlgren Laboratory as a mathematician. There, he was assigned to Howard Aiken's Harvard Laboratory to work on the sequential calculator project (Mark II).

After leaving the Navy in 1946 he returned to Prudential. In 1947 he helped found the Eastern Association for Computing Machinery, renamed the Association for Computing Machinery in 1948, and served as its first secretary. At Prudential Insurance, Berkeley worked on a hazards projectto identify the greatest modern hazards, and the research convinced Berkeley that nuclear war was the greatest hazard facing mankind. Prudential decided to abandon the project, and forbade Berkeley from working on it even on his own time for fear that it would reflect poorly on the company.

Berkeley felt it was his duty to work against nuclear war and quit Prudential to set up his own business, Berkeley Associates, in 1948. Shortly after the establishment of his company, Berkeley wrote one of the first books on electronic computers for a general audience, Giant Brains, Or Machines That Think(1949), and began research on robotics. He published a quarterly, the Roster of Organizations in the Field of Automatic Computing Machinery,which was soon renamed the Computing Machinery Field,and eventually retitled Computers and Automation.This publication developed into a monthly journal (1951). Berkeley expanded the journal, developed Simon, one of his first robots, and became involved in public education in Newton, Massachusetts. He also set up correspondence courses in general knowledge, mathematics, computers, and logic systems. In 1954, Berkeley Associates incorporated as Berkeley Enterprises, Inc. Most of Berkeley's efforts in publishing, teaching machines, and even his interest in fluoridation was based on the premise that helping the common man to think logically would lead to the end of the nuclear threat.

Berkeley Enterprises employed the talents of a number of individuals, some of whom later gained importance in the computer and other fields. The most notable of these was Patrick J. McGovern, Berkeley's office manager, who eventually founded International Data Corporation (IDC). Researchers should note that not all of the names associated with Berkeley Enterprises were real individuals. Berkeley wrote and published under several pseudonyms, such as Neil D. MacDonald.

Berkeley explored different avenues to supplement his finances. He wrote articles and gave talks, did actuarial consulting, worked part time as consultant for Information International, Inc., particularly for the Navy's HUMRRO project on computer-assisted explanation and LISP. In addition, he reviewed books for the Library of Science series, marketed his books, robots (Brainiacs, Tyniacs and Geniacs), and teaching machines. He continued to write books on computers, logic, and learning.

Berkeley was active in the peace movement and in 1958 became involved with the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) led by Norman Cousins. The 1960 controversy over possible communists in the organization is well reflected in correspondence between Berkeley, Norman Cousins, and Linus Pauling. Berkeley published the Greater Boston Area SANE Newsletter, and later the Newsletter for The Boston Committee for Disarmament and Peace. He wrote numerous articles, letters to the editor, and letters to members of government. He was also active in speaking on disarmament and publicizing events of the peace movement.

Arrangement of Collection

The materials in this collection are arranged into the following groups:
  1. Numerical Subject Files, 1930-1975
  2. Unnumbered Subject Files, 1930, 1943
  3. Berkeley Enterprises Publications, Pamphlets, and Books, 1937-1984
  4. Berkeley Enterprises Robot Kits and Teaching Machines, undated, circa 1958, circa 1963
  5. Photographs and VHS Cassette, undated, 1950, and 1988
  6. Social Action Groups, 1955-1972
  7. Social Action Groups- Publications, 1958-1969


The records were given to the Charles Babbage Institute by Berkeley Enterprises, Inc., in cooperation with the Berkeley family.
Edmund C. Berkeley Papers, 1923-1988. Finding Aid.
Prepared by Pat Hennessy, June 1990; revised by Carrie Seib, June 2003.
March 2004
Language of description

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Charles Babbage Institute Archives Collecting Area