Wesley A. Clark Papers


Reference code


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Wesley A. Clark Papers



12.5 cubic feet (32 boxes)

Name of creator


Biographical history

Wesley Allison Clark is credited as the designer of the first personal computer and for being a pioneering architect of many other important computers characterized by their interactive nature including the first computer with a ferrite-core memory, the first all-transistorized computer, and the first computer with a million-bit memory.

Clark earned a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1947. In the course of further graduate study and research in reactor physics at the Hanford site of the Atomic Energy Commission, he became interested in the developing field of digital computers. He joined the Lincoln Laboratory at MIT in 1952 to explore this new field while he worked on a degree in electrical engineering, which he received in 1955 from MIT. At the Lincoln Laboratory, one of Clark's first projects was working on Project Whirlwind, an early vacuum tube computer prototype of the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system which monitored a series of US Air Force radars for the purpose of detecting Russian bombers flying over the North Pole.

Clark spent twelve years at MIT participating in various computer development activities as Associate Group Leader of the Digital Computer Group at Lincoln Laboratory, a member of the research staff of the Research Laboratory of Electronics, and a Lecturer in Electrical Engineering. During this time, Clark led the design of two significant experimental computers: the Lincoln TX-0 (the world's first transistorized computer) and the TX-2, which introduced a graphical computer interface. Clark and his associates at MIT then built a prototype of his design for the LINC (Laboratory INstrument Computer) in 1962 using modules made by the Digital Equipment Corporation.

Clark came to Washington University from MIT in 1964 when he was appointed Research Professor of Computer Science, and he brought with him many of the computer engineers who were on his team that had developed the LINC. Along with Charles Molnar at the university's Computer Systems Laboratory, Clark created the macromodule project, a set of computer building blocks that laid the foundations for asynchronous computation. From 1967-1972, Clark directed the laboratory's program in the development of macromodular computer systems and their application to problems in biomedical research. In 1967 at a Department of Defense principal investigators meeting, Clark proposed using a small computer as an interface message processor (IMP), an idea that was fundamental to the design of the first packet network and helped to launch the modern networking industry.

Clark was selected as one of only five American computer scientists who were invited to visit China for three weeks in 1972 in order to tour computer facilities and to discuss computer technology with Chinese computer science experts. This visit sparked his interest in text processing Chinese characters by computer. Following his visit to China, Clark left Washington University in 1972 to move to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he pursued a career as a consultant. Although no longer affiliated with Washington University, he continued to serve on the university's Computer Laboratories Advisory Committee, and acted as a consultant to other academic, governmental, and industrial organizations. In 1977-1978, he took part in the VLSI research program at the California Institute of Technology as the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Scholar. Clark moved to New York City in 1981, joined the consulting group of Sutherland, Sproull, and Associates the following year, and continued working on the computer transcription of Chinese characters with support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Clark was a National Lecturer of the Association for Computing Machinery in 1966 and a Lecturer in the Distinguished Visitor Program of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 1968. He served on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Use of Computers in the Life Sciences (1961-1963), the Computer Science and Engineering Board (1968-1971), and the Committee on Scholarly Communication with the Peoples Republic of China (1974-1976). He received the ACM-IEEE Eckert-Mauchly Award for Computer Architecture in 1981 and was a charter recipient of the IEEE Computer Pioneer Award for "First Personal Computer." He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1999.

Scope and content

This collection contains materials related to Wesley Clark’s work in the field of computer science and his involvement in international scholarly exchanges, with a small part of the collection related to his personal life. Materials related to his work in computer science focus primarily on the LINC (Laboratory INstrument Computer), Macromodular Computer Systems and processing written Chinese for computer display. There is a modest representation in the collection of Clark’s non-LINC work carried out at MIT:  Project Whirlwind, Lincoln Writer, L-1, and TX-2. These portions of the collection contain technical reports, memos, prototype drawings, LINC Evaluation program proceedings, publications, working notebooks, and notecards. The notebooks Wesley Clark used to develop his design of the LINC are of particular interest. Contract work represented includes Xerox PARC and Burroughs Corporation and contain expense statements, check stubs, reports, consulting agreements and correspondence.

Clark was involved in scholarly exchanges with the People’s Republic of China and the collection contains materials on multiple trips to China and materials from the CSCPRC (Committee on Scholarly Communication with the People’s Republic of China). Of particular interest is the 1972 visit to China where Clark, along with five other American computer experts (most accompanied by their wives), were selected to tour Chinese computer facilities. Materials include correspondence, minutes, newsletters, itineraries, travel journals, conference materials, brochures, articles, reports, notes, and ephemera.

Roughly half the collection is visual material in the form of photographs, contact sheets, negatives and slides. The majority of the visual collection include contact sheets and negatives (with a few photos) related to the projects and work carried out by the Computer Research Laboratory (CRL), later renamed the Computer Systems Laboratory, and focus on the LINC and Macromodular Computer Systems. Photographs, negatives and contact sheets of the 1972 trip to China are also noteworthy.

System of arrangement

Conditions governing access

This collection is open and accessible for research.

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Users of the collection should read and abide by the Rights and Permissions guidelines at the Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives.

Users of the collection who wish to cite items from this collection, in whole or in part, in any form of publication must request, sign, and return a Statement of Use form to the Archives.

For detailed information regarding use of this collection, contact the Archives and Rare Book Department of the Becker Library (arb@wusm.wustl.edu).

Preferred Citation:

Item description, Reference Code, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University in St. Louis.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

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"Describing Archives: A Content Standard, Second Edition (DACS), 2013."

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© Copyright 2019 Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives. All rights reserved.

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