York, Herbert F. (Herbert Frank)

Alternative names
Birth 1921-11-24
Death 2009-05-19

Biographical notes:

Experimental physicist who was founding director of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and first Chancellor of the University of California, San Diego. York also was a member of Presidential Scientific Advisory Committee under Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson, and Chief Scientist of the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency.

From the description of Papers, ca. 1958-1999. (University of California, San Diego). WorldCat record id: 20293837

A physicist by profession, York (b. 1921) worked on the Manhattan Project, directed the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, and served as nuclear arms advisor to Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter. After helping to found the new campus of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) at La Jolla and serving as its first chancellor, he remained at UCSD as a professor of physics, dean of graduate studies, and from 1983 as director of the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. He has achieved international prominence for his active role in arms control negotiations.

From the description of Papers, 1961-1983. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 78403408

York was Director of Defense Research and Engineering.

From the description of Recommendation Against Scheduled Transfer of Centaur to NASA : letter to T. Keith Glennan, NASA Administrator, 1959 May 18. (Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives). WorldCat record id: 733095984

Born 1921-1982.

From the description of Oral history interview with Herbert F. York, 1975 September 9 and 13 May 1976. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 79664137

From the description of Oral history interview with Herbert F. York, 1980 September 24. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 78228376


Herbert Frank York was born on November 24, 1921, in Rochester, New York. He earned B.A. and M.S. degrees at the University of Rochester in 1942 and 1945, and the Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley, in 1949, all in experimental physics. His early career as a physicist and military science advisor (1943-58) focused on the development of nuclear weapons, while his later career as an advisor, consultant and professor have focussed on disarmament.

In 1943, while still a graduate student, York was recruited by the University of California Radiation Laboratory to work on uranium production for the Manhattan Project. After the war, York finished his graduate work at UC-Berkeley in 1949, and in 1950, with Hugh Bradner, planned and designed Operation Greenhouse, the atomic test at Eniwetok for diagnostic measurements of atomic blast. The following year he joined the physics faculty of UC-Berkeley.

In 1952, E. O. Lawrence asked York to prepare plans for a new weapons development laboratory, today known as Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. Following Atomic Energy Commission approval for the lab, York served as director of the lab from 1952-1958. It was during this period that he began informing U.S. defense policy-makers, serving on Army, Air Force and Defense Department advisory groups (1953-57: USAF Science Advisory Board; 1955-58: Secy Defense Ballistic Missile Advisory Committee; 1956-58: US Army Science Advisory Panel). York left Livermore for Washington, D.C., in 1958 to accept two positions within the Office of the Secretary of Defense: Director of Defense Research and Engineering and the Chief Scientist of the Advanced Research Project's Agency (ARPA, later known as DARPA). Before leaving Washington, York also served as the youngest member on Eisenhower's Presidential Science Advisory Committee (1957-1958). He served on PSAC again under Johnson in 1964-68.

In 1961, York returned to the west coast to become the first chancellor of the University of California, San Diego. After moving to UCSD, York maintained his involvement in high-level defense policy-making. President Kennedy appointed York to the General Advisory Committee of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (USACDA) in 1962, a position he held until 1969. He has been on the board of trustees of two not-for-profit think tanks since the 1960s, the Aerospace Corporation and the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). York acted also as an advisor to IDA's JASON division, a high-level science advisory group that York helped establish as Chief Scientist of ARPA in the late 1950s. York returned to Washington, D.C., (1977-81) to be a senior consultant to the Office of the Secretary of Defense in 1977-1981 and served on the Defense Science Board in 1978-1981. During the Carter Administration, York served as U.S. ambassador to the Comprehensive Test Ban talks (1978-80).

At UCSD, York's tenure as UCSD chancellor was brief. He stepped down from the post in 1964, preferring to join the physics faculty. In 1969-1970, he was dean of graduate studies and in 1970-1972 was re-appointed as acting chancellor after William McGill's departure from that position until the appointment of William McElroy. York set up a program at UCSD called Science, Technology and Public Affairs to teach about and do research related to the arms race. After his four-year leave in Washington, D.C., York was appointed director of UCSD's Institute on Global Conflict on Cooperation, whose mission is "...to promote academic study of peace and security issues on all campuses of the university." York retired in 1988 and is currently director emeritus. He has written three books on his experiences as a defense advisor, RACE TO OBLIVION (1970), THE ADVISORS (1976), and MAKING WEAPONS, TALKING PEACE (1987).

From the guide to the Herbert F. York Papers, 1958-1999, (University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.)


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  • Arms race
  • Nuclear physics--Biography
  • Nuclear energy
  • Selective dissemination of information
  • Korean War, 1950-1953
  • Atomic bomb
  • Nuclear physics
  • Mesons
  • Physics--Political aspects
  • Science and state
  • Nuclear nonproliferation
  • Nuclear arms control
  • Nuclear weapons--History
  • Centaur project
  • Particle accelerators--Design and construction
  • Physicists--Biography
  • Physics--Study and teaching
  • Calutron
  • Nuclear disarmament
  • Military research
  • Cyclotrons
  • Nuclear weapons--Political aspects
  • Cloud chamber
  • Nuclear energy--Research
  • Nuclear reactors
  • Arms race--History--20th century
  • World War, 1939-1945--Science


  • Physicists


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