TABLE OF CONTENTS
A Guide to the Paul M. Erlandson Papers, 1933-1990
Paul McKillop Erlandson (1920-2000) was born on October 27, 1920, in Washington, D.C., to Ray Sanford (1893-1991) and Margery Ann McKillop Erlandson (1894-1981). Erlandson had two siblings, Ray Jr., and William D. who all attended elementary school in Downers Grove, IL. Erlandson graduated from Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio in 1937, when he was 16 years old. Erlandson continued his education at MIT graduating with a Bachelor of Science in general engineering in 1941.
During Erlandson’s years at MIT he participated in the debate club eventually becoming president of the society and received his Amateur Radio Station License from the FCC on May 29, 1939 with the call letters “W1MCE.” The base station was in the MIT Dormitories. Erlandson was also a member of the Eta Kappa Nu honors electrical fraternity—today known as the national honor society for computer science and electrical engineering. Erlandson worked as a Test Design Engineer at Crosby Radio Corp. in Cincinnati, OH, during the summer months from 1937-1939. Upon his graduation Erlandson worked as a Cost Control Engineer at RCA Corp in Camden, NJ from 1941-1942.
Erlandson married Elizabeth Bradford Hague in 1941 and they had five children: Ann Bradford, Paul McKillop, Jay Lawrence, David Sanford, and Richard Scott. Elizabeth was a registered nurse earning her degree from Saint Xavier University in the Chicago area and worked as an RN in the Stamford Hospital pediatric ward for many years.
In May of 1942 Erlandson was appointed an Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve and put on active duty in July 1942. He attended Naval Training School at Dartmouth College. Erlandson served as an Electrical Design Project Engineer for the Bureau of Ships in the Navy Department until 1946 and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.
After his separation from the Navy in December 1945, Erlandson went to UT Austin from March 1946 to June 1950 earning both a Master of Arts and a PhD in four years for physics. He earned his master’s in January 1949 with the thesis, “Photo-electronic Synthesis of Musical Tones;” and a PhD with the dissertation, “Photo-electronic Voltage Generation.” His dissertation discussed the storage of information and was done while employed by the Defense Research Laboratory.
Having received his PhD, Erlandson became the Associate Director of the Southwest Research Institute, located in San Antonio, TX, in 1952 and later became the Chairman of the Southwest Research Institute’s Physics Department and Assistant Vice-President in 1955. Later in 1955 Erlandson left the Southwest Research Institute to work in the Department of Physics, Central Research and Engineering Division of the Continental Can Company in Chicago, IL. At Continental Can Company, Erlandson along with a team of 75 scientists and 25 administrative personnel created 34 patents for the production and sealing of food containers. During his time at the Continental Can Company Erlandson was granted an “L Clearance” from the Atomic Energy Commission.
In 1959, Erlandson made a self-described difficult decision to leave Continental Can Company to serve as the Director of Research at Schlumberger Well Surveying Corp. in Ridgefield, CT. However, Erlandson would return to Continental Can Company as the Director of Engineering Research in the Metal R&D Division in 1961. His career continued to grow at the Continental Can Company when in 1967 he became he Director of Corporate Research giving him responsibility for long range research in packing materials, physical sciences, and manufacturing systems. In 1972, he became the General Manager of Corporate Research and Development. Erlandson received the Eli Whitney award from the Connecticut Intellectual Property Law Association in 1984. The award is given to individuals who contribute significantly to law or science.
Erlandson passed away on September 28, 2000.
"Paul McKillop Erlandson,"UT Physics History. Accessed April 8, 2015. http://web2.ph.utexas.edu/utphysicshistory/UTexas_Physics_History/Paul_M._Erlandson.html
The papers represent different periods in Paul M. Erlandson’s life. Within the papers are scrapbook pages from the Century of Progress International Exposition in Chicago; Erlandson’s life at MIT and UT is represented by the correspondence from Erlandson’s parents, 3 diplomas, and his dissertation. There are also multiple amateur radio cards collected by Erlandson during his time at UT.
Erlandson’s professional life is represented by the articles, correspondence, and certificates received throughout his long career at the Continental Can Company and the Southwest Research Institute. There are official U.S. Department of Navy papers documenting his enlistment and his separation from the Navy. The security clearance papers contain letters and official documents from 1946, 1950, and 1957-1958. A vast majority of the papers are U.S. and European patents and inventions that Erlandson probably used for research on his many patents, including the “SPARKY” Process, which is also represented in the collection.
The miscellaneous papers contain correspondence, notably a letter from Lyndon B. Johnson from 1951, a biographical sketch, a passport, a photo of Erlandson and his wife, Elizabeth, and some of Erlandson’s writing, for example a sermon entitled, “Faith, Religion and Technology,” an article written for the Society for the Investigation of Recurring Events entitled, “Business Cycles and the Information Age,” and personal notes.
The variety of topics and documents within the papers demonstrates how versatile an engineering and physics education can be.
This collection is open for research use.
Erlandson (Paul M.) Papers, 1933-1990, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Rachel Nellis, April 2015.