Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c310

Marjorie B. Lees papers


Marjorie Berman Lees was a neurological researcher whose early work in the laboratory of Jordi Folch-Pi resulted in the discovery of a novel chloroform-methanol soluble protein. In her later career, she focused on the structure and function of myelin and the proteolipid proteins. The collection reflects her work as a researcher and a teacher at Dartmouth Medical School, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Records include correspondence, slides, publications, manuscripts, laboratory notebooks, research, and data.


  • Creation: 1901-2007 (inclusive)
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1961-1995


Language of Materials

Papers are primarily in English with a small amount of material in French.

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

Access to electronic records in this collection (as found in Series V) is also subject to the above restrictions. Additionally, access 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 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.


38 cubic feet (37 records center cartons and 2 document boxes)
0.01 gigabytes* (2 5.25 floppy disks and 1 3.5 floppy disk)

The collection reflects the professional work of Marjorie Berman Lees, a neuroscience researcher who focused on neurochemistry with an emphasis on the structure and function of myelin, the substance that forms a protective sheath around nerves in the human body. Early in her career when working in Jordi Folch-Pi’s laboratory at McLean Hospital, Lees discovered a novel chloroform-methanol soluble protein, and she and Folch-Pi did some of the earliest work on proteolipid proteins. Lees taught at Dartmouth Medical School, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School and was a biochemist at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center.

Materials in the collection reflect Lees’ work as a researcher and teacher, and span her career from the late 1940s through the late 1990s. Topics include the laboratory study of proteolipids and myelin, teaching at Harvard Medical School, Lees’ participation in activities including consultations with NASA and membership in professional organizations, and publications. Records include correspondence, grant proposals, budgets, and reports, slides, reprints and manuscripts, lecture notes, and reference files.

Papers are entirely in English.

Biographical Notes

Marjorie B. (Berman) Lees (1923-2012), B.A., 1943, Hunter College, New York City, New York; M.S., 1945, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; Ph.D., 1951, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, was a neurological researcher whose early work resulted in the discovery of a novel chloroform-methanol soluble protein in total lipid extracts of the brain. She continued to study myelin lipids and proteolipid protein through her career.

Lees was born in New York in 1923 and took her bachelor’s degree from Hunter College in New York City in 1943, having become interested in studies of the nervous system through experimentation on Xenopus. She held a United States Public Health Service pre-doctoral fellowship from 1947-1950 and a research assistantship at the College of Physicians and Surgeons. She received her M.S. at the University of Chicago, continuing her studies in neurology, working primarily with fish brains. After moving to Boston with her husband, Sydney, Lees pursued a Ph.D. in neurological science at Radcliffe College. After receiving her Ph.D., she held an American Cancer Society post-doctoral fellowship and also held positions at the McLean Hospital Research Laboratory.

Lees went to Dartmouth Medical School as a research associate in pharmacology in 1962. Between 1962 and 1966, when she left Dartmouth, she was promoted to senior research associate, a position which carried with it the rank of associate professor in the medical school. She moved back to Harvard Medical School after leaving Dartmouth and remained there for the rest of her professional career, first as a research associate and then as principal research associate in biological chemistry from 1966 to 1975. She was made a member of the faculty of Harvard Medical School in 1971. She worked as a biochemist in the Neurology Service of the Massachusetts General Hospital from 1976-1994, as well as working as a biochemist at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center. Lees became a full professor of biochemistry at Harvard Medical School in 1985. In 1994, Lees was named professor emerita at Harvard Medical School; in 1999, she received the same title from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Her work with biochemist Jordi Folch-Pi at Harvard University resulted in the discovery of a novel chloroform-methanol soluble protein. Lees studied proteolipid proteins (PLPs) for the rest of her career. She focused on neurochemistry with a particular emphasis on the structure and function of myelin, the insulating sheath made up of protein and fat that forms around nerves. She worked with medical graduate students and built a reputation as a mentor. She was a member of numerous professional societies including the American Society of Biological Chemists, the International Society of Neurochemistry, the American Society of Neurochemistry, the Society for Neuroscience, and the American Association of Neuropathologists.

Marjorie Berman married Sydney Lees in the late 1940s and the couple had four children: David, Andrew, Eliot, and Constance. David, Andrew, and Eliot survived their parents. Marjorie Berman Lees died in Newton, Massachusetts, in January 2012.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. I. Grant Files, 1974-2004
  2. II. Laboratory Records, 1940-1997
  3. III. Professional Activities Records, 1945-2005 (inclusive), 1970-1999 (bulk)
  4. IV. Publications and Presentations, 1933-2002 (inclusive), 1960-1995 (bulk)
  5. V. Resource and Reference Files, 1901-2007 (inclusive), 1945-1995 (bulk)
  6. VI. Teaching Records, 1943-2003

Immediate Source of Acquisition

  1. 2003-067. Lees, Marjorie Berman, 1923-. 2003 June 04.
  2. 2009-018. Lees, Marjorie Berman, 1923-. 2008 December 11.

Processing Information

Processed by Elizabeth Coup and Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook, 2015 July.

Staff at the Center for the History of Medicine refoldered and reboxed material and created a finding aid to increase researcher access. Folder titles were transcribed from original folders which were then discarded. Records in 3-ring binders were removed from the binders and placed in folder. Slides in original plastic sleeves were rehoused in archival sleeves for preservation and ease of access.

All electronic media (as found in Series IV and V) were imaged using Access Data’s FTK and a Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device. Records were then transferred to secure storage. Files that could be opened were sampled for content, however, researchers should be aware that not every file in the collection could be opened and assessed. Files for which specific software was needed, but not available to staff at the time of processing, were not reviewed. Regardless of copy status, all original media have been retained.

Lees, Marjorie Berman, 1923-. Papers, 1901-2007 (inclusive), 1961-1995 (bulk) : Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Description rules
Language of description
The Marjorie B. Lees 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.

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