Scope and Content
Title: C.B. van Niel papers
Identifier/Call Number: SC0325
Dept. of Special Collections & University Archives
Language of Material:
6.25 Linear feet
Date (inclusive): 1923-1977
Niel, Cornelis Bernardus van, 1897-1986
Scope and Content
The van Niel papers primarily document C. B. van Niel's career at the Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University, his participation
in preeminent scientific associations, and his role as a leader in the field of microbiology. The papers include ATCC documents,
teaching materials, research notes, publications, correspondences, photographs, audiotapes, and medals.
The American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) papers delineate activities of the association when van Niel served as a board
member in the early 1960s. Teaching Materials include course outlines, exam questions, lecture notes, and seminar notes, written
between 1929 and 1968. Publications include his articles published from 1923 to 1972. Many of the hand-written drafts and
galley proofs accompany these publications. The records of van Niel's research in the Yellowstone National Park, including
admission letter, experimental summary, notes, and drafts, are grouped together under the article's title, Report on Preliminary
Observations on the Microflora in and Near the Hot Spring in Yellowstone National Part and Their Importance for the Geological
Formation, to preserve its entirety. Research Files mainly comprise his experimental summaries, experimental procedures, notes,
charts, and bibliographies. Van Niel's correspondence (1924-1977) centers on themes of research, publication, and student's
dissertations. One exception is a letter to his son on personal matters. Correspondents include C. E. Clifton (1904- ), Seymour
S. Cohen (1919- ), Lois Epel, Helge Larsen, Jack London [a student from UCLA], Beryl V. Daniel, J. R. Porter, Hosmer W. Stone,
and Charles H. Walkinshaw.
When compiling SELECTED PAPERS OF E.G. PRINGSHEIM, van Niel corresponded with Dr. Pringsheim, Mrs. Pringsheim, Selman A. Waksman
(1888-1973), and Vernon Bryson (1913- ) between 1960 and 1964. These letters, together with the galley proofs for this book,
are put under the series of SELECTED PAPERS OF E.G. PRINGSHEIM. Dr. Kluyver's Birthday Celebration and Obituary includes van
Niel's writings about his teacher, Dr. Kluyver (1888-1956), the telegram to van Niel about Kluyver's death in 1956, and many
obituaries written by other scholars.
The photographs files include images of microbiology, people (mostly scholars) and landscapes. Important medals van Niel won
from 1939 to 1977 demonstrate him as a leading figure in science. Audiotapes recorded van Niel's 1962 lectures on experiments.
Oversized Materials are certificates of honorary doctoral degree, honorary member, and award.
In 1929, Dr. C. B. van Niel (1897-1985) started his career as an associate professor at the Jacques Loeb Laboratory, Hopkins
Marine Station, Stanford University. He was appointed Herzstein Professor of Microbiology in 1946.
Dr. van Niel received his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Technical University, Delft, in 1923; in 1928 he
was conferred a doctoral degree from the same University. His research, after coming to the Marine Station, was concerned
mainly with photosynthesis, photosynthetic bacteria, and bacterial taxonomy. However, Dr. van Niel--Kees to his colleagues
and students-- was interested in a much broader spectrum of questions and encouraged investigations on wider range of phenomena
in his laboratory. His lectures attracted not only Stanford students, but students around the country. The numerous well-written
lecture/seminar notes in this collection, mostly with diagrams and images that he planed to draw on blackboard, illuminate
how well he prepared for these lectures. Although he enjoyed a friendly relationship with these students, the "gang", he was
rigorous in their academic training. A long letter (hand-written first and then typed) to one of his doctoral students with
detailed instruction on the student's dissertation shows van Niel as a serious and responsible professor.
By devoting an enormous amount of time translating articles published by Dr. Kluyver, van Niel's advisor at Technical University,
and Dr. Pringsheim, van Niel showed his gratitude and respect to his senior microbiologists and their works. Same attitude
can be seen from publications of the later part of his career. In these articles he analyzed old and current articles on the
subject he was dealing with and provided well-woven stories on research history. Probably because of his appreciation of history,
(among his papers is a bibliography on American history, possibly given to him by a history professor) he wrote an autobiography,
"The Education of a Microbiologist: Some Reflections." (1967), which sums up his major scientific achievements and his teaching
Dr. van Niel also actively participated in academic/professional associations such as the Society of American Bacteriologists
in the 1950s and the American Type Culture Collections in the 1960s. However, as he recalled in his autobiography, these and
other activities were taking up too much of his time and gradually made direct participation in experimental study difficult.
He finally decided to retire from the Marine Station in 1962. From 1964 to 1968 he taught at U.C. Santa Cruz as a visiting
professor. After 1972, he threw out his collection of reprints and scientific books and totally gave up research and teaching.
Death took him in 1985.
[Identification of item], C.B. van Niel Papers, SC 325, Stanford University Archives, Stanford, Calif.
Gift of the estate of C.B. van Niel,1985
Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain
permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections and University
Subjects and Indexing Terms
American Type Culture Collection..
Bryson, Vernon,, 1913-
Clifton, C. E.,, 1904-
Cohen, Seymour S., ((Seymour Stanley),), 1917-
Daniel, Beryl V.
Hopkins Marine Station. -- General subdivision--Faculty.;
London, Jack,, 1876-1916.
Porter, J. R.
Pringsheim, Ernst G., ((Ernst Georg),), b. 1881.
Stone, Hosmer W.
Waksman, Selman A., ((Selman Abraham),), 1888-1973.
Walkinshaw, Charles H.