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 resource.rockarch.org. Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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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

Water Marginalised?

October 26, 2021

Water can produce both favourable and unfavourable health outcomes. As this has been well known since the mid-nineteenth century, the following question arises: why did many polities across the world struggle to commit to improving water supplies and sanitation in the twentieth century? My research explores how the marginalisation of water within the fragmentary structures of imperial and international policy making shaped commitment (or lack thereof) to developing water supplies and sanitation facilities in twentieth-century Africa. By exploring how administrators and scientists did or did not conceptualise water as a key public health issue—and how this framing shaped imperial, colonial, national, and international health policy—we can better understand water's marginalisation in twentieth century health discourses. Researching at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), I sought to better understand the role of Rockefeller Foundation, Near East Foundation, and Ford Foundation officials and associates in conceptualising the relationship between water and health, and between water and development, particularly in relation to the Sudan and Uganda. This report will focus primarily on the work of Rockefeller Foundation officials and associate researchers between c. 1925 and 1940. It also draws from papers held by officials and associate researchers, which were written for, or on behalf of, the League of Nations Health Organisation or the British Colonial Office.

Ford Foundation; Interwar Years; Nelson C. Davis Papers; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

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

The Role of the Rockefeller Foundation in the Origins of Treponematosis Control in Haiti, 1915-1927

January 20, 2021

There has been a surge of interest in the history of colonial public health of Haiti. This body of recent scholarship has shed light on the general construction of US colonial public health, humanitarianism during the US occupation, yaws/treponematosis control campaigns, and hegemony. While it is generally understood that the treatment of treponematosis played an outsized role in the performance of enlightened US medical modernity, what is less well described is how treponematosis became the central target of US and Rockefeller Foundation efforts to solidify the legitimacy of the US colonial state. This report will argue that there existed a wide variety of infectious diseases, some of which the US occupation believed that they could treat or eradicate, including smallpox, intestinal protozoa, dysentery, malaria, hookworm disease, and treponematosis. As a result of several material and pragmatic concerns, treponematosis became the central focus of the US occupation. With regard to the prioritization of treponematosis, the operations of the Public Health Service in Haiti can be divided into at least two periods, the first spanning from the formation of the Public Health Service in 1919 to the initiation in 1924 of the General Disease and Sanitary Survey of Haiti. The second period spans from 1925, at the end of the Survey of Haiti, to the beginning of 1930, when the Public Health Service began to be dismantled and the US influence began to wane. The first period had a more general concern with public health in Haiti, while the second period became acutely focused on eradication and treatment of treponematosis. Understanding how treponematosis came to be a priority requires understanding its social significance for both the US occupation and the Haitians communities afflicted by it. This paper will argue that treponematosis had widespread symbolic significance within Haiti. Together with its relative ease of treatment, diagnosis, and evidence of success, this disease was selected by the US occupation for eradication because it was believed that it would most clearly demonstrate the superiority of US biomedicine and culture.

Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

Hookworm Eradication in Brazil and Beyond

August 4, 2020

In the early-20th century, the Rockefeller Foundation's International Health Board (IHB) traveled to several areas around the world to tackle rural sanitation and hookworm disease. Yet, few historians have endeavored to evaluate the consequences of IHB-led interventions for local populations. This report describes research conducted at the Rockefeller Archive Center in order to evaluate the effectiveness of hookworm-eradication measures in Brazil (for my first book project) and worldwide (for a second major research project). I discuss the general content of the hookworm-eradication reports and offer insights into how this body of evidence could be used for scholars working outside of health- or medicine-related fields of inquiry. I argue that the content of the hookworm control reports could be better used by historians with a general interest in inequality.

International Health Board; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

The Daily Life of Hygiene and Public Health in Republican China

May 7, 2020

The Peking Union Medical College was the leading medical education institution in China for decades, producing doctors and nurses whose qualifications were on par with those from American universities. But alongside the running of this medical college and attached hospital, the China Medical Board was also involved in the conception, establishment, staffing, and funding of a range of smaller-scale, localised initiatives that prioritised public health and hygiene education at the grassroots level. From the Rockefeller Archive Center, I gathered reports, accounts, and correspondence about such projects as the Peking First Health Station, the Shanghai Kao-Chiao Health Demonstration Area, and the Mass Education Movement at Ting Hsien, to demonstrate how hygiene was taught and health services were provided to Chinese laypeople in the early twentieth century. The China Medical Board worked with local governments, sponsors, and reformists to adapt global ideals of hygienic reform and localise them for norms and culture. In time, they would create distinctly Chinese models of communal hygiene that could be emulated throughout Republican China. My dissertation examines the experiences of these reformists and highlights how the proliferation of their projects features in the everyday lives of the Chinese people in the early twentieth century. Moreover, it demonstrates that public health initiatives thrived on the municipal, provincial, and county levels, even when the centralised national government was in flux.

China Medical Board RG 4; China Medical Board, Inc.; Medicine and Healthcare; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

Claude Barlow and the International Health Division’s Campaign to Eradicate Bilharzia (Schistosomiasis) in Egypt, 1929-1940

November 26, 2019

Disease eradication has often been likened to a siren song; the task has an immediate allure and a deceptive ease, yet many efforts to master eradication have floundered. The International Health Commission first encountered bilharzia (schistosomiasis) while conducting some of the first hookworm campaigns outside of the American South. While surveying the burden of hookworm in Egypt, staff stumbled across the true scale of schistosome fluke infection across the country. The Rockefeller Foundation's International Health Division returned to Egypt in 1929 and commenced an eleven-year eradication campaign overseen by parasitologists Claude Barlow and J. Allen Scott. What began as a seemingly simple mission to evaluate the success of sanitation interventions in rural villages soon became a complex and fraught program pitting both men against each other, local opinion, and the orthodoxies of international public health experts. In this research report, reflecting on one part of my wider research on the history of eradication thinking in public health, I focus on the important work of Barlow and overview significant aspects of his collected written communication held in the Rockefeller Archive Center. Beginning as an optimistic advocate of eradication, Barlow's experiences in Egypt transformed his views on the likelihood of elimination and – in important ways – foreshadows the ethical, socio-political, and technical limits currently emerging around contemporary philanthropic drives to eradicate infectious diseases.

Claude H. Barlow Papers; International Health Board; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

Regional Office for the Rio de la Plata and the Andean Region: Circulation of Ideas and Key Players, Argentina (1941–1949)

July 10, 2019

This report examines the activities carried out by the Regional Office of Río de la Plata and Andean Region of the Rockefeller Foundation to upgrade the training of public health professionals and staff from 1941 to 1949. According to the Rockefeller Foundation, special skills and training were essential to address the challenges posed by the eradication of epidemics and pandemics, necessary public works to enhance public health. The regional office was based in Argentina, Chile, Perú, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Paraguay.

Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

"From Mosquitoes to People": Marston Bates and the Rockefeller Foundation International Health Division

July 2, 2019

This essay charts the career of the entomologist and popular author Marston Bates (1906-1974) within the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) between 1935 and 1952. Today, Bates is best remembered as a science communicator. Publishing over a dozen books on natural history and the environment, he helped bring ecological ideas to broader public audiences during the 1950s and 1960s. Not simply a popularizer of contemporary scientific concepts, Bates stood out for his critical commentary on the environmental problems of economic development, conservation, and global population growth, as well as the need for more integrative, cross-disciplinary approaches to understanding humans in nature. Long before becoming a public intellectual, however, he worked for the RF as a mosquito specialist, serving as director of International Health Division malaria and yellow fever laboratories in Albania, Egypt, and Colombia during the 1930s and 1940s. Bates' mid-career shift from researching mosquito ecology to writing about human ecology may seem to be a sudden left turn. A closer look at the archival record reveals the pivotal role played by the Rockefeller Foundation in shaping Bates' career trajectory and ideas about the environment. Furthermore, placing Bates' work in the context of his time with the RF reveals connections between twentieth-century U.S. environmental thought and international health projects.

Lewis W. Hackett Papers; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

Yaws and Syphilis: Forgotten Diseases of Asia-Pacific

February 6, 2019

My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) investigated the pivotal period from the 1920s to the 1940s when health practitioners and scientists in the Rockefeller Foundation were confident that they could alleviate, and probably eradicate, serious but little understood diseases such as yaws. During these decades, the IHD, and its predecessor before 1927, the International Health Bureau (IHB), embarked upon transferring the Foundation's early successes in public health from the southern United States, notably with hookworm and sanitation campaigns, to overseas. In 1916, the IHB had succeeded the International Health Commission (IHC), founded in 1913. The original mission of the IHC drove the IHB/IHD: the "promotion of public sanitation and the spread of knowledge of scientific medicine." Yaws became an add-on to that mission, although syphilis and its links to yaws in tropical countries never quite assumed the attention Turner demanded. But the diseases are entwined, often confused, and worthy of in-depth investigation. My research at RAC formed part of my wider project on the history of yaws and syphilis, but unlike Turner and Sawyer's principal focus on the Caribbean, I sought to concentrate on the vast Asia-Pacific region. My aim is to tackle this history longitudinally and across cultures to look at changing discourse, theories and practices regarding treatments for these diseases and socio-cultural perceptions, especially in relation to causation, symptoms and consequences. These significant diseases have had a huge global impact but have not been investigated together by historians. The Asia-Pacific region is rarely mentioned in publications on syphilis or yaws.

International Health Board; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

The University of the Philippines Institute of Hygiene and the Rise of a Filipino Sanitarian Regime: Some Provisional Notes

June 14, 2018

The University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Hygiene contributed greatly to the country's biopolitical landscape in the 1950s. At the helm of the public health system was a corps of Filipino sanitarians who advocated state-directed health programs as important recipes for the country's postcolonial development and modernization. Affiliated with the Institute of Hygiene in one way or another, this new class of public health officials combined ideas of health citizenship with their own nationalist moorings, but was nonetheless highly receptive to new health technologies coming out of the U.S.'s participation in the Second World War. In 1950, a Rockefeller Foundation (RF) commissioned study assessed the post-WWII Philippines as having a "more favorable standing" compared to Indonesia, Korea, Taiwan, and the People's Republic of China, because of the large number of Filipino doctors in active practice, a large percentage  of which was employed by the government. Filipino sanitarians, therefore, was a phenomenon by itself that calls for a serious historical examination. My research report is an initial effort at writing a history of Filipino sanitarianism. I do this by looking into the UP Institute of Hygiene's early pre-WWII history, as well as the Rockefeller Foundation's role in its establishment and institutional life. Using data sources gathered from a research trip at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in March 2018, I offer some provisional views on the Institute's influence to this corps of Filipino sanitarians, as well as the Institute's location in the history of colonial and postcolonial biopower in the Philippines.

Academic Research and Education; Education; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

Improving Health and Labor Conditions for Coffee Workers: The Role of the Rockefeller Foundation in the Campaigns Against Hookworm in Colombia, 1919 – 1938

February 27, 2018

Hookworm disease received later attention from the Colombian government than it received in other Latin American countries, such as Costa Rica or Brazil. In those countries, the campaigns to combat hookworm were framed within a large national project and had broad support of the government before the arrival of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF). Although in Colombia doctors began to study the disease in the first decade of the twentieth century, and warned early on about the risks to coffee and sugarcane plantation workers, the government did not take such warnings seriously until the 1920s.  At that time, it signed a cooperation agreement with the Rockefeller Foundation to start the fight against tropical anemia.

Agrarian and Rural; Medicine and Healthcare; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

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