New Acquisition: The Fredrick J. Stare Papers

By , November 8, 2016

Dr. Frederick John Stare participating in a nationwide “March of Medicine” telecast on March 11, 1953. The half-hour show, one of a series being sponsored by a drug company and the American Medical Association, stressed problems of obesity and suggestions for dieting. Courtesy of the Center for the History of Medicine (Harvard School of Public Health Dean’s Annual Report, 1953-1954).

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the acquisition of the personal and professional papers of the late Fredrick J. Stare (1910-2002). Dr. Stare was an American nutritionist regarded as one of the country’s most influential teachers of nutrition. In 1942, Stare founded the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, now the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. This was the first such nutrition program in the United States not to be associated with an agriculture school. Dr. Stare began with a staff of three, but by the time he retired in 1976 it exceeded 150 people, and the department was considered a leader in nutrition research. In 1978, Stare co-founded and served as chairman of the Board of Directors for the American Council on Science and Health, which he served on until his death in 2002.

Stare fought to improve nutrition for children in developing nations and supported the process of fluoridating public drinking water to prevent tooth decay. He defended food preservatives and chemical additives as beneficial and necessary at a time when naturalists countered that additives were detrimental. He was a firm believer in the essential goodness of the typical American diet, holding that “prudence and moderation” were the key to healthy eating. He was also an early advocate of the benefits of regularly drinking water throughout the day. He founded the journal Nutrition Reviews, and from 1945 onward wrote a syndicated newspaper column, Food and Your Health. His publications included Living Nutrition; Eat OK – Feel OK; Food for Today’s Teens; The Executive Diet; Food for Fitness after Fifty; Dear Dr Stare: What Shall I Eat?; and Panic in the Pantry.

At the height of McCarthyism, Stare won notoriety for hiring Bernard Lown, a cardiologist who had been accused of holding communist sympathies. Lown went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 as one of the leaders of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), a non-partisan federation of national medical groups in 64 countries who share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation. In addition to Dr. Stare’s records, the papers of Bernard Lown as well as the records of the IPPNW are available for research at the Center for the History of Medicine.

For more about Dr. Stare, please read this memorial written by the Harvard Crimson immediately following Dr. Stare’s death in 2002, or his obituaries in the New York Times and the Economist.

His collection, which is not yet available for research, includes correspondence, alpha files, university administrative records, grey literature and publications, photographs, and films. For more information about the collection, contact Public Services at

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Harvard AIDS Initiative Collaborates on Lab Notebook Guidance

By , October 28, 2016
An image from HAI's blog post: Dr. Max Essex’s lab notebooks from 1969 show his groundbreaking work on the mechanism of transmission of feline leukemia. These and Essex’s other early papers are archived at the Center for the History of Medicine. Text by Martha Henry, photos by Lucia Ricci.

Dr. Max Essex’s lab notebooks from 1969 show his groundbreaking work on the mechanism of transmission of feline leukemia. Text by Martha Henry, photos by Lucia Ricci.

The Harvard AIDS Initiative (HAI) at the Harvard T.H. Chan School recently published a blog post on lab notebooks to help inform researchers within their program. Martha Henry, Director of Communications at HAI, reached out to collaborate with Heather Mumford, Archivist for the Harvard Chan School, and Jessica Murphy, Reference Archivist, to draft this post. The final product includes images of lab notebooks from the recently processed Myron Essex Papers 1949-1996 (inclusive) 1965-1996 (bulk), taken by Lucia Ricci, Graphic/Web Designer at the Harvard Chan School, during her visit to the Holmes Reading Room at the Center for the History of Medicine. It also includes links to guidance on research retention, and general information about research collections at the Center for the History of Medicine.


The Center for the History of Medicine at Countway Library, which includes the archives of the Harvard Chan School, often collects lab notebooks, research data, and supporting documentation (in both paper as well as electronic form) as a part of the historical record of departments and faculty. Records are appraised for their informational value based on a number of criteria, then are preserved and made accessible to a global research community. To learn more, or to request a consultation, please contact Heather Mumford at





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Capturing the History of Sustainability at the Harvard Chan School

By , August 15, 2016

President of the Clinton Foundation and 2016 Harvard Chan Commencement speaker Donna Shalala poses with EcoOpportunity members David Havelick (left) and Adam Meier (right). The 2016 Commencement ceremony aimed for “zero waste” with the support of EcoOpportunity volunteers.

Archiving the history of grassroots initiatives, whether at Harvard or elsewhere, is often problematic. Often records are scattered, in addition to the early leadership itself, by the time a group is recognized for its contributions. As a result, records representing the work of grassroots initiatives are generally under-represented in archival collections. The history of grassroots work surrounding sustainability at Harvard is often of great interest to researchers, making it an important acquisition target. Sustainability can be defined as identifying and prioritizing resource conservation opportunities, and reducing environmental and health impacts.

In February 2016, Heather Mumford, Archivist for the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, began to explore archiving the history of sustainability initiatives at the Harvard Chan School. Specifically, Heather targeted EcoOpportunity, a Harvard Chan School group which evolved from humble beginnings to eventually form a successful Longwood-wide sustainability team.

Heather proactively reached out to current volunteers and leadership. Working together, they compiled a number of records (including email, early documentation, and photographs) and authored a history of the organization. When gaps were identified, current volunteers reached out to former volunteers and asked for assistance. The result is a collection of records that offer a comprehensive history, insuring that the contributions of these early sustainability efforts at Harvard will not be lost to time.

September 2014 2

EcoOpportunity volunteers in 2014.


History of EcoOpportunity

EcoOpportunity is indeed a unique group at Harvard. It was formed in 2008 as part of a larger initiative from the President’s Office, after an email was sent encouraging departmental administrators across Harvard to create “Green Teams” at their schools. This was known as the “Green Campus Initiative”, and has since become the Harvard Office for Sustainability, which is part of Campus Services. Early meetings of these school “Green Teams” included brainstorming sessions on sustainability topics, speakers, and events.

After their first few meetings, the Harvard Chan School’s green team decided they wanted an official “team name”, even though no other green team at Harvard had chosen to do this. There was a small internal contest, and “EcoOpportunity” (EcoOp) was chosen as the favorite. Volunteer Tiffany Colt (Operations Office), who had a background in design, created their logo.

Although interest was strong at first, eventually the effectiveness of these early EcoOp meetings dwindled. It was then that David Havelick and Jen Bowser, two Green Team volunteers, held an emergency one-on-one meeting. They decided to take on a leadership role together, form their own agendas (instead of relying on agendas sent by the Office for Sustainability), and to create subcommittees that tackled specific green initiatives. This restructuring allowed work to get done outside of each meeting, and created a sustainable model that allowed EcoOp to persist beyond the original Harvard University-wide experiment.

EcoOpportunity is one of the few green teams at Harvard that receives funding directly from a school, in addition to managerial support from Harvard Chan School Operations. Although initially a Harvard Chan School group, the team held their first joint meeting with Harvard Medical School volunteers in February 2014. The group’s mission is to inspire the Longwood Community to reduce environmental and health impacts, and help Harvard become a leader in campus sustainability efforts.

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Harvard Chan School Archivist Collaborates to Create First Historical Timeline of the Department of Environmental Health

By , August 9, 2016

A brief history of the Department of Environmental Health, displayed as a timeline. Please click the image to enlarge.

Working collaboratively with faculty and staff within the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, public health archivist Heather Mumford created a comprehensive timeline detailing historic names and department chairs. The resulting visual helped convey the complex narrative of the department’s evolution over a 100+ year history.

To complete this research, Heather relied on digitized historic Harvard Chan School catalogs available online and, with the assistance of Reference Archivist Jessica Murphy, consulted other historic administrative records available at the Center for the History of Medicine to confirm their results. Departmental faculty were given the opportunity to weigh in on the timeline, and to give feedback about what types of information (departmental name changes, chairs, etc.) were most interesting or informative to include.


Explore the Harvard Chan School’s first catalog (1913).

The history of the department is somewhat difficult to track, as a singular “Department of Environmental Health” was not present in the early school, known as the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers (1913-1922). In fact, formal departments did not exist at this time. Instead, courses were placed in “groups” with titles such as “Sanitary Biology and Sanitary Chemistry” or “Sanitary Engineering”.

In 1922, after the school received a Rockefeller grant and became the Harvard School of Public Health, the course catalogs began grouping courses by “divisions”. This included the founding of the departments of Physiology, under the leadership of Cecil Drinker (succeeded in 1948 by James Whittenberger), and Industrial Hygiene, which in 1932 came under the leadership of Philip Drinker, followed by Leslie Silverman in 1961. Over time these divisions become known as departments, and at certain points they merged and/or changed names. In 1991, a single “Department of Environmental Health” emerged.

This timeline was created to complement an exhibit on plethysmograph research, located on floor L-1 of the Countway Library and set to open later this summer. It was also used as part of a departmental retreat in May 2016, and has since been professionally printed by the department so that it can be placed on permanent display within their offices.

For more information about the Harvard Chan School Archives at the Center for the History of Medicine, contact Heather Mumford.

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Center Featured on ThairathTV

By , December 8, 2015

Mahidol Adulyadej, Prince of Songkla. Father of HRH Princess Galyani, HM King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII) and HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). Photograph circa 1914-1928.

In November, representatives from the Thai television channel ThairathTV arranged to visit the Center for the History of Medicine and review materials relating to Mahidol Adulyadej, Prince of Songkla (January 1, 1892 – September 24, 1929). Prince Mahidol was one of the earliest international students to graduate from the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers, now known as the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and is widely regarded as the father of modern medicine and public health of Thailand.

The Thairath team visited the Harvard Medical School campus with the purpose of coming face-to-face with historic artifacts relating to the Prince, his family, and his time at Harvard. Center for the History of Medicine staff members Jessica Murphy, Reference Archivist, and Heather Mumford, Archivist for the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, curated relevant materials from Center collections for the team and were on hand to discuss their significance to Harvard and broader communities.

As part of the visit, Dr. Joseph Brain, Cecil K. and Philip Drinker Professor of Environmental Physiology in the Department of Environmental Health, was interviewed by ThairathTV representatives for his insight on the Prince’s impact on public health. “What I admire about [Prince Mahidol] is, not that he was royalty, but that he was entirely committed to the health and welfare of the people of Thailand,” stated Dr. Brain.

thai_tvFootage from this visit was incorporated into a broadcast aired this month, which includes a visit to a number of historic landmarks in Massachusetts relating to the Prince and his family. The video can be viewed (primarily in Thai, with some English) on YouTube and Facebook, as well as on ThairathTV’s website.

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Sir Michael Marmot speaks at the Countway on his recent book, The Health Gap

By , November 20, 2015

Marmot-1The Center for the History of Medicine was honored to host Sir Michael Marmot MBBS, MPH, PhD, FRCP, FFPHM, FMedSci, FBA, Bernard Lown Visiting Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Director, UCL Institute of Health Equity (Marmot Institute), and President of the World Medical Association, for a lecture on November 9th, 2015, on his most recent publication, The Health Gap.

In his book and talk, Sir Michael explores how the conditions of living impact health outcomes across entire social gradients. Conventional approaches to improving health have emphasized access to technical solutions – improved medical care, sanitation, and control of disease vectors – or correcting behaviors such as smoking and the over-consumption of alcohol.  However, these approaches often fail to correct the determinants of health. Creating the conditions for people to lead flourishing lives, and thus empowering individuals and communities, is key to the reduction of health inequalities.
What makes present health inequalities unjust is that we as a global society understand how to make such inequalities smaller—we just haven’t addressed them yet.  In short, we must ask, what freedom do people actually have when constraining life circumstances imprints and impacts their freedom?

Sir Michael looks at consecutive stages in life for opportunities to intervene and improve health outcomes.  For instance, we can start closing the health gap by addressing the quality of early childhood development. He references Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, in which class is reinforced by administering injections at a young age. This is of course satirical; however, Sir Michael argues that we are doing just that with regards to social disadvantage.  Children are hindered from obtaining their true potential by the socioeconomic situation they are born into.

Poverty leads to difficulties with parenting, as parents are constrained by their environment. Many families struggle to make ends meet; they may not have housing, and if employed, they may not have set hours or advanced notice of their schedules, making it difficult to plan for childcare. We understand the importance of reading daily to children; however, the proportion of parents who are able to offer this jumps depending on a family’s economic class. With this in mind, is it fair to say that adults from poverty-stricken families are “bad” parents?  And what measures can be implemented to support them?

marmot-2As a second key example, Sir Michael also emphasizes the importance of education, particularly for women. Education empowers and leads to the development of better life skills while also improving income, neighborhoods, and positions. Educated women are less likely to be abused, and provide better care for their children.

The final chapter of Sir Michael’s book is titled “Organization of Hope,” as he recognizes that there are communities already making a difference and creating health equity. In closing, Sir Michael stated that “we know what the evidence shows; we know what is needed–it just needs to be done.”

Sir Michael’s book, The Health Gap, is available at the Harvard Coop, online, and through the Harvard Library.

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New Acquisitions: Marvin Zelen Papers

By , October 23, 2015
Professor Marvin Zelen stands next to his portrait with his wife, Thelma. The portrait, painted by artist Susan Stone, was presented on October 3, 2007 and hangs in the Department of Biostatics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Photos Credits: Suzanne Camarata, Human Kinetics, Dan Bersak, Stanley Rowin. Image courtesy of HSPH.

Professor Marvin Zelen stands next to his portrait with his wife, Thelma. The portrait, painted by artist Susan Stone, was presented on October 3, 2007 and hangs in the Department of Biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Photo Credits: Suzanne Camarata, Human Kinetics, Dan Bersak, Stanley Rowin. Image courtesy of HSPH.

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the acquisition of the personal and professional papers of the late Professor Marvin Zelen (1927-2014). Dr. Zelen was Professor Emeritus of Biostatistics in the Department of Biostatistics and Lemuel Shattuck Research Professor of Statistical Science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH). He was also a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (Emeritus) at Harvard University. He served as chair of HSPH’s Department of Biostatistics from 1981 to 1990, and helped create (and chair) the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. In 1975, Zelen founded the Frontier Science and Technology Research Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to advancing the use of statistical science and practice and data management techniques in science, health care, and education.

Zelen was known for developing the statistical methods and study designs that are used in clinical cancer trials, in which experimental drugs are tested for toxicity, effectiveness, and proper dosage. He also introduced measures to ensure that data from the trials is as free as possible of errors and biases—measures that are now standard practice. Zelen helped transform clinical trial research into a well-managed and statistically sophisticated branch of medical science, leading to significant medical advances such as improved treatments for several different forms of cancer. His research also focused on improved early detection of cancer; on modeling the progression of cancer and its response to treatment; and on using statistical models to help determine optimal screening strategies for various common cancers, especially breast cancer.

Zelen achieved another level of fame in the early 1980s when he and his late colleague in the Biostatistics Department, Stephen Lagakos, launched a study of a possible connection between a cluster of childhood leukemia cases in Woburn, Massachusetts, and the town’s water supply. Known as the Harvard Health Study, the investigation showed, for the first time, a connection between Woburn’s contaminated water and a variety of adverse health effects, including leukemia. The matter made headlines, wound up in court, and was chronicled in the book A Civil Action, which was later made into a movie. As the book notes, when Zelen announced the study’s results in the basement of a Woburn church in February 1984, someone in the audience called out, “Thank God for Marvin Zelen,” and the crowd burst into applause.

For more about Marvin Zelen, please read the memorial released by HSPH on November 8, 2014, or his obituary in the Boston Globe.

The collection, which is not yet available for research, includes teaching records, manuscripts, writings, correspondence, committee records, sponsored project administrative records, talks/lectures notes, research data, and photographs. The collection also includes records generated by Zelen as the founder of Frontier Science.

For more information about the collection, contact Public Services at

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New Acquisitions: Rose E. Frisch Papers

By , September 29, 2015
Rose E. Frisch, seen in the early 1980s, spent decades at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. Image courtesy of the New York Times.

Rose E. Frisch, seen in the early 1980s, spent decades at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. Image courtesy of the New York Times.

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the acquisition of the personal and professional papers of the late Dr. Rose E. Frisch (1918-2015), a biologist whose work was instrumental in the discovery of leptin. Dr. Frisch was associate professor emerita of population sciences at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH), and is mainly known for her work in infertility; specifically the discovery that low body fat was a contributing factor to infertility. She also demonstrated the relationship between early athletic activity and later-life cancer. For more about Dr. Frisch, please read the obituary released by HSPH on February 13, 2015, or her obituary in the New York Times.

The collection, which is not yet available for research, spans Dr. Frisch’s career (1937-2014) and consists of writings/publications, correspondence, photographs, annotated reference material, research proposals, reprints, and a handwritten autobiography.

For more information about the collection, contact Public Services at

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“Big Data” Stewardship

By , September 29, 2015

BigData_2267x1146_whiteOn Tuesday, September 8th, 2015, Heather Mumford, Archivist for the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, attended the webinar, The Data Flood: Implications for data stewardship and the culture of discovery. The discussion was led by Dr. Margaret Leinen, Director, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences, and Dean, School of Marine Sciences, University of California San Diego. Although Dr. Leinen’s background is in geoscience, the merit of her key talking points– using data with intelligence and interoperability—crosses disciplines.


Storage and Management

Managing big data is important because observation is the first step towards understanding. We need to address how we are managing big data because, well, it’s big–and only getting bigger! According to the ACI Information Group, five exabytes of content were created between the birth of the world and 2003, and since then five exabytes have been created on a daily basis. Data growth is poised to exceed Moore’s Law growth (average growth = 64%). This means our ability to store and explore data is challenged; automatically “archiving” data on external storage should no longer been seen as an adequate solution to such rapid exponential growth. One way to control growth is through appraisal. Researchers need assistance with understanding what should be kept and for how long.


It was particularly interesting to hear Dr. Leinin’s perspective on who should be responsible for stewarding big data. Many universities are struggling or unable to manage large data collections. Archives, which typically fall into a data stewardship role, are often under-funded and under-staffed–and at a time when data is growing in size and researchers’ expectation of services provided is expanding. Government data archives are already having difficulties in accommodating innovation in systems and structures, morphing to new technology, etc. In her presentation, Dr. Leinin made a call for a change in culture.


Publishing Data

Brooks Hanson, American Geophysical Union Director of Publications, was paraphrased as stating that publications are going to become more interactive for readers, and data will become an interoperable and seamless part of the publication. If a researcher publishes, he or she must be able to offer that data to the community. The data should also be open so that it can be replicated, and future progress can be made from this same set of data. Social media (bookmarking, tagging, etc.) is not a complete solution for sharing data, as not all social media is interoperable or open source. How do we have discussions about data in a way that makes it interoperable and accessible to others?


Data Management Education

It is generally understood that the “next generation” is poised to be more fluent with social media tools, but are we also simultaneously educating them in data? Big data management is still in its earliest stages, so it will be interesting to see how data management education will be tackled by the scholarly community. There is certainly an opportunity for data science to emerge as an exciting new undergraduate major, master’s degree, and certificate program (for professionals already in the field).  State and federal agencies are already pursuing certificate programs for current employees who have found themselves working with large data sets.


This webinar was presented by DataOne. In addition to archived webinars, additional lessons and tutorials are available online for use/distribution. Please visit for more information.

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