Scope and Content of Collection
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla 92093-0175
Title: John B. West Papers
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0444
68.5 Linear feet
(164 archives boxes, 8 oversize folders, 1 record carton, and 1 card file box)
Date (inclusive): 1948 - 2005
Abstract: Papers of John Burnard West (b. 1928), professor of physiology, researcher in high-altitude medicine and adaptation, author,
and leader of the 1981 American Medical Research Expedition to Mount Everest (AMREE). West participated in Sir Edmund Hillary's
1960-1961 Himalayan Scientific and Mountaineering Expedition (Silver Hut). West has been an active faculty member in the Division
of Physiology at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine since 1969. The papers document the AMREE expedition,
including correspondence, planning materials, photographs, diaries and audio recordings, as well as West's physiology research
projects for the NASA Spacelab Life Sciences program. The bulk of the papers date from the early 1960s to the early 2000s
and include correspondence, drafts of books and articles, research files, talks and lectures, teaching and administrative
materials, and audio recordings.
Scope and Content of Collection
The papers of respiratory physiologist John Burnard West document his laboratory research in the field of high-altitude physiology,
his involvement in several research expeditions to Mt. Everest, his work as an investigator with the NASA Spacelab program,
his interest in the history of physiology, and his experience as a professor and administrator at the University of California,
San Diego. The collection contains correspondence, drafts of books and articles, research files, talks and lectures, teaching
and administrative materials, and sound recordings.
Accessions Processed in 2005
Arranged in twelve series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) BOOKS, 3) ARTICLES, 4) LECTURES, 5) RESEARCH FILES, 6) AMERICAN MEDICAL RESEARCH
EXPEDITION TO EVEREST, 7) NASA SPACELAB LIFE SCIENCES, 8) TEACHING MATERIALS, 9) TRAVEL MATERIALS, 10) UC SAN DIEGO SCHOOL
OF MEDICINE, 11) APPOINTMENT BOOKS and 12) MT. EVEREST SOUND RECORDINGS.
Accessions Processed in 2018
Arranged in six series: 13) BIOGRAPHICAL, 14) CORRESPONDENCE, 15) WRITINGS, 16) TALKS AND LECTURES, 17) RESEARCH PROJECTS,
and 18) UC SAN DIEGO.
John Burnard West was born in Adelaide, Australia in 1928. He received a MBBS medical degree in 1951 and an M.D. in 1958,
both from the University of Adelaide. After a year of residency, he moved to London, where he earned his Ph.D. from London
University in 1960 and began postdoctoral work at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School. West's early research used the oxygen-15
isotope to study the topographical inequality of blood flow caused by gravity and gravity's effect on regional differences
of ventilation, gas exchange, and alveolar size.
In 1960, West, who had no previous mountain climbing experience, applied and was accepted to Sir Edmund Hillary's Himalayan
Scientific and Mountaineering Expedition of 1960-1961. Referred to as the Silver Hut expedition, the physiologists performed
a variety of experiments at high altitudes just south of Mt. Everest and on Mt. Makalu. This experience ignited West's interest
in high-altitude medicine and physiology. In 1981, West led the American Medical Research Expedition to Everest (AMREE), during
which five climbers reached the summit and the first physiological measurements of the summit were made. West continues to
study human adaptation to extreme oxygen deprivation at high altitudes.
After returning from the Silver Hut expedition, West spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow and assistant professor at the
University of New York-Buffalo. West returned to London and the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in 1962, where he was director
of the Medical Research Council Respiratory Group for five years. In 1967-1968, West took a period of sabbatical leave to
further study the effects of gravity on the lung at the NASA Ames Research Center. While at NASA, West submitted a proposal
to study pulmonary function in astronauts. The study has sent experiments to Spacelabs in orbit and to the International Space
West came to the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine in 1969 as professor of medicine and physiology.
His laboratory experiments have covered a wide range of subjects including studies of ventilation-perfusion inequality in
the lung, pulmonary circulation, and the regulation of the blood-gas barrier in the lung. In addition to his laboratory work,
West was in charge of the physiology course for first-year medical students for over 30 years and taught several courses
on the history of medicine and high-altitude physiology. He is currently professor emeritus at UC San Diego.
West has received many honors, including president of the American Physiological Society, foreign member of the Russian Academy
of Sciences, and founding fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. West holds honorary doctorates
from the University of Barcelona and the University of Adelaide, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,
the Royal College of Physicians, and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. He is a recipient of the Trudeau medal
from the American Thoracic Society, the Orr Reynolds Prize from the American Physiological Society, and the Hickman medal
from the Royal Society of Medicine.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
John B. West Papers, MSS 444. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
Course examination materials in boxes 113-115 are restricted by donor. Original audiovisual media and unprocessed digital
media are restricted. Researchers may inquire about access to these materials in advance of their visit.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Physiologists -- Biography
Physiology -- History
Photographic prints -- 20th century
Pike's Peak (Colo.)
Mountaineering expeditions -- Himalaya Mountains
Lungs -- Physiology
Oxygen in the body
Mountaineering expeditions -- Everest, Mount (China and Nepal)
Altitude, Influence of
West, John B. (John Burnard) -- Archives
University of California, San Diego -- Faculty -- Archives
American Medical Research Expedition to Mt. Everest (1981)
Pike's Peak Expedition (1911)