Melbert Peterson Collection on J. P. Magnusson

MSS 84
2.5 linear inches


Peterson, Melbert.




There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Access points:

Magnusson, J. P., 1872-1946.
Augustana College (Rock Island, Ill.)--Faculty.
Augustana College (Rock Island, Ill.). Chemistry Department.
Augustana College (Rock Island, Ill.). Wallberg Hall of Science.

Finding aid prepared by:

Emily Hughes Dominick, 2007


Augustana College Special Collections
Thomas Tredway Library
639 38th Street
Rock Island, Illinois 61201

Acquisition Information
Historical Note
Scope and Content
System of Arrangement
Box List
Related Collections


Donated by Dr. Melbert Peterson in 1990.



John P. Magnusson was born December 12, 1872 and grew up in western Minnesota. He received his B. A. from Gustavus Adolphus College (1898), M. A. from University of Minnesota (1902), and Ph. D. in Chemistry from Cornell University (1907). Before accepting a professorship from Augustana College, Magnusson taught and worked in administration at several high schools and then was an instructor at Cornell while he finished his graduate studies. In 1907, Magnusson became professor of Chemistry at Augustana College, a position he would hold until 1946. When he took this position at Augustana, he became the third Chemistry specialist in the history of the school, following Jacob Westlund (1888-1889) and V. O. Peterson (1890-1906). While the Science Department had assistant instructors for the fields of chemistry, physics, biology, geology and other natural and physical sciences, each major area had only one professor. This would remain true for Magnusson's tenure.

Magnusson, along with the other science professors and assistants, worked out of Ericson Hall, a brick house that had been converted to lab space. This was inadequate space for this purpose, but was used until 1935. Due in large part to the poor science facilities at Augustana, the College was in danger of losing its accreditation from the North Central Association. Funds were donated by Marie Wallberg that were allocated for the erection of a new science building. A planning committee for a new science building was formed and consisted of Dr. Andreen (president of the College), an architectural consultant, a building consultant, and four science instructors, including Magnusson. Together, this committee developed a plan for Wallberg Hall of Science. The new building was completed and ready for use in 1935.

Magnusson was known as "Doc" to students and colleagues alike and was remembered as often having a pipe in hand when he lectured or led small group discussions. He was a thorough teacher who pushed his students to understand ideas rather than just memorize facts. By all accounts, he was an enthusiastic teacher with unfailing patience and a talent for inspiring others.

Magnusson married Margaret Bersell in 1910. They had three children: John, Lawrence, and Connie. All three of their children attended Augustana College and studied under their father. Magnusson died in 1946 after a brief battle with an aggressive form of abdominal cancer. A J. P. Magnusson Memorial Scholarship is awarded annually to Augustana chemistry majors.



This collection was compiled by Dr. Melbert Peterson who, along with the rest of the Augustana College chemistry department, called for remembrances of J. P. Magnusson in the April 1982 Augustana College Magazine and the annual Augustana Department of Chemistry alumni Christmas letter of 1981. It includes the letters received in response to these requests, as well as longer narratives written by Dr. Fritiof Fryxell. One of the narratives by Fryxell is about the building of the Wallberg Hall of Science which touches on Magnusson's involvement in this endeavor. There are also several relevant letters that predate the call for information.



This collection was stored in a three-ring binder. For preservation reasons, the materials have been separated out of the binder and placed in acid-free folders. As this is a small collection, there is only one series that is taken from the title placed on the binder: Remembrances of "Doc" Magnusson by former students. The items that were organized in the binder are placed first in the series, with the loose items likely added later placed at the end of the series.



Box 1
      Remembrances of "Doc" Magnusson by former students
            Letters, 1981-1982
            Letters, 1983-1984
            Letters, 1969, 1974 [given to M. Peterson in 1986]
            "The planning of Wallberg Hall," 1980
            "J. P. Magnusson: excerpts from the transcript of a tape recording made by Fritiof Fryxell," August 26, 1983



Augustana Historical Society records, MSS 203

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