Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c241

Frederic Thomas Lewis papers


The Frederic Thomas Lewis Papers, 1663, 1711-1951, document the research, teaching, and professional activities of Frederic Thomas Lewis, James Stillman Professor of Comparative Anatomy at Harvard Medical School.


  • Creation: 1663, 1711-1951.


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. Consult 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.


1.7 cubic feet (1 record carton, 1 document box, 1 half document box, 1 half legal document box)

The Frederic Thomas Lewis Papers, 1663, 1711-1951, are the result of Lewis's administrative, teaching, and research activities at HMS faculty member. Records include notes, correspondence, catalogs, course exams, and photographs from his research on both the history of medicine and the microscope, as well as his administrative and teaching activities at HMS. The FTL Papers also includes FTL's 17th and 18th century letters and notes collected for his study and exhibits of the history of medicine; these items appear in Series IV.


Frederic Thomas Lewis (FTL) was James Stillman Professor of Comparative Anatomy at Harvard Medical School where his research focused on embryology, the development of veins and blood vessels, and the history of the development of the microscope. The son of Charles Sanford Lewis and Nettie Farnum (Brown) Lewis, he was born in Cambridge, Mass. on 18 March 1875. FTL entered Harvard College in 1893 and, having completed the required courses for a bachelor’s degree, spent his fourth year at Harvard College in advanced courses in biology. He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1897 with special honors in natural history and, based on the advanced courses he had completed in biology, was awarded a Master of Arts degree in 1898. He entered Harvard Medical School (HMS) in 1897 and received the MD in 1901. He married Ethel May Stickney on 30 July 1904, and they had one child.

Following graduation FTL returned to HMS as Austin Teaching Fellow in Embryology in 1901. He remained at HMS, becoming an Instructor in Histology 1902-1906, Assistant Professor of Embryology 1915-1931, and James Stillman Professor of Comparative Anatomy 1931-1941. In 1941 he retired as Emeritus.

During his first two decades at HMS, FTL’s research in embryology focused on the development of veins and lymphatic vessels. In later years he investigated the shapes and patterns of epithelial cells, concluding that physical factors and geometrical principle governed the arrangement of such polyhedral bodies. He contributed chapters regarding the development of the digestive system for a volume entitled Human Embryology edited by Keibel and Mall in 1910. He became the author of a widely used textbook, Histology (based on Stohr’s Histologie), first published in 1906.

During his years at HMS, FTL became an authority on the history and development of the microscope; he researched, cataloged, and expanded the collection of microscopes left to HMS by Professor Harold C. Ernst. He collected many books, pamphlets, letters, and artifacts pertaining to the history of medicine and mounted exhibits on anatomy, embryology, and histology in the corridors of the Department of Anatomy.

FTL also maintained active memberships in a number of professional organizations, acting as editor of The American Naturalist 1907-1908, and associate editor of The Anatomical Record 1908-1921. While a member of the American Association of Anatomists he served on the executive committee 1909-1913, as vice-president 1914-1916, and as president 1936-1938. He was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Royal Microscope Society. He was both a councillor 1913-1926 and vice-president 1926-1929 of the Boston Society of Natural History. FTL died at his home in Waban, Massachusetts on 2 June 1951, at the age of 76.

Series Arrangement

  1. Series I. Personal and Professional Correspondence, 1902-1952
  2. ___Subseries A. Harvard Medical School Administrative Correspondence, 1902-1952
  3. ___Subseries B. Charles S. Minot Portrait Correspondence, 1938-1943
  4. Series II. Teaching Records, 1908-1945
  5. Series III. Administrative Activities Records, 1914-1940
  6. Series IV. Research Correspondence and Notes, 1663, 1711-1951
  7. ___Subseries A. History of Medicine Research Records, 1663, 1711-1951
  8. ___Subseries B. Microscope Research Records, 1921-1950
  9. ___Subseries C. Exhibit Notes, 1932-1940


Eleven folders of photographs and photographic prints listed in the collection are housed in box 3. Oversize items are housed in box 4 and in one oversize folder is housed separately.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Frederic Thomas Lewis Papers were acquired by the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

Related Materials

Related collections in the Center for the History of Medicine include:

  1. Frederic Thomas Lewis's faculty publications (1.Mh.1902.L)
  2. Charles Sedgwick Minot Papers (H MS c21; GA 54.10)
  3. Geroge Richards Minot Papers (GA 55)

For more information on related materials, consult the Public Services Librarian.

Processing Information

Processed by Mark Vassar, April 2002.

Processing Note: The collection was arranged in four series. Items within folders were not reorganized. Duplicate materials were discarded. The colleciton was previously numbered GA 49.

Lewis, Frederic Thomas, 1875-1951. Papers, 1663, 1711-1951: A Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
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.

10 Shattuck Street
Boston MA 02115
(617) 432-2170