Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Elsworth Buskirk. Physiology and Performance of Track Athletes Experiment Materials,
Date (inclusive): 1963 - 1966
0.40 linear feet
(1 archives box)
Abstract: Research materials of Elsworth R. Buskirk, American physiologist, related to his high altitude research project, "Physiology
and Performance of Track Athletes at Various Altitudes in the United States and Peru." In 1965, Buskirk along with Paul Baker,
J. Kollias, E. Picon-Reatigue, R. Akers, and E. Prokop studied the physiological effects of altitude on the athletic performance
of a cohort of six male collegiate track athletes. Several physiological parameters for each athlete were recorded at five
different locations and altitudes including: Nunoa, Peru (13,000 feet); Mount Evans, Colorado (14,200 feet); Adams State College,
Alamosa, Colorado (7,500 feet); the National Jewish Hospital, Denver, Colorado (5,200 feet); and the Pennsylvania State University,
State College, Pennsylvania (900 feet). Buskirk's project was one among many studies conducted in the early 1960s which examined
athletic perfomance at high altitudes with particular interest in the training of US athletes for the 1968 Olympic Games scheduled
in Mexico City. Materials include correspondence, research materials, and miscellaneous records related to Buskirk's high
altitute physiology experiments. Notably, the papers include correspondence with Bruno Balke and L.G.C.E. Pugh, leading figures
in the field of high altitude physiology and medicine.
The papers are arranged in two series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE and 2) RESEARCH MATERIALS.
University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
La Jolla, California 92093-0175
Collection number: MSS 0581
Language of Material:
Collection materials in English
Collection is open for research.
Elsworth Buskirk. Physiology and Performance of Track Athletes Experiment Materials, MSS 0581. Mandeville Special Collections
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Elsworth R. Buskirk was born on August 11, 1929. He received a B.A. in biology and physical education from St. Olaf College,
a master's degree in physical education from the University of Minnesota, and, in 1954, a Ph.D. in physiology, also from the
University of Minnesota. After completing his Ph.D., Buskirk worked as chief of the Environmental Physiology Section at the
Quartermaster Research and Development Center in Natick, Massachusetts. From 1957 to 1963, he held the position of research
physiologist at the National Institutes of Health, and, in 1963, he became a faculty member in the Department of Physiology
at the Pennsylvania State University.
Throughout his career, Buskirk did research in many different areas of applied physiology and human nutrition including a
brief period in which he studied the physiological effects of high altitude on athletes. In 1965, Buskirk, J. Kollias, E.
Picon-Reatigue, R. Akers, E. Prokop, and Paul Baker conducted their study, "Physiology and Performance of Track Athletes at
Various Altitudes in the United States and Peru." Buskirk's work along with several related concurrent research projects
on the physiological effects of altitude flourished because of increased interest in applying high altitude studies to aerospace
medicine in the 1950s and 1960s, and because of growing concern about the training to give US athletes to prepare them for
the 1968 Olympic Games scheduled in Mexico City.
Buskirk and his associates hypothesized that hypoxia and training of track athletes at high altitudes would improve running
performance and maximal oxygen uptake upon return to lower altitudes. To test this hypothesis, they studied the athletic
performance and physiology of six male collegiate track athletes from the Pennyslvania State University at various locations
and altitudes including: Nunoa, Peru 13,000 feet); Mount Evans, Colorado (14,200 feet); Adams State College, Alamosa, Colorado
(7,500 feet); the National Jewish Hospital, Denver, Colorado (5,200 feet); and the Pennsylvania State University, State College,
Pennsylvania (900 feet). At these various locations, Buskirk and his associates tested athletic performance through time
trials of running events and through measuring the time of sustained bicycle riding. They also tracked the following physiological
parameters: hematocrit, hemoglobin, plasma and blood volume, total body water, ventilation, maximal oxygen uptake, maximal
heart rate, oxygen pulse, and oxygen debt. In discussing their results, Buskirk and his associates found that training at
high altitude "had no deleterious effects on subsequent performance at lower altitudes." They also noted that "there is also
the suggestion that certain runners may perform in a superior fashion following return from altitude for reasons that are
not clear." They presented the results of this work in March of 1966 at the International Symposium on the Effects of Altitude
on Physical Performance, co-sponsored by the United States Olympic Committee, the Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education
and Research, and the University of New Mexico.
Elsworth R. Buskirk is a member of several professional and scholarly associations and is currently an emeritus professor
of applied physiology and human nutrition at the Pennsylvania State University.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Physiology and Performance of Track Athletes Experiment Materials of Elsworth R. Buskirk contain documents related to
the 1965 high altitude research project conducted by the American physiologist. Materials include correspondence, research
materials, and miscellaneous records related to Buskirk's research in Peru and the mountains of Colorado. The papers are
arranged in two series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE and 2) RESEARCH MATERIALS.
SERIES 1: CORRESPONDENCE
The CORRESPONDENCE series, arranged alphabetically, contains correspondence with colleagues and others regarding his high
altitude physiology research conducted in Peru and Colorado. Notably, this series includes correspondence with the high-altitude
medicine and physiology researchers, Bruno Balke and L. G. C. E. Pugh.
SERIES 2: RESEARCH MATERIALS
The RESEARCH MATERIALS series, arranged alphabetically, include a laboratory notebook, a photocopy of an article describing
the research, travel documents and official records, information on food and laboratory equipment used, information on the
research subjects, protocols, a map of Peru, and other miscellaneous materials.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Buskirk, Elsworth -- Archives
Altitude, Influence of
Sports -- Physiological aspects
Balke, Bruno, -- Correspondent
Pugh, L.G.C.E., -- Correspondent
Mazess, Richard B., -- Correspondent