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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c326

Janet W. McArthur papers


The Janet W. McArthur papers are the product of McArthur’s career as a professor of, and researcher in, gynecology and endocrinology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital from 1943 to 1984.


  • 1939-2005 (inclusive),
  • Majority of material found within 1988-2000 .


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. Access to Harvard University records is restricted for 50 years from the date of creation. These restrictions are noted where they appear in Series I and II. Access to personal and patient information is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions appear in Series I and II. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. 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.


2.5 cubic feet ((2 record cartons, 1 document box, and 1 large flat oversized box).)

Papers are the product of Janet W. McArthur’s career as a professor and researcher in gynecology and endocrinology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital from 1943 to 1984. The bulk of the collection comes from the end of her career (1988-2000); earlier records are primarily professional correspondence. Professional activities records include raw research data about polycystic ovary syndrome and exercise, correspondence about research and medical students, and subject files. Manuscripts include drafts and correspondence regarding articles authored by McArthur about polycystic ovary syndrome. Personal papers contain photographs, newspaper and magazine clippings, correspondence, and notebooks addressing subjects of interest (medicine, women in medicine) and McArthur’s religious faith. The collection also contains a complete set of her reprints and miscellaneous honoraria.

Materials are entirely in English.

Biographical Notes

Janet Ward McArthur (1914-2006), A.B. and M.S., 1937, University of Washington; M.B. and M.D., 1942, Northwestern University Medical School, was Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology (1972-1984) and co-director of the Vincent Memorial Hospital Laboratory (1977-1979) at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her research interests included the thyroid gland, use of bioassays, menstruation, ovulation, polycystic ovary syndrome, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and the hormonal effects of exercise.She discovered that levels of LH peak during the middle of the menstrual cycle, triggering ovulation; LH is present in pre-pubertal children; and menopause coincides with increases in LH and FSH. She also investigated the relationships between LH and polycystic ovary syndrome, and between weight loss and menstruation.

McArthur was born in Bellingham, Washington, in 1914 to Hyland Donald and Alice Frost McArthur. She attended Western Washington University and the University of Washington, graduating with an A.B. and M.S. in pre-medics and psychology, magna cum laude, in 1935. She attended Northwestern University Medical School from 1937 to1942, earning her M.D. McArthur began her career at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in 1943 as a resident, and studied endocrinology at the MGH Thyroid Clinic (1945). McArthur left MGH for one year to work in the Metabolic Disease Unit at St. Mary’s Hospital, Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota (1947-1948). She then completed a fellowship in adolescent endocrinology in the MGH Pediatrics Department (1948-1950). In 1950, she received her first appointment as instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. From 1951 to 1984, McArthur researched, taught, and treated patients in a variety of appointments at MGH, Harvard Medical School, and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. In 1972, McArthur became the first woman appointed to a full professorship at MGH. From 1977 to 1979, McArthur was the co-director of MGH's Vincent Memorial Hospital Laboratory. Although McArthur became a professor emeritus in 1984, she continued to teach and carry out research at Boston University and St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, University of London, during the 1980s and early 1990s.

In 1952, McArthur co-authored Functional Endocrinology from Birth through Adolescence. From 1963 to1967, she served on the Subcommittee on Standards of the Pituitary Hormone Distribution Committee of the Endocrinology Study Section of the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases. From 1965 to 1970, McArthur served on the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism and from 1967 to 1970, worked on bioassay standardization, culminating in the publication of Statistics in Endocrinology; Proceedings. Altogether, McArthur published 113 articles between 1939 and 1995 on endocrinology and gynecology.

In 1976, McArthur helped found Women in Endocrinology, a national association which seeks to advance the careers of female endocrinologists. She died in Needham, Massachusetts in 2006.

For more information about McArthur's life, see: "Janet Ward McArthur: Faculty of Medicine — Memorial Minute." Harvard Gazette 01 May 2008.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. I. Professional Activities Records, 1946-2002
  2. ___ A. Research Data, 1983-1994
  3. ___ B. Correspondence, 1946-2000
  4. ___ C. Subject Files, 1961-2002
  5. II. Manuscripts and Related Materials, 1988-2000
  6. III. Article Reprints, 1939-1995
  7. IV. Certificates and Honoraria, 1945-1992
  8. V. Personal Papers, 1940-2005

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Janet W. McArthur papers were donated to the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine by the Fiduciary Trust Company in September 2009.

Digitized Items

A few selected items from this collection have been scanned and are available for download from our digital repository. Search for Janet McArthur in ONVIEW: DIGITAL COLLECTIONS & EXHIBITS.


One Welch Allyn Ear, Nose, and Throat Diagnostic Set, circa 1925, owned and used by Janet W. McArthur, was transferred to the Warren Anatomical Museum in 2009 (catalog #20450).

Processing Information

Processed by Tim Gladson under the supervision of Jessica Sedgwick, March 2010.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine refoldered, arranged, and described material, and created a finding aid to improve access. Items were removed from three ring binders and, where necessary, photocopied to acid-free paper. Processing staff discarded photocopies of published articles not written by McArthur. Folder titles were transcribed from the originals whenever possible; staff-supplied titles are indicated with square brackets on the physical folders.

McArthur, Janet W., 1914-. Papers, 1939-2005 (inclusive), 1988-2000 (bulk): Finding Aid
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Language of description
The Janet W. McArthur Papers have been processed and made available by the Archives for Women in Medicine project with generous support from our donors.

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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