Myron Essex papers
The Myron Essex papers, 1949-1996 (inclusive), 1965-1996 (bulk), are the product of Essex’s professional, research, teaching, and publishing activities throughout the early years of his career. Essex’s research focused on the link between retroviruses and immunosuppressive disease in animals and human beings, including HIV-AIDS. The papers are arranged in four series: I. Correspondence files, 1969-1992, undated; II. Harvard School of Public Health records, 1970-1996, undated; III. Research records, 1949-1986, undated; and IV. Writings and collected publications files, 1970-1994, undated.
- 1949-1921 (inclusive)
- Majority of material found within 1965-1996
- Essex, Myron (Person)
Language of Materials
Papers are in predominantly in English. Some papers are in French, Spanish, German, and Portuguese.
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, II, and III. Access to personal and patient information is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions appear in Series I, II, and III. 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 II) 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.
Extent17 cubic feet (16 records center cartons and 2 oversize boxes)
0.01 gigabytes* (1 3.5 inch floppy disk)
117 cubic feet (unprocessed papers in 117 records center cartons.)
The Myron Essex papers, 1949-1996, are the product of Essex’s professional, research, teaching, and publishing activities throughout the early years of his career. The papers are arranged in four series: I. Correspondence files, 1969-1992, undated; II. Harvard School of Public Health Records, 1970-1996, undated; III. Research records, 1949-1986, undated; and IV. Writings and collected publications files, 1970-1994, undated.
Correspondence files (series I) includes letters and requests from colleagues relating to research, grant applications, writings, laboratory positions, and professional organizations and conferences, as well as peers’ research and research grant applications and Essex’s reviews of these materials. Harvard School of Public Health records (series II) contain correspondence, committee meeting minutes and memoranda, and teaching records relating to courses on microbiology, virology, pathology, and immunity, as well as materials relating to the Harvard AIDS Institute, now called the Harvard AIDS Initiative. These papers relate to the administration of the Harvard AIDS Institute and its workshops and education programs, including correspondence, applications, financial records, meeting minutes, and writings.
Research records (series III) contain raw, analyzed, and summarized research data, including notes, charts, photographs, and x-rays, as well as research grant applications, correspondence, and writings and publications. Research subjects include: the feline leukemia and lymphoma viruses, feline sarcoma virus, feline ocular melanoma, viruses in cancer, the parallels between human and animal retroviruses, human T cell leukemia and lymphoma viruses, hemophilia, HIV, and AIDS. Writings and collected publications files (series IV) contain drafts and published papers by Essex and his peers, along with related materials used in Essex’s professional career for research and writing purposes. Topics of these research and publications records include: the feline leukemia virus, HIV, AIDS, human and animal retroviruses, human T cell viruses, bovine leukemia viruses, biology and detection of immune complexes, mutations in bacteria, the relationship between AIDS and blood transfusions, hepatitis B, gene therapy, the T cell growth factor, and the modulation of antigen expression on lymphoblastoid cell lines. Further files additionally contain newspaper articles and press materials relating to Essex and his research.
Throughout the papers, “Vet Micro Dept” appears to stand for “Veterinary Microbiology Department;” “HAI” appears to stand for “Harvard AIDS Institute;” and "FOCMA" refers to the "feline oncornavirus-associated cell membrane antigen."
Papers are predominantly in English. Some papers are in French, Spanish, German, and Portuguese.
Myron Essex (1939-) is the Mary Woodard Lasker Professor of Health Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, and the Chair, Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute in Gaborone, Botswana. Essex’s research has focused on the link between retroviruses and immunosuppressive disease in animals and human beings, including HIV-AIDS; he is responsible for the discovery of gp120, the virus surface protein used for blood screening and HIV detection, and the identification of the simian T cell leukemia virus (STLV) and the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) in monkeys, and the HIV-2 virus in people in West Africa.
Myron “Max” Essex was born on August 17, 1939, in Coventry, Rhode Island. He completed his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, in 1967, and then received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, in 1970. He began his career conducting laboratory research relating to feline leukemia and in 1971 was a postdoctoral fellow at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. Over time, his research transitioned from the study of retroviruses in animals to human beings, which led to his focus on HIV/AIDS. Essex served as an Assistant and Associate Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health (1972-1978, later called the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) and was a lecturer, Department of Pathology at Harvard Medical School (1976-1992). In 1979, he became a Professor of Virology, Harvard School of Public Health. Essex acted as the Chairman, Department of Microbiology, Harvard School of Public Health (1978-1982), and continued to act as the Chairman of the renamed and restructured Department of Cancer Biology (1982-1997). He then became Chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, a role he held until 2006. He has acted as the Chair of the Harvard AIDS Institute, now known as the Harvard AIDS Initiative, since 1988, and was involved with the development of its educational programs. Essex was offered the position of the Mary Woodard Lasker Professor of Health Sciences at Harvard University in 1989, and has held this position since then. He was also the John LaPorte Given Professor of Infectious Diseases (1998-2006). Since 1986, Essex has developed programs for AIDS collaboration in Senegal, Thailand, Botswana, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Mexico, and China. In 1996, Essex helped to organize the Botswana-Harvard Partnership for HIV Research and Education, a collaboration between the Ministry of Health in Botswana and the Harvard AIDS Initiative. He is currently the Chair of the Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute in Gaborone, Botswana, and has been the Chair of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health AIDS Initiative, Boston, Massachusetts since 1988. Essex has additionally served on the boards of many professional organizations, including the American Red Cross, National Cancer Institute, International Association for Research on Leukemia, among others, and is a member of professional organizations such as the American Society of Microbiology, the American Association of Cancer Research, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and others.
Much of Essex’s scientific research relates to the transmission of retroviruses and their link to immunosuppressive diseases in both animals and human beings. Working with William A. Haseltine (born 1944), Essex was among the first to link human and animal retroviruses to immunosuppressive diseases, and, with Robert Gallo (born 1937) and Luc Montagnier (born 1932), to theorize that AIDS was caused by a retrovirus. Alongside fellow scientists, Essex provided the first evidence that HIV could be transmitted through blood transfusions and sexual intercourse. In 1984, with colleagues, Essex identified gp120, the virus surface protein that is used for blood screening, HIV detection, and epidemiological monitoring. He was part of the group that discovered the first simian immunodeficiency virus, as well as HIV-2 in human beings. Currently, he conducts research related to the virology, immunobiology, and molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 viruses, especially the HIV-1C of southern Africa. Essex has laboratories at both the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where research focuses on the evolution of new HIV viruses; and the Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute, where his research focuses prevention of new HIV infections through the Botswana Combination Prevention Project, as well as drug development to decrease mother to infant transmissions, drug resistance, and the possible transmission of drug resistant HIV variants. Essex has been involved with education about the HIV viruses through the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as well as professional conferences on the topic. For his work, he has been awarded nine honorary doctorates and numerous awards, including receiving the Lasker Award in 1986 with colleagues Robert Gallo and Luc Montagnier, and the HIV Lifetime Achievement Award for Scientific Contributions in 2011. Throughout his career, Essex has published more than 600 scientific research papers and twelve books.
Myron Essex married Elizabeth Katherine Jordan on June 19, 1966, and they have two children: Holly Anne (born 1969) and Carrie Lisa (born 1972).
Series and Subseries in the Collection
- I. Correspondence files, 1969-1992, undated
- II. Harvard School of Public Health records, 1970-1996, undated
- A. Harvard School of Public Health records, 1970-1987, undated
- B. Harvard AIDS Institute Administrative records, 1981-1996, undated
- III. Research records, 1949-1986, undated
- IV. Writings and collected publications files, 1970-1994, undated
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Myron Essex papers were gifted to the Center for the History of Medicine by Myron Essex in 2015.
- Accession number 2016-068. Myron Essex. 2015 November 12.
0.66 cubic feet of papers generated by Harold Zinsser (Accession number 2016-108) and 1.2 cubic feet of papers generated by J. William Vinson (Accession number 2016-123) were separated from this collection.
Processed by Elizabeth Coup, 2016 February.
Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged, and described the papers, 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 duplicate records and records that did not meet the collection policy of the Center for the History of Medicine. When available, folder titles were transcribed from the originals. All electronic media (as found in Series II, Subseries B) were imaged using Access Data’s FTK and 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.
- Acquired Immunodeficiency
- Essex, Myron
- Feline immunodeficiency virus infection
- Feline leukemia virus
- HIV (Viruses)
- HTLV (Viruses)
- Harvard School of Public Health
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
- Immunodeficiency Virus, Feline
- Leukemia Virus, Feline
- Molecular epidemiology
- Molecular epidemiology
- photographic prints
- Essex, Myron, 1939-. Papers, 1949-1996 (inclusive), 1965-1996 (bulk): Finding Aid.
- Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
- Language of description
- The Myron Essex Papers were processed as part of the Center's Maximizing Microbiology project, with funding from a Hidden Collections grant from the Harvard University Library.
- EAD ID
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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