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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c324

James Laverre Whittenberger papers


The James Laverre Whittenberger papers, 1933-1963, are the product of Whittenberger's research and administrative activities at the Harvard School of Public Health and his involvement with the National Foundation for Infant Paralysis.


  • Creation: 1933-1988.


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 II, III and IV. Access to personal and patient information is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions appear in Series I, II, III and IV. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. Consult Public Services for further information.

The papers are stored offsite. Researchers are advised to consult Public Services for further 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.


3.45 cubic feet ((2 record cartons, 2 letter document boxes, 2 half letter document boxes, 1 half legal document box, and 1 flat oversized box).)

The James Laverre Whittenberger papers, 1933-1988, consist of correspondence, writings and articles, reports, grant records and administrative records produced by Whittenberger while a faculty member and administrator at Harvard School of Public Health. Correspondence includes discussions of faculty affairs and reviews and critiques of Whittenberger’s articles. Writings include published articles and drafts written by Whittenberger and his colleagues about artificial respiration. The collection also contains reports from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and the International Poliomyelitis Congress. The administrative records consist of grant and contract records and committee records. Also included are financial records and teaching records.

The James Laverre Whittenberger Papers consist of four series: Series I. Correspondence; Series II. Harvard School of Public Health Records; Series III. National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis Records; Series IV. Writings. Oversized items are housed in boxes 5-6.

Collection is predominantly in English; materials in French, German, Spanish and Swedish are indicated at the series level.

Biographical Note

James Laverre Whittenberger (1914-2007), S.B., University of Chicago; M.D., 1938, University of Chicago, was the James Stevens Simmons Professor of Public Health at Harvard School of Public Health and director of the Kresge Center for Environmental Health at Harvard from 1958 to 1983.

James Laverre Whittenberger was born in Dahinda, Illinois in 1914. He received an S.B. from the University of Chicago, and an M.D. from the University of Chicago in 1938. He interned at Cincinnati General Hospital and held research fellowships at the University of Chicago, the Thorndike Memorial Laboratory of the Boston City Hospital, and New York University Medical School. As a fellow in surgery at the University of Chicago, Whittenberger worked under Charles B. Huggins, future Nobel Laureate in Medicine. He joined the Harvard School of Public Health as an Associate in Physiology in 1946, working under Cecil Drinker, former Dean and Professor of Physiology, and Philip Drinker, inventor of the iron lung. During World War II and immediately afterwards, Whittenberger served with the U.S. Army Medical Corps. In 1951 he became a professor of physiology and seven years later was named James Stevens Simmons Professor of Public Health. He served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs from 1966 to 1972 and then as Associate Dean of the Faculty of Public Health until 1978.

Trained as a physician, Whittenberger focused on applying a public health approach to environmental health issues. Early in his career he studied respiratory mechanics and the use of artificial ventilation in polio patients. Later, he examined pollution’s effects on the physiology of respiratory systems. In 1956 he advised the government health service of Argentina in the management of respiratory problems in polio patients during an epidemic. Whittenberger also served as a consultant to the U.S. Public Health Service, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Children’s Hospital, the Chemical Corps, the Massachusetts Civil Defense Organization and the Veterans Hospital at Rutland, Massachusetts. Whittenberger was the founder and former Director of the Kresge Center for Environmental Health at Harvard School of Public Health, now called the Harvard NIEHS Center for Environmental Health.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, Whittenberger served on numerous committees and panels for agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Research Council, Food and Drug Administration, National Center for Health Statistics, the President’s Biomedical Research Panel, and the Ford Foundation. From 1969 to 1970, he was a member of the President’s Task Force on Air Pollution, White House. In the 1970s, he co-chaired the first and second Task Forces for Research Planning in Environmental Health Sciences for NIEHS. This work led to the publication of the reports "Man's Health and the Environment: Some Research Needs" and "Human Health and the Environment: Some Research Needs," intended to help national planning efforts in environmental health research.

After retiring from HSPH in 1980, Whittenberger became the director of the Southern Occupational Health Center, University of California, Irvine. He also served as Professor in Residence in the Department of Community and Environmental Medicine, College of Medicine, Irvine, and in the Division of Environmental Sciences, School of Public Health, UCLA.

Whittenberger married Jean Margaret Stockfisch and they had two children, John and Peter. Whittenberger died March 17, 2007.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. I. Correspondence, 1939-1963
  2. II. Harvard School of Public Health Records, 1946-1962
  3. ___ A. Government Contracts and Grant Records, 1946-1962
  4. ___ B. Public Health Aspects of Human Ecology Course Records, 1947-1949
  5. ___ C. Committee Records, 1947-1962
  6. III. National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis Records, 1945-1962
  7. ___ A. Correspondence, 1945-1962
  8. ___ B. Financial Records, 1946-1959
  9. ___ C. International Polio Congress Records, 1947-1957
  10. ___ D. Travel and Project Reports, 1947-1958
  11. IV. Writings, 1933-1963, undated
  12. ___ A. Articles and Drafts, 1933-1960, undated
  13. ___ B. Correspondence, 1957-1963
  14. V. Other Professional Activities, 1947-1988

Related Papers in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Center for the History of Medicine

  1. Papers of Jean Alonzo Curran. H MS c164
  2. Papers of Maxwell Finland. H MS c153
  3. Papers of Mary Ellen Avery. H MS c201

Related Papers in the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute

Processing Information

Processed by Meghan Bannon, November 2009, under the supervision of Bryan Sutherland.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged and described the papers, and created a finding aid to improve access. To enhance preservation, processing staff re-housed the collection, and where necessary, photocopied items onto acid-free paper. Folder titles were transcribed from originals.

Whittenberger, James Laverre, 1914-. Papers, 1933-1988 (inclusive): 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.

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