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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c313

Allan Macy Butler papers


The Allan Macy Butler Papers, 1916-1986 (inclusive), 1930-1969 (bulk), are the product of Butler's work as a pediatrician, researcher, academic, and political activist, including positions as Chief of the Children’s Medical Service at Massachusetts General Hospital and Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School from 1942 to 1960.


  • Creation: 1916-1986 (inclusive),
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1930-1969


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. There are no restrictions on this collection. Consult Public Services for further information.

The Papers are stored offsite. Researchers are advised to contact reference staff for more information concerning retrieval of material.

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.


7.5 cubic feet ((7 records cartons and 1 document box).)

The records in this collection were created by Dr. Allan Macy Butler during the course of his career as a physician, lecturer, professor, activist, and contributing member of professional organizations from 1930 to1969. The collection includes correspondence, court reports and transcripts, news clippings, administrative records, article drafts, reports, meeting minutes, committee records, conference materials, lectures and speeches, notes, military records, medical notebooks, research data, charts, drawings, and photographic prints resulting from Butler’s activities as a physician, lecturer, professor, and contributing member of professional organizations in Massachusetts, Michigan, and California. Also contains records generated from Butler’s political activities, including involvement in nuclear policy and disarmament movements, health care and medical insurance reform, the Vietnam War, the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950, nonviolent resistance, abortion, and population control.

Biographical Notes/Historical Notes

Allan Macy Butler (1894-1986), LittB, 1916, Princeton University; MD, 1926, Harvard Medical School, was Chief of the Children’s Medical Service at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston and Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School from 1942 to 1960. An early believer in reform of the American ‘fee-for-service’ health care system, Butler advocated for government-paid medical care for the elderly and for low-income people, making him a pioneer in health maintenance services.

Allan Macy Butler was born in Yonkers, New York on April 3, 1894. Upon graduating from Princeton University, Butler served in Europe in World War I in both the British and American armies. He returned to the United States to work as a bond salesman and labor negotiator prior to entering Harvard Medical School in 1922. Butler was appointed Chief of the Children’s Medical Service at Massachusetts General Hospital and Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, positions he held from 1942 to 1960. From 1960 to1962, following his retirement from Massachusetts General and Harvard, Butler helped establish the Community Health Association in Detroit, Michigan’s first official prepaid health care program based on preventive medicine. He also served as Director of Clinical Services and Chief of Pediatrics of the Metropolitan Hospital, Detroit. From 1962 to 1968, Butler held several teaching and consulting positions, among which were: Special Consultant to the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health of the California State Department of Public Health; Consultant for the Head Start program in Washington, D.C.; Lecturer in the Department of Pediatrics at Stanford University; and Director of Medical Education at St. Luke’s Hospital, San Francisco. Butler was also part of a small resident staff at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, California, a policy institute that sought to broaden the public debate on a number of issues, including war, democracy, dissent, and community action.

Butler’s professional appointments often fell in line with his political activities. Throughout his career, he actively contributed to professional publications, both as an editor and writer. In 1937, as the Associate Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Butler wrote a series of articles making recommendations on improving health care delivery in the United States, which were met with resistance. The American Medical Association opposed any changes to the current system, saying that Butler’s proposal was a step toward socialized medicine. In 1940, he was forced to resign. Butler was a dedicated opponent of the Vietnam War and a supporter of abortion rights, nuclear disarmament, and nonviolent resistance. He was put on trial for participating in Un-American activities under the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950.

Butler contributed to advancements in pediatric medicine through his research in fluid and electrolyte metabolism (derived from life-raft studies conducted during World War II), metabolic disorders, and treatments for diarrhea and dehydration. He received the American Pediatric Society's highest award, the John Howland Medal, in 1969.

In 1921, Butler married Mabel Churchill, daughter of American novelist Winston Churchill, and had three children: Margaret Butler, Beverly Butler, and Allan Butler, Jr. Butler died at his home in Tisbury, Massachusetts in 1986.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. Series I. Professional Records, 1916-1984, undated.
  2. ___A. Agency for International Development, U.S. State Department
  3. ___B. American Expeditionary Forces
  4. ___C. California State Department of Public Health, Berkeley
  5. ___D. Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions
  6. ___E. Falmouth Hospital
  7. ___F. Head Start, Office of Economic Opportunity
  8. ___G. Martha's Vineyard Hospital
  9. ___H. Massachusetts General Hospital
  10. ___I. Metropolitan Hospital, Detroit
  11. ___J. Physician's Forum
  12. ___K. Stanford University
  13. ___L. St. Luke's Hospital, San Francisco
  14. Series II. Research Records, 1942-1967, undated.
  15. ___A. Dimethyl Sulfoxide/Toxicity Studies
  16. ___B. Parenteral Nutrition Studies
  17. ___C. Plankton Studies
  18. ___D. Sea Water Experiments
  19. Series III. Lecture, Speech, and Conference Files, 1926-1969.
  20. Series IV. Activism and Political Activities Records, 1930-1986, undated.
  21. ___A. Abortion and Population Control
  22. ___B. Correspondence
  23. ______1. Letters to Newspapers
  24. ______2. Correspondence with the U.S. Government
  25. ___C. Medical Insurance and Health Care Reform
  26. ___D. Nuclear Disarmament
  27. ___E. Subversive Citizens Trials
  28. ___F. Vietnam War
  29. Series V Writings and Publications, 1920-1986.
  30. Series VI. Correspondence, 1931-1973.
  31. Series VII. Personal Records, 1919-1979.

Processing Information

Processed by Michael P. Dello Iacono and Cheryl Ostrowski, May 2009.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged, and described the records and created a finding aid to improve access to the collection. To enhance preservation, processing staff re-housed the collection and, where necessary, removed rusted staples and paper clips, and photocopied documents onto acid-free paper. Records in plastic bags and canvas binders were re-housed in acid-free folders. All folder titles were transcribed from the originals. Duplicate records and records that did not meet the collection policy of the Center for the History of Medicine were discarded.



Butler, Allan Macy. Papers, 1916-1986 (inclusive), 1930-1969 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Language of description
The Allan Macy Butler papers were processed with grant funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, as awarded and administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), 2009.

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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