Harvey Fletcher Sr. and BYU

The Brigham Young University Archives is proud to announce the acquisition of the Harvey Fletcher family papers (UA 5540). These papers document the life of world-renowned physicist Harvey Fletcher and his family. The collection includes materials gathered by Maureen Meyer Fletcher for her master’s thesis in film and include significant biographical materials related to Harvey Fletcher. The materials cover from ca. 1884 to 1982. The collection also includes information on Fletcher’s wife, Lorena. Portions of the collection consist of audio-visual materials that are currently unavailable to the public but other elements of the collection are ready for research. To gain access to this collection, please contact the University Archivist using the contact information at the end of this post.

Harvey Fletcher’s association with Brigham Young University began in the early years of the twentieth century as a high school student. Fletcher graduated from Brigham Young High School in 1904 and promptly enrolled as a student at Brigham Young University. In 1906 Fletcher helped lay out the block Y that has come to symbolize Brigham Young University across the world. Fletcher graduated in 1907 and pursued graduate work at the University of Chicago under the tutelage of Robert Millikan. He became the first student to graduate summa cum laude in physics at the University of Chicago. Shortly before his graduation, Fletcher was approached by President George H. Brimhall about returning to teach at Brigham Young University. Fletcher readily agreed to return to his alma mater as the chairman of the Department of Physics. He taught at Brigham Young University until 1916 when he was offered a research position at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York.

Fletcher took the position with Bell Telephone Laboratories and worked there for the next thirty-three years. It was while with the Bell Laboratories that he gained his reputation as the father of stereophonic sound and did pioneering work on hearing aids. Following his retirement from the Bell Laboratories, Fletcher was appointed professor of physics at Columbia University in New York City (a position that he held for two years).

Harvey Fletcher is second from the left, ca. 1950

In 1952, at the urging of President Ernest L. Wilkinson, Fletcher returned to Brigham Young University as the director of research (1952-1955) of the Engineering Sciences Department. He became the founding dean of the College of Physical and Engineering Sciences in 1954 and served the university well for the next three years.

Individuals interested in studying the life of Harvey Fletcher should also consult the following sources held in the University Archives:

  • MSS 1233 Harvey Fletcher papers. This collection includes correspondence, reports, publications, and other materials documenting Fletcher’s life. Access the finding aid for this collection by clicking here.
  • UA 909 Faculty Biographical File. This collection contains information on Fletcher’s career at Brigham Young University.
  • UA OH 6 Oral history interview with Harvey Fletcher, Sept. 19, 1968. Interview by Hollis Scott with Harvey Fletcher, scientist and teacher, concerning his experiences in Provo, Utah, as a graduate student at the University of Chicago, as a teacher at BYU, and as a bishop and stake president in the New York Stake.
  • UA 129 Addresses in honor of Harvey Fletcher. This collection includes typewritten, edited and final drafts of speeches about Fletcher written and given by William L. Woolf and George H. Hansen, a memorandum concerning a speech from Ernest L. Wilkinson to George H. Hansen, a record of Fletcher’s professional experience, and biographical information submitted to Who’s Who in America.
  • D 1.023 .P477 2006 Good and Great: A Biography of Harvey Fletcher by Michael Fletcher Perry.
  • BX 8670.1 .F634a 1967 Autobiography of Harvey Fletcher by Harvey Fletcher.
  • PN 1619.021. F62 1996 The Caroling of Atoms: The Life’s Work of Dr. Harvey Fletcher by Maureen Meyer Fletcher.
  • BX 8647 .B76m 1960 Science and religion by Harvey Fletcher.

If you have questions about these collections, please contact the University Archivist at (801) 422-5821 or gordon_daines@byu.edu

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