Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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Donald Redfield Griffin, American Zoologist: Report on Archival Research

January 14, 2022

Donald Redfield Griffin (1915-2003) was an American zoologist best known for his discovery of echolocation and for his later work on animal consciousness. He was a central figure in behavioral biology and sensory physiology in the United States, and he made important contributions to the disciplinary and intellectual development of animal behavior research in the second half of the twentieth century. During his early career, he focused on the sensory physiology of animal navigation. Along with fellow Harvard graduate student Robert Galambos (1914-2010), in the late 1930s, Griffin discovered the ultrasonic method of orientation in bats; in 1944, he coined the term "echolocation" to describe this phenomenon as a general method of perception. In addition to his discovery of echolocation, Griffin also made several contributions to understanding the physiological basis of bird migration and navigation, and he popularized in the United States zoologist Karl von Frisch's (1886-1982) dance language theory of the honeybee. In 1976, Griffin surprised the scientific world by raising the question of animal consciousness, a taboo in professional science for most of the twentieth century. Beginning with his provocative book, The Question of Animal Awareness (1976), Griffin devoted the second phase of his career to making animal consciousness a scientifically respectable topic once again. Here again, he made significant contributions to the study of animal behavior by establishing a new field of science, cognitive ethology, which is centered on the evolutionary and comparative analysis of consciousness and cognition in animal behavior.

Biology and Medical Research; Detlev W. Bronk Papers; Donald R. Griffin Papers; Rockefeller University

Beyond Eradication: Scientific Partnerships in Brazil and the Malaria Service of the Northeast

December 14, 2021

The study of mosquito-borne diseases, such as yellow fever and malaria, promoted an important international cooperation effort throughout the twentieth century. These activities are already well represented by a historiography dedicated to the so-called field of Rockefeller Foundation studies. Scholars have looked at the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation (IHDRF) in Brazil as one of the great promoters of this cooperation, which was frequently involved with a series of complex negotiations, setbacks, and controversies. On the other hand, few studies have explored the development of cooperation between Brazilian and American scientists regarding fieldwork and continuity of research related to medical entomology and the study of microorganisms transmitted by mosquitoes. I intend to explore how scientific cooperation between Brazilians and Americans continued in light of the many challenges. They pursued their research objectives, even after the end of the cooperative eradication campaigns promoted by IHDRF, which had specific objectives, delimited by budgets and defined steps. Such is the case with the Cooperative Yellow Fever Service (CYFS) and the Malaria Service of the Northeast (MSNE). My research has benefitted from the reports, articles, and publications found in the collections of the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) and has resulted in historical reflections on fundamental aspects of cooperation between researchers involved in IHDRF projects and on the history of mosquito-borne diseases. The research carried out at RAC has contributed to my publication of articles and important updates in a recently published book, and has also outlined plans for future projects.

Biology and Medical Research; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

A History of Diabetes at the Rockefeller Archive Center: The Development of Oral Hypoglycaemic Drugs and the UGDP Debate

December 3, 2021

With very generous research funding provided by the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), I was able to travel from Scotland in early August 2018.  This was my first trip to the RAC, as well as my first time in the United States.  Having just finished up at a three-month internship at the Scottish government, I was thrilled to be granted time and financial support for archival research.  This report presents a summary of my time at the RAC and how the material I accessed there has supported my thesis.  For those interested in the history of pharmacy in the second half of the twentieth century, or specifically the history of diabetes, this report provides an overview of the history of the development of the first oral anti-diabetic agents. It highlights the debate that followed one of the most contentious medical trials in the history of medicine, the University Group Diabetes Program.

Biology and Medical Research; Mass Communications; Medicine and Healthcare; The Medical Letter

The Franco-American Race for the Yellow Fever Vaccine

August 30, 2021

This paper looks at the cooperation and rivalry between the Rockefeller Foundation and the French Pasteur Institute during the development of the 17-D and Dakar vaccine strains for inoculation against yellow fever. Using sources held at the Rockefeller Archive Center, this paper recovers the tenuous relationship between the researchers funded by the two institutions, and shows how their work was shaped by national, imperial, and scientific rivalries. In the race to the yellow fever vaccine, the Pastorians, in particular, utilized their imperial network, which allowed them to bypass ethical concerns raised by researchers in Paris and elsewhere, and proceeded to human trials using a vaccine that had been criticized for its adverse neurological effects on certain subjects. 

Biology and Medical Research; International Health Board; Medicine and Healthcare; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

Primates and Population in Postcolonial India

January 5, 2021

In May 1963, Dr. Sheldon Segal convened a meeting of reproductive biologists at the Population Council's offices in New York City. He had called them there to consider "the possibility of concentrating efforts to increase fertility control research by means of establishing a large primate center in India." The proposal was an outgrowth of Segal's consultancy work for the Ford Foundation in New Delhi, and he was keen to pursue it. Segal regarded India – "a country with an abundant monkey supply" – as an ideal place to establish a cost-effective primate center for contraceptive research.   

Biology and Medical Research; Ford Foundation; Population Council; Population and Reproductive Sciences

Saiki Tadasu and the Making of the Global Science of Nutrition, 1900-1927

December 2, 2020

This paper examines the activities of Saiki Tadasu, a leading Japanese nutrition scientist of the early twentieth century.  According to his American counterpart, Dr. Victor G. Heiser, Saiki's work was "of great benefit to the human race."  Using a variety of sources in Japanese archives, the Rockefeller Archive Center, and the League of Nations Archives, this paper focuses on Saiki to explore Japan's role in the making of a global science of nutrition, and to map out an international network of intellectual cooperation and knowledge circulation on nutrition science during this period. Inspired by the work of Iris Borowy and Tomoko Akami, it illustrates a world of scientific knowledge-sharing about human well-being which extended geographically beyond the Atlantic world, and thematically beyond disease control. Following Saiki's lead, from 1900 to 1927, Japanese nutrition scientists contributed to growing public recognition of the importance of nutrition science and championed its global development.

Biology and Medical Research; Food and Nutrition; International Health Board; Interwar Years; John Z. Bowers Papers; Rockefeller Foundation

The Fly Room: The Invention of Genetics, the Science of Evolution

December 13, 2018

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology was awarded to three scientists who studied domestic fruit flies—Drosophila melanogaster—in outer space to understand how humans have adapted to life on earth. This adaptation of fruit fly research to the farthest reaches of human experience may not seem surprising, given that they were the first animals ever brought into orbit, and have been used to study so many diverse facets of life on this planet. But how did we and the flies get here?

Biology and Medical Research; Genetics

Andrew H. Woods in China and the United States: A Medical History Study at the Rockefeller Archive Center

June 25, 2018

In 1872, Andrew H. Woods was born in Hartwood, Virginia. He obtained a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1899 and became a resident at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital after graduation. In 1900, he arrived in Canton, China, for the first time. He worked as a surgical trainee, neurologist and dermatologist at Canton Hospital. Then, he returned to the United States in 1907 and worked as an intern at a private hospital in Bryn Mawr, Philadelphia. In 1908, Woods transferred to the Pennsylvania Hospital as an anesthesiologist and also served as a neurological assistant physician at the Philadelphia hospital. Between 1908 and 1911, Woods had multiple responsibilities. He was a lecturer in neurology at the Pennsylvania Medical School, an assistant physician in neurology and an assistant physician in psychiatry at the Philadelphia Hospital. Having various roles became a feature of many clinicians in that era. Although medical science was divided into distinct subjects, the boundaries between clinical subjects were not strictly defined, especially in non-surgical departments.  So, it provided a space for many doctors to change their clinical roles. By the 20th century, clinical medicine sub-divisions were based on the organ system, and no longer classified according to clinical symptoms. Therefore, diseases in different department may show the same or similar symptoms. For example, neurological diseases could show skin symptoms. A neurologist was also a dermatologist, which was relatively easy to understand.

Academic Research and Education; Biology and Medical Research; China Medical Board, Inc.; Medicine and Healthcare

Rockefeller International Health Division and Nutrition Studies

June 5, 2018

My dissertation explores the science of nutrition in Britain in the first half of the 20th century. Archival research in the United Kingdom led me to explore further the Anglo-American connections related to the science of nutrition, and ask how American philanthropy came to shape the European scientific community working on public health. The Rockefeller Foundation (RF) was the single most influential American organization in the establishment of British nutritional labs, particularly those in Cambridge, and was also involved in educational programs in fields related to nutrition: agriculture, natural sciences and bio-chemistry. Many of the key figures I study in my dissertation, such as Harriet Chick, Clemens von Pirquet, and Robert Leiper, were supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. Understanding the nature of those American-European and American-British connections is a crucial part of my dissertation and will hone my contribution to the field of interwar internationalism and science.

Biology and Medical Research; Food and Nutrition; Rockefeller Foundation

The Several Meanings of Global Health History: The Case of Yellow Fever

November 2, 2017

I am writing a global history of yellow fever aiming to interrogate the yellow fever story at the global, international, and national levels. Mark Harrison did this for a number of diseases in his recent study of commerce and contagion. Yellow fever has engendered a fund of excellent historical scholarship by Jamie Benchimol, Marcos Cueto, Ilana Löwy, Nancy Stepan, Liora Bigon, and many others. My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center examined materials created before the 1948 founding of the World Health Organization. I wanted to ask, for example, if we ought to think of yellow fever as a global disease. More precisely, when did it become that, if it did? It wasn't long ago that some of our colleagues, especially the more sociologically inclined, chanted the mantra that "All science is local!" This was in some ways a reaction to the historiography of Alexandre Koyré, a Russian émigré working in Paris who coined the term "scientific revolution." He and others enjoined historians of science to focus on theory while others claimed that quantification and replication of results constituted the heart of scientific advance.

Biology and Medical Research; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

Sweet Blood: An Environmental History of Diabetes and Chronic Disease in America

October 6, 2017

Every day, millions of Americans prick their fingertips, feed blood into a glucose meter, and adjust their diet in a ritual to stay healthy. This is the diabetic way of life, what many older diabetics call having the "sweet blood." And it has become an American way of life, affecting about one in ten people with rates among minorities and the poor in double-digit percentages. The complications are serious and deadly—neuropathy, blindness, cardiovascular disease, and renal failure—with total costs around $245 billion for 2014 alone. Dr. Frank Vinicor, former American Diabetes Association president, has called diabetes "the Rodney Dangerfield of diseases": expensive to treat, hard to manage, and easy to ridicule.

Biology and Medical Research; Commonwealth Fund; Medicine and Healthcare; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rene J. Dubos Papers; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation; Rockefeller University; The Medical Letter

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