Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c478

A. Clifford Barger papers


The A. Clifford Barger papers reflect the professional and personal work of Clifford Barger (1917-1996), a research physiologist who spent his career at Harvard Medical School. Barger’s research interests focused on the cardiovascular and renal systems; he was involved in research which did much to elucidate the mechanisms by which sufferers from certain cardiac disorders retain fluids. The collection includes correspondence, publications files, research records, and administrative records.


  • Creation: 1803-1995 (inclusive)
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1968-1995


Language of Materials

Papers are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

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

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

Access requires advance notice. Access to Harvard University and Harvard University affiliate institution records is restricted for 50 years from the date of creation. Access to personal and patient information is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions are noted where they appear in Series I, Series II, Series III, and Series 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.


61.25 cubic feet (60 records center cartons, 3 letter size document boxes, 1 legal size document box)

The papers reflect the personal and professional activities of A. Clifford Barger and consist of correspondence; lectures; publications; administrative records relating to Barger’s activities as a faculty member at Harvard Medical School; records relating to Barger’s involvement with professional organizations, primarily the American Physiological Society and the Massachusetts Society for Medical Research; and audio-visual material, primarily films.

Correspondence (Series I) consists of letters and correspondence from individuals and groups, including corporations, government offices, and academic institutions. Topics include personal or family matters, patient care and referrals, teaching, student affairs, Barger’s research and laboratory, conference attendance, lectures and presentations Barger either gave or attended, and Harvard Medical School administration.

Professional activities and associations records (Series II) reflects Barger’s work with professional organizations in his field, primarily the American Physiological Society and the Massachusetts Society for Medical Research. Included here are records reflecting Barger's activities as attendee and sometimes speaker in a variety of settings, including universities and colleges across the United States as well as international meetings and workshops and conferences of organizations such as the American Heart Association, the Council for High Blood Pressure Research, and the National Academy of Sciences. Records include correspondence, legislative materials, publicity materials including educational curricula, and notes. Researchers interested in Barger's talks as Goldblatt and Sosman Lecturer in 1978 and 1980 should also consult Series V.

Harvard Medical School records (Series III) relate to Barger’s activities as a faculty member and research scientist at Harvard Medical School. Included here are records reflecting Barger’s work with standing and ad hoc committees of the school, including disciplinary and hiring committees as well as records relating to students and fellows in the physiology department. There is also a small amount of material here related to the Cannon Society, one of the faculty-led student societies created as part of the New Pathways to Medical Education program initiated by Dean Daniel C. Tosteson (1925-2009) in the 1970s; Barger was the first Master of this society. The bulk of Series III is made up of records relating to Barger’s work on issues around minority faculty and student recruitment and development at Harvard Medical School and his role as administrator of the RJ Reynolds Industries Multidisciplinary Program in Cardiovascular Disease. Records include memoranda, meeting minutes and agenda, committee reports, newspaper and magazine clippings, budget reports, and correspondence.

Research records and subject files (Series IV) reflect Barger’s research interests over the course of his career and includes background material he collected on a variety of topics, including the history of cardiovascular medicine, coronary diseases, medical education, and the use of animals as laboratory subjects. Records include reprints, photocopies, clippings, and notes.

Writings, lectures, and publications (Series V) consist of records reflecting Barger’s work as an author. He co-authored multiple books, articles, and book chapters on medical and historical topics. Included here are drafts in various stages of preparation for publication as well as correspondence with co-authors. Also included here are records of Barger’s activities as a public speaker, including his lectures as Goldblatt and Sosman lecturer in 1978 and 1980. Researchers interested in Barger’s work as a speaker should also consult Series II.

Audiovisual materials (Series VI) are primarily films for which Barger was involved in the production. These include lectures and films of medical procedures, including work on the heart and kidney.

Papers are entirely in English.

Biographical Note

A. (Abraham) Clifford Barger (1917-1996), B.A., 1939, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; M.D., 1943, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, was Robert Henry Pfeiffer Professor of Physiology at Harvard Medical School. Barger was a physiologist, specializing in the renal and cardiovascular systems. Barger spent most of his research career investigating the pathophysiology of congestive heart failure, renovascular hypertension, and coronary artery disease.

Clifford Barger was born in 1917 in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and entered Harvard University at age 18. During his senior year, he began to study muscle physiology in the Harvard Fatigue Laboratory and immediately after receiving his B.A. in 1939, he entered Harvard Medical School. His first medical internship, at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, was interrupted by World War II military service. Barger was an Army first lieutenant and worked at the Climatic Research Laboratory in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on the protection of soldiers in cold climates. Barger received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1943 during his military service. He returned to the Brigham at the end of the war and entered the Department of Physiology as a research fellow under Eugene M. Landis (1901-1987). Barger began teaching at the same time he held clinical appointments first at the Brigham and then at Children’s Hospital. Barger was promoted to a full professorship in physiology in 1961 and received the Robert Henry Pfeiffer Professorship in 1963. From 1974 to 1976, Barger served as chair of the Department of Physiology. Barger retired from Harvard Medical School in 1987.

Barger spent most of his research career investigating physiological questions involving the human heart and kidneys, including the processes of congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, and renovascular hypertension. He was among the first to describe the process by which certain nephrons in the kidney retain salt while those in a different part of the organ lose it, a process of critical importance to blood pressure and heart health. The initial research had been undertaken to try and explain why patients with congestive heart failure retain water and electrolytes. To help explain this, Barger studied the renin-angiotensin (sometimes also called the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone) system in the kidney. This system is part of the physiological mechanism for maintaining proper blood pressure and can work to compensate for some types of heart failure. Barger also investigated the physiology of coronary artery disease and the pathogenesis of the coronary arterial plaques; in this area, Barger worked to confirm previous results from pathologist Milton C. Winternitz (1885-1959).

From the 1960s on, Barger was involved in independent efforts by both Harvard Medical School and the American Physiological Society to recruit and retain minority students and faculty. He was named co-chair of the Porter Development Committee of the American Physiological Society in 1966; this committee distributed funds to support Porter Fellows, students from underrepresented communities studying physiology at institutions across the United States. Barger was also an enthusiastic historian of medicine and published articles on William T. Porter (1862-1949), founder of the Harvard Apparatus Company which funded the Porter Fellows, and Walter B. Cannon (1871-1945). Barger was co-author with Elin L. Wolfe and Saul Benison (1920-2006) of a two-volume biography of Cannon; the second volume was in preparation when Barger died in 1996 and was completed by his co-authors.

Barger received awards and recognition from a number of organizations over the course of his career, including the Certificate of Merit from the National Society of Medical Research in 1968 and selection as Goldblatt Memorial Lecturer (1978) and Annual Sosman Lecturer (1980) at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. He was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1964 and a member of the Institute of Medicine in 1974. He served as president-elect and president of the American Physiological Society between 1969 and 1971.

Clifford Barger died in 1996 at age 79 from liver cancer. He was survived by his wife of fifty-two years, Claire Basch Barger, two sons, Craig and Curtis, and a daughter, Shael.

Collection Arrangement

  1. I. Correspondence, 1932-1995
  2. II. Professional Activities and Associations Records, 1946-1995
  3. II.A. Events Records, 1964-1994
  4. II.B. Organizations Records, 1946-1995
  5. II.B.1. American Physiological Society Records, 1956-1995
  6. II.B.2. Massachusetts Society for Medical Research Records, 1946-1995
  7. II.B.3. Other Organizations Files, 1951-1995
  8. III. Harvard Medical School Records, 1945-1995
  9. III.A. Committee and Personnel Records, 1945-1995
  10. III.B. Administrative Records, 1965-1995
  11. III.B.1. Cannon Society Records, 1975-1986
  12. III.B.2. Minority Faculty and Student Recruitment and Development Records, 1965-1995
  13. III.B.3. RJ Reynolds Industries Multidisciplinary Program in Cardiovascular Disease Records, 1968-1987
  14. IV. Research Records and Subject Files, 1803-1995
  15. V. Writings, Lectures, and Publications, 1933-1995
  16. VI. Audiovisual materials, 1924-1993

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was gifted to the Center for the History of Medicine by Craig Barger in 2016.

  1. Accession number 2016-122. Craig Barger. 2016 March 21.


  1. Four samples of silastic tubing manufactured by Dow-Corning were transferred to the Warren Anatomical Museum (WAM 21892).
  2. One cubic foot (1 records center carton) of papers relating to Alma (Sterling Canfield) Porter and William Townsend Porter were transferred to the William Townsend Porter Papers, 1851-1955 (H MS c28).

Processing Information

Processed by Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook, 2018 March.

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. 35 mm slides were sleeved in archival enclosures.

Barger, A. Clifford, 1917-1996. A. Clifford Barger Papers, 1803-1995 (inclusive), 1968-1995 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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.

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