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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The Rockefeller Foundation and Scientific Collaboration in Late Colonial India

May 24, 2022

After submitting my doctoral thesis, I studied documents on public health research in colonial India at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC). The visit, from the end of September to early December 2019, allowed me to expand my research on medical infrastructure and sanitary regulations in colonial India. My thesis looked at the sanitary interventions by the British colonial state and Christian missionaries in British Indian port cities in the nineteenth century for protecting the health of European seamen. In my follow-up research, I wanted to explore the development of the study of health and disease in the twentieth century. The governance of public health in this phase was arguably driven by new explorations into bacteriology and virology in various institutes across India. The Rockefeller Foundation (RF) was substantially involved in many of these disease research centers as part of its global fight for public health. It was instrumental in establishing the All-India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health (AIIHPH). As a scoping study for my pile-up project on public health in the first half of the twentieth century, I read reports and correspondence regarding the planning and early years of the institute. I spent a highly fulfilling two months with the RAC, reading important documents on the RF's medical philanthropy and its role in shaping public health research in British India. The stint also enabled me to connect with researchers working on similar subjects.

Medicine and Healthcare; Rockefeller Foundation

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

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 Rockefeller Foundation (Non) Policy Toward Physics Research and Education in Latin America

September 10, 2019

This report provides an overview of the history of physics in Latin America through the intervention of the Rockefeller Foundation. It is mainly based on reports and correspondence located at the Rockefeller Archive Center, documenting the interaction of Rockefeller Foundation officers with Latin American physicists, providing insight into how these scientists represented themselves. It focuses on the policies of the Rockefeller Foundation behind its support for physics communities and institutions in Latin America from the 1940s to the 1960s. It provides a panoramic – but not exhaustive – view about how these orientations changed according to the group, the topic, and the geopolitical context.

Academic Research and Education; International Education Board; Physics; 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

Egyptological Conversations about Race and Science

February 15, 2018

In 1908, when James Henry Breasted published ancient copies of some Biblical texts, he hoped that one interested reader would be Booker T. Washington. Breasted wrote to Washington to bring the matter to his attention, providing him with a copy of the article and explaining its general content. At that time, Washington was preoccupied with the aftermath of an injustice done to black soldiers stationed in Brownsville, Texas, and the subsequent refusal of Theodore Roosevelt, whom Washington had formerly advised, to undo the damage to the men's reputations, careers, and futures. Nonetheless, Washington replied to Breasted the following week, expressing his polite interest in the matter and noting that although he had not had the time to acquaint himself with the ancient history of Ethiopia, he noted that many West African traditions traced their cultural heritage to "a distant place in the direction of ancient Ethiopia." Washington wondered if that "distant place" and the subject matter of Breasted's article could be one and the same. "Could it be possible that these civilizing influences had their sources in this ancient Ethiopian kingdom to which your article refers?" If Washington saw ancient "Ethiopia," that is, the southern Nile River Valley, also known as the Upper Nile, Nubia, and in contemporary political designation the Sudan, as the source of other African people's culture, Breasted would have concurred.

Archaeology; General Education Board; John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Papers; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family

The Ford Foundation and the Relocation of Argentinian Scholars, 1966-1968

December 19, 2017

On June 28th, 1966, the constitutional Argentinian President Arturo Illia was overthrown by a military putsch led by Lt. General Juan Carlos Onganía. The Congress elected in 1963 and all political parties were dissolved. The Rector, the Senate of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), and the Councils of most of the University Schools severely condemned the putsch, with its implied breakdown of all democratic procedures. On July 29th, the Universities were put under the direct control of the military Government and their autonomy was curtailed. That evening the Federal Police invaded the School of Exact and Natural Sciences (Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, FCEN) of UBA, brutally attacking the professors and students who had gathered and taking hundreds into police stations for several days. Similar invasions were perpetrated in the School of Architecture and in the School of Philosophy and Letters (FFyL) of the UBA. The Dean and Vice-Dean of the FCEN and the Dean of the School of Architecture were beaten. This episode, known as the "Night of the Long Sticks" (Noche de los bastones largos, or NBL) has been the object of numerous reports and studies.

Academic Research and Education; Ford Foundation; Refugee Scholars

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