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COLLECTION Identifier: HUGFP 143

Papers of George Wald


George David Wald, 1906-1997, was a Nobel Prize-winning biologist, Higgins Professor of Biology at Harvard University, and a promoter of progressive political and social causes. These papers document both his life as a scientist and his life as a social activist.


  • 1927-1997

Physical Description

Extent is approximate.

Conditions on Use and Access

Curatorial permission is required for viewing and photocopying material in the collection. Additional permissions are required for publication of quotations from the collection until December 3, 2047. Consult with the reference staff of the Harvard University Archives for details.

The Papers of George Wald are stored off-site. Please consult the Harvard University Archives Reference

Department for information about retrieval of material.


49.95 cubic feet (149 boxes)

These papers document the public life of George Wald, including his work as a scientist and his efforts as a prominent social activist. As such, the papers document the field of vision science and liberal American politics, especially the era of the late 1960s to early 1970s. Political topics of note are anti-Vietnam War activism, human rights, poverty, civil rights, and pollution.

All researchers will find material of interest in the Correspondence Series and Writings Series. Researchers interested in Wald's scientific career should examine the Scientific Research Series and Teaching Series. Researchers concerned with Wald's social activism will find the Science and Society Series and Politics Series of particular interest.

Chronologically, the papers cover Wald's adult life; the earliest material dates from his college years and the latest from the 1990s. Material consists of many formats: correspondence, manuscripts, publications, notebooks, note cards, photographs, video, and audio tapes.

Biography of George Wald

Wald's great curiosity, which led to his success as a research scientist, also inspired him to explore his own consciousness and philosophy of life. These explorations led to a popular lecture entitled Life and Mind, which he published in a variety of formats. Wald spoke on subjects such as "The Origin of Death," "Consciousness," and "Cosmology."

As an outspoken opponent of nuclear energy, Wald lobbied in the United States and internationally for nuclear arms reduction and non-reliance on nuclear power. He worked to move research on recombinant DNA away from Cambridge because of the possibility of contamination in the community. He was part of the Basso Tribunal on Human Rights, and served as an observer for its Tribunal on Guatemala and other countries. During the hostage crisis in 1980 he participated in the "Crimes Against Iran" conference in Tehran. Until his death at the age of 90 on April 12, 1997, George Wald remained an advocate for progressive social and political causes.

Born November 18, in New York City
Graduates from Washington Square College, New York University, with a B.A in Zoology
First marriage to Frances Kingsley
Obtains Ph.D. From Columbia University after graduate work with Selig Hecht
National Research Council Fellowship
University of Chicago Physiology Department
Tutor in biochemical sciences at Harvard University
Receives the Eli Lilly Research Award
Appointed associate professor of biology at Harvard University
Appointed full professor of biology at Harvard University
Publishes series in Scientific American; best known article, "Origin of Life"
Receives Lasker Award from the American Public Health Association
Receives Proctor Medal from the Association of Research in Ophthalmology
Second marriage to Ruth Hubbard
First nominated for the Nobel Prize
Receives Rumford Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Overseas Fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge University
Cover of Time for 10 best teachers in America
Wins Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Named Higgins Professor of Biology at Harvard
Receives honorary doctorates from Clark University and Amherst College
March 4, gives A Generation in Search of a Future speech at MIT, beginning of intense period as a political activist.
Wins Max Berg Award for improving the quality of human life
Travels to China and Vietnam; visits with American POWs;
Endorses Senator George McGovern for President;
Jailed in Washington D.C. at an anti-Vietnam War protest
Retires from teaching at Harvard
"Life and Mind" lectures first published
Attends "Crime Against Iran" conference in Tehran
Member of the Russell Tribunal on Human Rights in Guatemala
Dies on April 12

Series and Sub-series in the Collection

  1. Biographical Materials
  2. ___Biographical Files
  3. ___Honors, Awards and Certificates
  4. Correspondence
  5. Politics
  6. Science and Society
  7. Scientific Research
  8. ___Files
  9. ___Data Notebooks
  10. ___Reference Cards
  11. ___Photographs
  12. ___Charts and Graphs
  13. ___Data by Paul K. Brown
  14. Teaching
  15. Writings, Speeches, and Appearances
  16. ___Publications
  17. ______Political publications
  18. ______Scientific publications
  19. ___Manuscripts

Immediate Source of Acquisition

  1. Accession number: 13671 1997 October 29

Inventory update

This document last updated 2018 June 20.

Processing Information

Processed by Marco Packard, Dana Lanier, Keith Anderson, Rachel D'Agostino, and Kate Bowers June 1998-June 2000 at the Harvard University Archives. Processing consisted of a collection survey and creation of a series and subseries hierarchy, folder lists, and this inventory. Physical processing consisted of transferring material into archivally appropriate containers.

Staff also removed duplicate materials and monographs not written by Wald

Wald, George. Papers of George Wald, 1927-1997 : an inventory
Harvard University Archives
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

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