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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c419

Priscilla A. Schaffer papers,


The Priscilla A. Schaffer papers principally consist of records generated as a product of Schaffer’s research on herpes simplex virus (HSV) and her teaching activities at Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, Texas), Harvard Medical School (Boston, Massachusetts), and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia.


  • 1947-2010 (inclusive),
  • Majority of material found within 1984-2006 , undated.

Language of Materials

Papers are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Access requires advance notice. Contact Public Services for further information.

Access to electronic records in Series III is premised on the availability of a computer station, requisite software, and/or the ability of Public Services staff to review and/or print out records of interest in advance of an on-site visit.

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

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all the materials in the collection. Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to Public Services. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from Public Services are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.


07.25 cubic feet (6 records center cartons, 1 half legal size document box)
04.70 gigabytes* (1 DVD-RW)
The Priscilla A. Schaffer papers principally consist of records generated as a product of Schaffer’s research on infectious disease and strains of herpes simplex virus (HSV) and teaching activities at Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, Texas), Harvard Medical School (Boston, Massachusetts), and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia. Records include the development of classes and lectures on virological topics, as well as her work with graduate students (Series I and II). Also included is correspondence with other researchers in the field of virology, particularly those interested in receiving samples of experimental material from Schaffer’s lab. A small amount of personal information (Series III) includes photographs, award certificates, and correspondence related to Schaffer's early academic career in the 1960s. Records include grant applications, correspondence, laboratory notebooks, regulatory lab records, photographs, and awards given to Schaffer over the course of her career.

The Papers are entirely in English.

Biographical Notes

Priscilla Ann Schaffer (1941-2009), B.S., 1964, Hobart and William Smith College, Geneva, New York; Ph.D., 1969, Cornell Medical College, New York, New York was Professor of Medicine in the Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts. Schaffer's research focussed on herpes simplex virus (HSV) viral gene expression, DNA replication, glycoproteins, and drug mechanisms and resistance. Schaffer is also credited with isolating and characterizing temperature-sensitive mutants of HSV 1 and 2, as well as mutants resistant to immune cytolysis and antiviral drugs for research use (see Harvard Medical School's Memorial Minute, 2009). Schaffer also held appointments as Assistant Professor of Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas (1969-1976) and Chair of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia (1996-2000).

Schaffer was born in 1941 in St. Louis, Missouri. She received her B.S. from Hobart and William Smith College in Geneva, New York, in 1964 and her Ph.D. from Cornell Medical College (now Weill-Cornell Medical College) in 1969. She held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Baylor College of Medicine and advanced to hold a position as assistant professor in the department of virology and epidemiology at Baylor in 1971. Schaffer was recruited in 1976 to join the Harvard Medical School department of microbiology and molecular genetics and the Sidney Farber Cancer Institute (now the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) as an associate professor. She also headed the Laboratory of Tumor Virus Genetics at the Institute and received a full professorship at Harvard Medical School in 1981. After many years at Harvard, Schaffer briefly held a position in the department of microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine between 1996 and 2000. She returned to Boston and to Harvard in 2000 as a full professor of medicine and chief of the laboratory of molecular virology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Schaffer’s primary research focus was the herpes simplex family of viruses, but she also worked on retroviruses, specifically HIV. Early in her career, Schaffer isolated and characterized a collection of temperature-sensitive mutants of herpes simplex virus 1 and 2, as well as mutants resistant to immune cytolysis and antiviral drugs. She was one of the first researchers to begin work towards the study of the molecular basis of the herpes simplex virus. Later in her career at Harvard Medical School, she worked on latent infections and emphasized the importance of a genetic understanding of viruses.

Schaffer was unmarried and had no children. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease soon after returning to Boston in 2000. She retired from Harvard in 2007 and moved to Arizona where she established a laboratory at the University of Arizona and oversaw the construction of her retirement home. Schaffer died in 2009 and was survived by her mother, four siblings, and her caretaker and friend Madelon Cook.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. I. Research Records, undated, 1971-2010
  2. ___ A. Grants Files, undated, 1976-2008
  3. ___B. Laboratory Records, undated, 1971-2010
  4. ______ 1. Correspondence, 1971-2006
  5. ______ 2. Laboratory Notebooks, undated, 2003-2010
  6. II. Teaching and Writing, undated, 1992-2010
  7. III. Personal Papers, Certificates, and Awards, undated, 1947-201?

Immediate Source of Acquisition

  1. Gifted by Albert Schaffer. 2013 September 03 (Accession 2014-016).
  2. Gifted by Donald Coen. 2013 September 04 (Accession 2014-017).

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

  1. Records of the Archives for Women in Medicine oral history project . Oral history interview with Priscilla Schaffer (video and transcript).

Processing Information

Processed by Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook, 2014 July.

Staff at the Center for the History of Medicine refoldered and reboxed material and created a finding aid to increase researcher access. Material in three-ring binders was removed and foldered; binders were discarded. Rusty and damaging fasteners were removed. A single DVD-RW found in the collection was imaged using AccesData's FTK Imager software, with the image file and extracted use copies of files copied to electronic storage; the physical DVD-RW remains with the collection. Correspondence found in original sealed envelopes were removed and foldered, with original envelopes retained with corresponding letters. Copies of bound dissertations found with the collection are in Box 6.
Link to catalog
Schaffer, Priscilla A. Papers, 1947-2010 (inclusive), 1984-2006 (bulk), undated.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
The Priscilla A. Schaffer papers were processed under the auspices of the Archives for Women in Medicine, a special project of the Joint Committee on the Status of Women and the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

Repository Details

Part of the Countway Library of Medicine Repository

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