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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c399

Herman M. Kalckar papers

Scope and Contents

Collection consists of a folder of material related to Herman M. Kalckar's work on an international milk teeth radiation census, described in his article, "An International Milk Teeth Radiation Census" (Nature, August 1958 (182, pp. 283-284)). Collection contains reprinted publications, reports, unpublished manuscripts, correspondence, and one human tooth.


  • 1957-1964, 1977 (inclusive)
  • Majority of material found in 1957-1960


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. Contact Public Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all materials in the collection. Researchers are responsible for identifying and contacting any third-party copyright holders for permission to reproduce or publish. For more information on the Center's use, publication, and reproduction policies, view our Reproductions and Use Policy.


0.2 cubic feet (1 half letter size document box)

Biographical / Historical

Herman Moritz Kalckar, M.D., 1933, Ph.D., 1939, University of Copenhagen, Denmark was a biochemist who specialized in cellular respiration and intermediary metabolism.

Herman Moritz Kalckar (1908-1991) was born in Copenhagen to parents he described as "middle-class Jewish-Danish," Ludvig and Bertha (Melchior) Kalckar. Kalckar attended the University of Copenhagen, earning a medical degree in 1933 and a Ph.D. in 1939. His Ph.D. research was conducted in the physiology lab of Ejnar Lundsgaard (born 1899), and he was mentored by Fritz Lipmann (1899-1986). Kalckar studied the energy processes in the breakdown of food in the body, and with Lipmann, discovered the role that adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in energy exchange. After earning his degree, Kalckar went to the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California as a Rockefeller fellow. When World War II prevented him from returning to his home country, Kalckar went to work as a research fellow at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he collaborated with Sidney Colowick (1916-1985). From 1943 to 1954, he held research and teaching positions at several institutions in the United States and Copenhagen. In 1958 he returned to the United States to go to Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, where he was Professor of Biology and Biochemistry until 1961. While there, he published his paper proposing a census of milk teeth (also referred to as deciduous teeth, and often called baby teeth) to understand the impacts of radiation on the human body. He tested milk teeth for strontium-19, a byproduct of nuclear weapons, and used his results to support a ban on atmospheric nuclear weapons testing. From 1961 to 1979, Kalckar was a professor at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts retiring with the title of Professor of Biological Chemistry. While at Harvard, he collaborated with Kurt Isselbacher (1925-2019) in identifying the cause of galactosemia, a genetic disorder causing the inability to digest the sugar galactose; they also developed a test to detect the condition. Kalckar also headed the Biomedical Research Department at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. In his later years, he was Distinguished Research Professor at Boston University, Massachusetts.

Herman Kalckar married Vibeke Meyer, and they divorced in 1950. He then married Barbara Wright, with whom he had three children, Sonja, Nina, and Niels. He married Agnete Fridericia Laursen, his third wife, in 1968. He also had two step-children. Kalckar died in 1991 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

1. Eugene P. Kennedy, Herman Moritz Kalckar 1908-1991: A Biographical Memoir (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 1996).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifted to the Harvard Medical Library by Nina Marie Kalckar in 2013 (Accession #2013-067).

Processing Information

Processed by Charlotte Lellman in June 2021. Collection was processed according to Level 1 protocol.

Kalckar, Herman M. (Herman Moritz), 1908-1991. Papers, 1957-1964, 1977 (inclusive), 1957-1960 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Charlotte Lellman
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

The Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is one of the world's leading resources for the study of the history of health and medicine. Our mission is to enable the history of medicine and public health to inform healthcare, the health sciences, and the societies in which they are embedded.

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