Hermann Lisco papers are open for research

By , December 18, 2017

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the Hermann Lisco Papers, 1899-2000 (inclusive), 1940-1974 (bulk) to research. Joseph Giese, a Center intern who completed his studies at the Simmons College School of Library and Information Sciences in December, processed this collection and wrote this post with the supervision of Betts Coup.

Herman Lisco (1910-2000), M.D., 1936, University of Berlin, was a German-born pathologist who first worked as an assistant at the University of Berlin at the Charite-Krankenhaus briefly the year he graduated, before departing Germany due to its political climate for the United State – he was married to a Jewish woman. After immigrating, he began working as an assistant and instructor at Johns Hopkins University Medical School and Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland, where he remained for four years.  In 1940, he moved to Boston, Massachusetts, to work at Harvard Medical School, and served as an instructor of pathology there for another four years. At that time, he was recruited by the Biology and Health Division of the University of Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, Manhattan District of the U.S. Army, also known as the Manhattan Project, where he became the first doctor to perform an autopsy on an individual who had died of acute radiation poisoning.  In 1947, he went to work for the Argonne National Laboratory until 1957.  In 1967, he returned to work at Harvard Medical School as a professor, and worked as an Associate Dean (1969), Associate Professor of Anatomy (1970-1977), Deputy Chairman of Medical Sciences (1977-1982). He formally retired in 1981 as an Associate Professor of Anatomy.

Lisco’s research focused on the carcinogenic effects of plutonium and the radiotoxicity of other elements and chemicals on humans and lab animals, as well as radiation’s effects on the formation of tumors and lymphoma.  He wrote often on the “acute radiation syndrome” provoked in organisms by excessive exposure to radiation, and much of his research focused on cancer, and the side effects of radiation therapy on patients being treated for cancer.  He conducted a number of trips to Europe that dealt with studying the incidence of leukemia in women treated with radiotherapy for cervical cancer.  Much of his work was devoted to the study of the pathological effects of atomic radiation, and the importance of radiological protection and importance of medical supervision in radiation work.

The collection reflects Lisco’s professional, research, and publishing activities, but also his personal activities and interests.  Contained within are research records, selected reprints, notes, medical images, speeches, and programs from meetings of organizations of which he was There is also correspondence of a more personal nature, including letters concerning conscientious objector status, letters to specialist physicians and former students who were not particularly connected to research Lisco was undertaking, newspaper updates on the political situation in Germany 1989-1990, information about his inner life, photographs of Lisco himself and a number of people with whom he had interacted over the course of his career, and scrapbooks with grade reports from his life in Germany between the years of 1918 to 1936, dating back to as early as when he was eight years old.

The finding aid can be found at: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HMS.Count:med00399.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact the  Public Services staff.

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