Throughout his life and career, as a professional engineer, international consultant, theorist, and linguist, Henry James Barrington Nevitt was associated with the phenomenon of modern communications. His interest in the theoretical aspects of mass media and communications resulted in a professional association and personal friendship with Professor Marshall McLuhan of the Centre for Culture and Technology, University of Toronto. In addition to being a prolific writer, who even experimented with science fiction, Nevitt was an international lecturer.
Nevitt was born in 1908 in St. Catharines, Ontario and spent his early years abroad, returning to Toronto from England in 1917. From 1920 to 1930, Nevitt was involved in the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of radio equipment. Nevitt was employed as a radio operator for the Canadian Marconi Company on coast and ship stations between 1927 and 1928. For a year, he served as a bush pilot in training with the Ontario Provincial Air Service. In 1932 Nevitt went to Leningrad to work as a research and development engineer at Zavod Elecktropibor where he assisted in the development of VHF measurement techniques. In 1933, Nevitt returned to Canada and worked with the Northern Electric Company in Montreal as a manufacturing engineer of telecommunication equipment, remaining with the company until 1939. During WWII, Nevitt worked on various sensitive projects at Canadian Pacific and Defence Communications Ltd, and as an engineer developing radio teletype systems at RCA. He remained with RCA as an executive engineer until 1947.
Nevitt received his Bachelor of Applied Science, Electrical Engineering, from the University of Toronto in 1941 and his Master of Engineering in Telecommunications degree from McGill University in 1945. From 1947 to 1960 Nevitt worked for the Swedish international public utilities firm L.M. Ericsson of Stockholm as a telecommunications troubleshooter in various locales including Caracas, Venezuela, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In the early 1960’s, Nevitt served as a consultant to the Royal Commission for Government Organization, and returned to work for the Northern Electric Company and for other private and governmental bodies. In 1963, he joined the Ontario Development Corporation as a manager in research and consultative services, rising to become the corporation’s Director of Innovations.
Nevitt’s association with Marshall McLuhan began while he was a graduate student. From 1965 until McLuhan’s death in 1980, they wrote various articles and papers together. In 1968, McLuhan invited Nevitt to collaborate on the book later published under the title Take Today; the Executive as Drop Out. For more than a decade, Nevitt assisted McLuhan in the conducting of weekly seminars at the Centre for Culture and Technology.
Nevitt published several works throughout the later portion of his career including: ABC of Prophecy, (1982), The Communication Ecology (1982), Keeping Ahead of Economic Panic (1985), Who Was Marshall McLuhan? (co-written with Maurice McLuhan 1993), and the self published science fiction work Captain Gulliver’s Interplanetary Travels.
Nevitt died in 1995.
Biographical sketch provided by original finding aid records transferred from the Thomas Fisher Library. This sketch used a detailed biography found within Nevitt’s fonds.
3.5 m of textual records
· 29 prints (28 b&w 1 col.)
· 1 contact sheet (b&w)
· 10 slides (col.)
3 audio recordings
· 1 audio cassette (1 hr.)
· 1 compact disc (ca. 1 hr.)
· 1 flexi disc (33 ⅓ r.p.m., 18 cm)
· 2 decks of Marshal McLuhan themed playing cards
This fonds is divided into 11 series reflecting the filing system used by Nevitt during his career, and based on subject divisions. The series are: ‘Subject Files’, ‘Early Manuscripts’, ‘Northern Electric Company’, ‘Discoveries International Symposium’, ‘Management by PreVision’, ‘Published Articles and Papers’, ‘Captain Gulliver’s Interplanetary Travels’, ‘ABC’, ‘Correspondence’, ‘Who Was Marshall McLuhan’, and ‘Printed Materials’.
The first series ‘Subject Files’, consists of 57 files containing a variety of textual records including correspondence, notes, printed materials, clippings, manuscripts, typescripts, photographs, ephemera, and overhead transparencies, and a small amount of audio recordings in various formats. The records are grouped together in individual files based on subject matter divisions reflecting specific creative and academic projects that Nevitt worked on alone and in conjunction with McLuhan, and topics of interest to Nevitt. The series also contains a file of collected photographs and a file titled ‘Ephemera and Mixed Media’, which contains a small collection of audio records.
The second series ‘Early Manuscripts’ consists of typescripts, and drafts of various academic manuscripts and papers written by Nevitt. The records in this series were created between 1945 – 1965.
The third series ‘Northern Electric Company’ includes notes, seminar material, and clippings compiled by Nevitt during his time with the Northern Electric Company between 1961 and 1962. The series includes material from various seminars organized by the American Management Association and attended by Nevitt.
The fourth series ‘Discoveries International Symposium’ includes correspondence, notes, ephemera, and symposium and conference materials related to Nevitt’s participation in Discoveries International Symposiums held in 1977 and 1978.
The fifth series, ‘Management by PreVision’ includes notes, clippings, drafts, correspondence, and other textual records related to Nevitt’s book project ‘Management by PreVision’.
The sixth series ‘Published Articles and Papers’, includes a collection of chronologically arranged articles and manuscripts written and published by Nevitt and others between 1951-1994, and related correspondence.
The seventh series ‘Captain Gulliver’s Interplanetary Travels’, includes correspondence, clippings, notes, contracts, manuscripts, and other textual records related to Nevitt’s science fiction book project of the same name.
The eighth series ‘ABC of Prophecy’ includes clippings, notes, manuscripts, and other textual records related to Nevitt’s book project of the same name.
The ninth series ‘Correspondence’ includes a collection of chronologically arranged correspondence related to Nevitt and generated between 1966 – 1993.
The tenth series ‘Who Was Marshall McLuhan’ includes correspondence, notes, clippings, and other textual records related to the book of the same name that was co-authored by Nevitt and Maurice McLuhan.
The eleventh series ‘Printed Materials’, includes monographs, periodicals, and published journal articles generated between 1953 – 1994 by Nevitt, Marshall McLuhan and other writers working on topics of interest to Nevitt.
This fonds includes textual material relating to the following books and publications:
- Telecommunication Equipment for Power Systems Developments and Application in Sweden (book, 1953)
- Causality in the Electronic World (book, 1972)
- Take Today: The Executive as Dropout (book, 1972)
- Encyclopedia of the Future Under the Direction of the Hudson Institute (article, 1973)
- Managing Change by Anticipating its Effects on People (article, 1973)
- New Media (book, 1973)
- Development and Underdevelopment in the Electric Age (article, 1974)
- The Responsive Chord (book, 1974)
- ABC of Prophecy (book, 1980)
- Archivist as Comprehensivist (article, 1981)
- The Communication Ecology (book, 1982)
- The Future of Media (book, 1982)
- Keeping Ahead of Economic Panic (book, 1985)
- Captain Gulliver’s Interplanetary Travels (book, 1986)
- Who Was Marshal McLuhan (book, 1993)
- From MBO to MBP (article)
- Management by PreVision (article)
A) No access restriction.
B) Material is subject to copyright restrictions; please consult an archivist.