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COLLECTION Identifier: GA 82

Richard P. Strong papers


The Richard P. Strong papers consist of records reflecting the scientific work and career of Richard Pearson Strong. Strong was an expert in tropical medicine and worked in the United States, the Philippines, South America, and Africa.


  • 1911-2004 (inclusive)
  • Majority of material found within 1911-1945


Language of Materials

Papers are in predominantly in English, with a small amount of material in French, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. 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.


32.5 cubic feet (28 records center cartons, 5 document boxes, and 8 lantern slide boxes)

The collection consists of records reflecting the scientific work and career of Richard Pearson Strong. Strong was an expert in tropical medicine and worked in the United States, the Philippines, South America, and Africa on a variety of tropical diseases, including cholera, beri-beri, yaws, and plague.

The collection contains correspondence files and related material concerning the Harvard Medical School Department of Tropical Medicine from its earliest years until Strong's retirement in 1938, as well as records related to Strong's teaching activities at Harvard and at the Army Medical School; scientific expeditions; World War I work as head of the Red Cross commission to combat the typhus epidemic in Serbia; involvement in social clubs, international congresses, and professional societies such as the American Academy and Foundation of Tropical Medicine; advisory work for the National Research Council Committee on Medical Problems of Animal Parasitology; and service on the Massachusetts Public Health Council. The collection includes records pertaining to Strong's research and writing; some family correspondence and personal financial papers; general correspondence, memoranda, and photographs relating to Strong's teaching for the Army during World War II; a book and series of DVDs about the Harvard African Expedition in 1934; and a diary and letters belonging to Strong's wife, Grace Nichols.

The collection includes Harvard teaching and departmental material consisting of correspondence with other offices, information about faculty appointments, lecture notes, course schedules, examinations, budgets, and reports and publications concerning establishment of the Department of Tropical Medicine in 1913. The collection also contains correspondence, memoranda, and photographs relating to Strong's teaching in the Army during World War II, and a book and series of DVDs about the Harvard African Expedition in 1934.

The 1934 African Expedition material includes considerable correspondence with Strong's Harvard associates, such as George Cheever Shattuck, J. C. Bequaert, T. R. Barbour, A. W. Sellards, and J. H. Sandground; with A. Hamilton Rice and other scientists; U.S. and foreign public officials; former President Coolidge; missionaries; and organizations, such as the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Also included are related financial documents, medical photographs and a 1911 map, extracts from Strong's diary, supply and equipment lists, notes and manuscripts of lectures and reports, and other items about expeditions to Peru (1913 and 1937), Brazil (1924), Liberia and the Belgian Congo (1926-1927 and 1934), Guatemala (1931-1932), and the Yucatan (1931) to study and control diseases such as onchocerciasis.

Papers about Red Cross work in Serbia include correspondence, notes and clippings, as well as correspondence and reports from the Conference at Cannes (organized by Strong in 1919). Also included are World War I reports, supply lists, and memoranda reflecting his research on trench fever. Other material reflects Strong's research on tropical diseases in conjunction with Boston area hospitals; consulting work for United Fruit Company; and lectures at Lowell Institute, Boston.

The collection also contains photographs from his work in Manchuria during the 1911 plague and from Manila and Harvard; and an early notebook of experiments, ca. 1899.

Papers are entirely in English.

Biographical Note

Richard P. (Pearson) Strong, (1872-1948); B.S., 1893, Yale University (Sheffield Scientific School), New Haven, Connecticut; M.D., 1897, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, was the first chair of the Department of Tropical Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Richard Pearson Strong was born in Virginia in 1872. He received his bachelor's degree from Yale's Sheffield Scientific School in 1893 and his M.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1897; he also had his first residency at Johns Hopkins. He entered the American Army Medical Service and did two years of service during the Spanish-American War. After his service, Strong helped to organize and then headed the Biological Laboratory which was part of the Philippine Bureau of Science directed by Paul C. Freer. At the Laboratory, Strong focused on infectious and nutritional diseases, including cholera and plague. In 1906, Strong was involved in the infection of twenty-three prisoners at Bilibid Prison in Manila, Philippines, with the plague virus. Thirteen of the men died; the rest recovered. After some investigation, the infections were blamed on a laboratory mix-up and Strong was unofficially exonerated.

Strong was named Professor of Tropical Medicine at the University of the Philippines in 1907. In 1911, he was one member of a medical delegation to China investigating an outbreak of plague in and around Manchuria. He left the Philippines position in 1913 upon his appointment to a professorship in tropical medicine at Harvard Medical School; he was named chair of the newly formed Department of Tropical Medicine the same month.

During World War I he worked throughout the European war zone, including in France on "trench fever" and in Serbia during an outbreak of typhus. From 1917-1919 he was a member of the Inter-Allied Sanitary Commission in Europe. He directed and took part in scientific expeditions in South America and Africa in the 1920s and 1930s and wrote extensively both on his personal experiences as a travelling medical researcher and the scientific evidence which was found. When America entered World War II, Strong rejoined the American Army Medical Services and spent four years at Army Headquarters as a specialist in tropical medicine.

In 1913, Strong was elected president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene; he also received honorary degrees from Yale (1914) and Harvard (1916). Strong was made an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine in 1936.

Strong was married to Grace (Nichols) who died in 1944; Strong died in 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Collection Organization

Files are intellectually grouped by their original box titles (see the Processing Note for more information), and most files are arranged alphabetically within those groupings.

In the case of the following original box groupings, files are organized by category rather than alphabetically: "Office Files: Gorgas Memorial Institute (Individuals, Addresses, Circulars, Clippings, Plans), Harvard (Alumni Bulletin, Bureau of Economic Research); Archives," "Office Files: Lectures, Reports, Articles (by Organization or Title) (General - Lowell Lecture)," "Original box label: Office Files: Onchocerciasis Report; Archives," "Office Files: World War I, American Red Cross (Sources - End), Boston Committee on Public Safety, Medical Committee of National Defense," and "Office Files: World War I, Serbia Typhus 1915."

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Richard P. Strong papers were gifted to the Harvard Medical Library by Guido Kluxen in 2005.

  1. 2005-046 Guido Kluxen. 2005

Existence and Location of Copies

A 1934 film of Strong's expeditions to Africa to investigate diseases and obtain material for his laboratory and teaching work has been digitized and is available through the Center's digital collections site, OnView. View the film here: Harvard African Expedition

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

  1. Records of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. H MS c192.

Associated Collections at Houghton Library

  1. Records of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions African missions. ABC 15.1-15.9.
  2. Records of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions Pacific Islands missions. ABC 19.1-19.7.
  3. Records of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions archives. ABC 1-91.
  4. Records of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, ca. 1835-1961. 2003M-21.

Processing Information

Processed by Pam Lowy, 2009 and finding aid created by Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook, 2017.

Staff at the Center for the History of Medicine refoldered and reboxed material and created a finding aid to increase researcher access.

Three folders were determined to be missing during the 2017 encoding of this finding aid: Box 9, Forbes, Edward W (Original box label: Office Files: Persons, Colleagues, Staff Continued (Christiansen - Huff)) Box 21, Mira, Mario G, Dr (Original box label: Office Files: Series 2, Me - Nat C) Box 25, H (Original box label: Office Files: Series 3, World War II service G - End, Colonel Richard P Strong, Photos WWII Activities, Letters 1943-45, Condolences on Death of Wife 1944).

The original boxes were labeled with titles describing their contents, such as "Office Files: Clubs A-Z" Because physical box groupings shifted during processing, the intellectual box titles have been maintained in the folder list below to maintain original context.

Strong, Richard P. (Richard Pearson), 1872-1948. Papers, 1911-2004 (inclusive), 1911-1945 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook
Description rules
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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