Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
McElroy (William D.) Papers
MSS 0483  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (133.48 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Biography
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Restrictions

  • Descriptive Summary

    Languages: English
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla 92093-0175
    Title: William D. McElroy Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0483
    Physical Description: 10.4 Linear feet (19 archives boxes, 11 oversize folders, 6 art bin items)
    Date (inclusive): 1944-1999
    Abstract: Papers of William David McElroy (1917-1999), professor of biochemistry, the fourth chancellor (1972-1980) of the University of California, San Diego; and former director (1969-1971) of the National Science Foundation.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Papers of William David McElroy (1917-1999), professor of biochemistry, the fourth chancellor (1972-1980) of the University of California, San Diego; and former director (1969-1971) of the National Science Foundation. McElroy's significant contributions to biology include isolating and crystallizing the compounds that enable firefly luminescence and for his subsequent research into bacterial bioluminescence. He also wrote, spoke, and worked on problems in areas of environment, pollution, food production, science education, and international science. The papers largely document McElroy's scientific research and include correspondence with the scientific community, various biographical materials including awards and photographs, his trip to China in 1979, writings and reprints related to biochemical and scientific investigation, research materials on bioluminescence, teaching materials, and speeches given both as chancellor and as director of the National Science Foundation. Arranged in seven series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS, 4) RESEARCH MATERIALS, 5) TEACHING MATERIALS, 6) SPEECHES AND LECTURES, and 7) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
    The BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS series, arranged in three subseries, consists mainly of memorabilia materials. The subseries are: A) General, B) Certificates and Awards, and C) Letters of Congratulation.
    A) The General subseries, arranged alphabetically, includes biographical material ranging from McElroy's early years at Johns Hopkins to his post-UCSD emeritus years. Materials include curriculum vitae, newspaper clippings, photographs, and memorabilia scrapbooks.
    B) Materials in the Certificates and Awards subseries include fellow, alumnus, and distinguished membership recognitions from 1959-1990. The items are in alphabetical order.
    C) The majority of the correspondence in the Letters of Congratulation subseries, arranged alphabetically, is related to McElroy's appointment as director of the National Science Foundation in 1969.
    The CORRESPONDENCE series is arranged in two subseries: A) Alphabetical and B) Chronological.
    A) The Alphabetical subseries includes correspondence between McElroy and other scientists, colleagues, UCSD staff, and various persons in the scientific community. Also included are the board of director meeting minutes from the Charles Lee Powell Foundation and the UCSD Cancer Center.
    B) The Chronological subseries contains McElroy's outgoing correspondence for the years 1975-1989.
    The WRITINGS series includes three subseries: A) Numbered Reprints, B) Unnumbered Writings, and C) Reports.
    A) The Numbered Reprints subseries includes reprints on McElroy's publication list located at the beginning of the subseries. A large majority of the reprints are not included. The Reprints have been arranged chronologically by their publication dates.
    B) The Unnumbered Writings subseries, arranged alphabetically by title, gathers manuscripts and typescripts of works by McElroy not listed on his publications list.
    C) The Reports included in the third subseries are documents McElroy produced while working with the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation, and Johns Hopkins University Long Range Planning Committee.
    The RESEARCH MATERIALS series is arranged in three subseries: A) Laboratory Notebooks, B) Bioluminescence - Miscellaneous Materials, and C) E. Newton Harvey Manuscript Materials.
    A) The Laboratory Notebooks subseries consists of early laboratory log books related to bioluminescence research and experiments done between 1952-1962 at Johns Hopkins University. The notebooks are arranged chronologically and represent the work of several research assistants.
    B) The Bioluminescence subseries contains extensive visual material including photographs, films, and newspaper articles. The materials are arranged alphabetically by subject.
    C) The E. Newton Harvey Manuscript Materials subseries contains the manuscript and research materials that Dr. Harvey wrote for his unpublished book entitled "Fireflies in Folklore and Fantasy". The subseries contains correspondence, typescript drafts, illustrations, notes, and other research sent to McElroy after Harvey's death in 1959.
    The TEACHING MATERIALS series contains two subseries: A) Johns Hopkins University and B) University of California, San Diego.
    A) The materials contained in the Johns Hopkins University subseries consist of lecture notes, syllabi, and exams from biochemistry courses McElroy taught from 1952-1965.
    B) The University of California, San Diego, subseries comprises correspondence, handouts, lecture notes, and exams for Marine Biochemistry 185 from 1981-1986 after McElroy resigned as chancellor.
    The SPEECHES AND LECTURES series includes chronological indexes at the beginning of every section and is arranged chronologically in two subseries: A) National Science Foundation and B) University of California, San Diego.
    A) The National Science Foundation subseries contains statements that McElroy issued as NSF Director (1969-1971) before several United States government subcommittees and departments. Also included are various remarks McElroy gave at meetings, commencements, and as a lecturer.
    B) The materials in the University of California, San Diego subseries are copies of remarks, speeches, lectures, and addresses McElroy gave as UCSD Chancellor between 1972-1980. Also included is a folder containing remarks McElroy gave as a biology professor after returning to research.
    The ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES series contains the originals of brittle or high acid content documents that have been photocopied.


    William "Bill" McElroy was born in Rogers, Texas, in 1917. He received a bachelor's degree from Stanford University in 1939, where he played football from 1938-1939. He obtained a master's degree from Reed College in Oregon in 1941 and a doctorate from Princeton University in 1943 both in biology, but it was at Princeton where McElroy first investigated bioluminescence under the mentorship of E. Newton Harvey. McElroy received 12 honorary degrees including those from University of Notre Dame, Johns Hopkins University, the University of San Diego, and the University of Bologna in Italy.
    McElroy served two years with U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development after Princeton before joining the faculty of Johns Hopkins University in 1946 and shortly after was the director of the McCollum-Pratt Institute for twenty years and chairman of the department of biology from 1956 until 1969. His studies of bioluminescence by elucidating the mechanisms of living organisms into producing light were his most significant contributions to biochemical research at Johns Hopkins. His position at the Institute enabled him to build a solid foundation of teachers and researchers, and to achieve worldwide recognition in the scientific field.
    His concern for an enlightened public understanding of science was also exemplified later when he was appointed the director of the National Science Foundation in 1969.
    While at the NSF, McElroy worked to achieve more federal support for scientific research, while responding to societal needs. He also worked to cultivate the collaborative efforts between academic and industrial research initiatives.
    In 1972, McElroy resigned as NSF Director to become chancellor at UCSD.
    Although his research and training were scientifically based, McElroy encouraged expansion of the arts, humanitites and social sciences at UCSD. He established the Board of Overseers, a group of San Diego advisors, and greatly increased the University's outreach to the San Diego community. He also enhanced UCSD's research budget, oversaw the construction of the Gildred Cancer Center and Mandeville Auditorium, and guided the establishment of Earl Warren College. From 1975-1976, McElroy served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, succeeding anthropologist Margaret Mead. He also served as a consultant to the Atomic Energy Commission and as a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
    McElroy resigned as chancellor in 1980 to return to research, writing, and teaching biology. For the next seven years, McElroy along with his wife, biochemist Marlene DeLuca, continued research on bioluminescence by identifying the enyzme luciferase in fireflies. The subsequent research resulted in 200 original scientific articles and numerous books and the creation of luminescent bacteria using gene research. Marlene DeLuca passed away in 1987.
    Even today, McElroy's and DeLuca's research has led to new medical diagnostics and supplemented AIDS research. His leadership at UCSD also led the university through a critical time of growth and expansion. William McElroy died on February 17, 1999.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Preferred Citation

    William D. McElroy Papers, MSS 483. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 1999.


    Materials contained in Box 1, Folder 9 have been restricted by the donor. Additional materials containing personal information are restricted. Also, original films are restricted; patrons must request user copies be produced.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Biologists -- Biography
    Biology -- Study and teaching
    Harvey, E. Newton (Edmund Newton), 1887-1959
    University of California, San Diego -- History