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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c536

Hermann Lisco papers

Overview

The Hermann Lisco Papers, 1899–2000 (inclusive), 1940-1974 (bulk), are the product of Lisco’s professional, research, teaching, publishing, and personal activities and interests throughout the course of his career. The papers are arranged in four series: I. Correspondence, 1921-1999, II. Research records, 1899-1992, III. Professional records, 1936-1994, IV. Personal papers, 1909-2000.

Dates

  • 1899-2000 (inclusive)
  • Majority of material found within 1940-1974

Creator

Language of Materials

Records are in English and German.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Some restrictions apply (see below).

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

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 and II. Access to person 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.

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.

Extent

3.35 cubic feet (4 records center cartons)
The Hermann Lisco Papers, 1899–2000 (inclusive), 1940-1974 (bulk), are the product of Lisco’s professional, research, teaching, publishing, and personal activities and interests throughout the course of his career. The papers are arranged in four series: I. Correspondence, 1921-1999, II. Research records, 1899-1992, III. Professional records, 1936-1994, IV. Personal papers, 1909-2000.

Correspondence (Series I) includes letters sent and received by Hermann Lisco, as well as published works and at times biographies, and correspondence from students who studied along with or under Lisco, and colleagues from his time at Harvard Medical School, University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Berlin, the Argonne National Laboratory, and elsewhere. Some letters are accompanied by aphorisms, related research material, and 1936 drawings. Research Records (Series II) include studies on acute radiation syndrome, studies on deaths caused by plutonium exposure, Lisco’s later work on leukeumia in women treated with radiation therapy for cancer of the cervix uteri, and additional articles, images, and papers about a wide variety of topics for use in his research, as well as records of attendance related to such agendas as the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and related societies. Series II also contains photographs derived from or related to Lisco’s research.

Professional records (Series III) consist of papers relating to employment, including Lisco’s tenure at Harvard Medical School, a fellowship at Johns Hopkins’ University’s Finney-Howell Research Foundation, as well as the University of Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, during the period Lisco served as a civilian for the Manhattan District. Also included are materials relating to students and employees working alongside Lisco at Harvard Medical School, and materials pertaining to his 1957-1958 position on the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.

Personal papers (Series IV) include items from Lisco’s personal life as well as two scrapbooks of grade reports from his schooling years in Germany 1918 to 1936. Professional records (Series IV) include letters in support of conscientious objector status that date from 1968 to 1974, and photos of friends, peers and colleagues, some at the seventy-fifth birthday party for Friedrich Wassermann (1884-1969). This series also includes writings on Parkinsonism, the pain and paresthesias it causes, with correspondence between physicians tending to Dr. Lisco’s Parkinson’s.

Personal papers (Series IV) include children’s drawings, newspaper clippings, curriculum vitae, writings on the division between Eastern and Western Germany 1989-1990, and awards given to Lisco by the Harvard Medical School Class of 1982 and the American Association for Cancer.

The papers are predominantly in English. Some records are in German.

Biographical Note

Hermann Lisco (born 1910), M. D., 1936, University of Berlin, was a physician, professor, and pathologist who practiced at Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland, and later taught at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts. He was first doctor to perform an autopsy on an individual who had died of acute radiation poisoning, in 1945, under employment of the University of Chicago’s Metallurgical Laboratory, based in Los Alamos, New Mexico, more widely known as the Manhattan Project. He was among the first to study the effects of plutonium on the human body, and published widely on the subjects of cancer, radiation, and the incidence of leukemia or other diseases in patients treated with radiation therapy.

Lisco was born on 1910 October 24, in Schul-Pforta, Germany. After his graduation from the Gymnasium in Gottingen, Germany in 1929, he received his M.D., cum laude, from the University of Berlin, Germany. In 1936, he worked as an assistant in the Institute of Pathology at the University of Berlin at the Charite-Krankenhaus briefly that year, then departed Germany due to its political climate, having married a Jewish woman and fearing the rise of Nazism. Lisco then worked as an assistant and instructor at Johns Hopkins University Medical School and Hospital from 1936 to 1940, also becoming a Fellow of Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Finney-Howell Cancer Research Foundation from 1938 to 1940. He afterward became a research fellow at the Harvard Cancer Commission, and became a Huntington Memorial Hospital Assistant in the Department of Pathology at Harvard Medical School, and served as an instructor of pathology at Harvard Medical School from 1941 to 1944.

In 1944 Lisco was recruited to serve on the staff of the Biology and Health Division of the Metallurgical Laboratory of the University of Chicago. He was a civilian employee of the Manhattan District of the United States Army from 1944 to 1946, including contributing to the devleopment of the atom bomb, and was granted leave from Harvard Medical School. It was during this time, in 1945, that he performed the first autopsies on individuals who died of acute radiation poisoning, in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Lisco frequently held multiple scientific positions simultaneously. He became the Director of the Medical Division and Association Director of Biology Division at the Argonne National Laboratory (1947-1952), and was the Scientific Secretary of the United Nation’s Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (1957-1958). He served as Senior Pathologist and Research Associate (Assistant and Associate Professor) in the Department of Pathology at the University of Chicago from 1948 to 1962, before returning to Boston to serve as a Senior Research Associate in Pathology at the Cancer Research Institute of the New England Deaconess Hospital (1962-1970). During 1959 to 1968, Lisco traveled extensively and repeatedly throughout Europe, on trips funded by the World Health Organization and the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission, visiting research stations, studying cancer, radiation, and often the incidence of leukemia in women who had been treated with radiation therapy for cancer of the cervix uteri.

Lisco’s research varied over the course of his career, but focused on a general theme. In his early career, Lisco wrote primarily on the effect of radiation poisoning, as treated in his “The Acute Radiation Syndrome” in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 1952. He wrote a number of works on irradiation in humans and lab animals, acute radiation syndrome, and the carcinogenic effect of plutonium and radiotoxicity of other elements in the 1940s through 1960s, as well as radiation’s effect on the formation of tumors and lymphoma. Much of his later research focused largely on cancer, and on the side effects of radiation therapy on patients being treated for cancer. He conducted a number of trips to Europe in the late 1950s through 1970s and onward that dealt with studying the incidence of leukemia in women treated with radiotherapy for cancer of the cervix uteri, of which a number of notes can be found in this collection. In his memberships on professional organizations and in his private research as a university professor, he devoted himself to the study of the pathologic effects of atomic radiation, and much of his work focused on the importance of Radiological protection and the importance of medical supervision in radiation work, despite its occasional beneficial uses for certain medical human treatments.

Lisco returned to employment at Harvard Medical School in 1967 as an Assistant Dean of Students, became an Associate Dean (1969), an Associate Professor of Anatomy (1970-1977), a Deputy Chairman of Medical Sciences (1977-1982), and retired in 1981 as an Associate Professor of Anatomy. Lisco authored or co-authored fifty-six publications, from 1936 until 1989, as well as nineteen abstracts, twelve semi-annual reports of the Argonne National Laboratory, and was a contributor to eleven other medical publications. He was a fifty-year member of the American Association for Cancer Research, as well as a fifty-year member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. For the National Research Council, he was a member of the Executive Committee of the Committee on Growth of the National Academy of Sciences from 1954 to 1956 and member and chairman from 1951 to 1956 of the Panel on Environmental Cancer, and a member of the subcommittee on Internal Emitters of the Committees on the Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation from 1955 to 1961. In 1960, for the International Atomic Energy Agency, he was a member of the Expert Committee on Strontium 90, Vienna, and a member of the Panel on Radiation Damage in Bone, Oxford. He was a member of the Panel on Use of Vital and Health Statistics for Genetic and Radiation Studies for the World Health Organization in 1960, Geneva. From 1961 to 1962, he was a member on the Carcinogenesis Studies Panel of the Advisory Committee to the National Cancer Institute, and in 1964 a consultant to the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health. He was also a member of the New England Society of Pathologists, the Society for Developmental Biology, the Massachusetts Society of Pathologists, the Radiation Research Society, the American Society for Experimental Pathology, and the American Association of Pathologists and Bacteriologists.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. I. Correspondence, 1921-1999
  2. II. Research records, 1899-1992
  3. III. Professional records, 1936-1994
  4. IV. Personal papers, 1909-2000

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was gifted to the Center for the History of Medicine by Ms. Karen Kosman in 2004.
  1. Accession number 2002-018. Karen Kosman. 2001-08-02.

Processing Information

Processed by Joseph M. Giese, supervised by Betts Coup, 2017 October.

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 hanging file folders and, were necessary, rehoused in acid-free folders. Some folder titles were transcribed from the originals; some folder titles were created, where loose materials were found.
Link to catalog
Title
Lisco, Hermann. Papers, 1899-2000 (inclusive), 1940-1974 (bulk): Finding Aid
Author
Joseph M. Giese
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
EAD ID
med00399

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

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