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Guide to the Wendell M. Stanley papers, 1926-1972
BANC MSS 78/18 c  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Wendell M. Stanley Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1926-1972
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 78/18 c
    Creator: Stanley, Wendell M. (Wendell Meredith), 1904-
    Extent: Number of containers:22 cartons Linear feet: 27.5
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Abstract: Papers document the career and activities of Wendell M. Stanley through correspondence; his writings including research notes, speeches, and draft articles; and papers submitted by his colleagues at the UC Berkeley Virus Laboratory. Other materials include news clippings about Stanley, and congratulatory letters and telegrams for his 1946 Nobel Prize. Topics relating to his non-research activities, such as participation in committees, boards, symposia and administration of the Virus Laboratory, are also present. Of the UC Berkeley committees, of particular interest are materials relating to his tenure on the Committee on Academic Freedom (which met during the "Loyalty Oath" controversy of 1949-1951), and on the Committee on Education in the Health Sciences.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Wendell M. Stanley papers, BANC MSS 78/18 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Material Cataloged Separately

    Photographs transferred to the Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library
    Identifier/Call Number: (BANC PIC 1988.031--C)

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Wendell M. Stanley Papers were given to The Bancroft Library in April, 1973 by Mrs. Marion Jay Stanley.


    Wendell Meredith Stanley was born in Ridgeville, Indiana on August 16, 1904. His parents, James G. and Claire (Plessinger) Stanley, published two local newspapers, the Ridgeville News and the Union City Eagle. When his father died in 1920, the Stanleys moved to Richmond, Indiana where Wendell graduated from Richmond High School in 1922. He attended Earlham College, where an ancestor had donated ground for the college with the provison that all bearing the Stanley name should be given special consideration.
    At Earlham, Stanley majored in chemistry and mathematics, but his dominant interest was athletics, particularly football. Captain of the football team in his senior year and selected for the Indiana All-State College Team, he wanted to work as an athletic coach. But an introduction to Professor Roger Adams, a well-known organic chemist and head of the Chemistry Department at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, kindled in Stanley an interest in chemistry as a profession, particularly in the area of medical research.
    Stanley spent nearly four years at the University of Illinois, majoring in organic chemistry, with physical chemistry and bacteriology as minors (M.S. 1927, Ph.D. 1929). During that time, he held several teaching and research assistantships (this work resulted in Stanley's two earliest published papers, in 1927 and 1929, the first of some 190 publications), and was an instructor in chemistry. During the course of a research assistantship with Roger Adams, Stanley met another graduate student doing similar work, Marion Staples Jay, and they were married in 1929. After completing his doctorate, Stanley worked with Adams as a research associate for another year, investigating the stereoisomerism of diphenyl compounds. His interest in this area led to a National Research Fellowship at the Münich laboratory of Heinrich Wieland in 1930-1931.
    Upon his return to the United States in 1931, Stanley accepted a position at the New York Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. For a year he worked with noted cell physiologist W. J. V. Osterhout. In 1932, Simon Flexner and Louis Otto Kunkel invited Stanley to join their staff at the Rockefeller Institute's Department of Plant and Animal Pathology in Princeton, New Jersey, where he rose from Assistant to Associate (1935-1937) to Associate Member (1937- 1940) to Member (1940-1948).
    Like Flexner and Kunkel, Stanley was interested in the possibilities of chemical rather than biological studies on viruses--then a largely uncharted area of scientific investigation--and he began studying the chemistry of plant virus proteins, particularly that of tobacco mosaic. Late in 1934, Stanley was able to isolate a crystalline material (later identified as a nucleoprotein) possessing the properties of tobacco mosaic virus. This development not only challenged the prevalent belief that viruses were submicroscopic organisms, but also altered fundamental ideas concerning the nature of living matter. During World War II, Stanley was appointed a consultant to the Secretary of War and a member of the Army Commission on Influenza, directing a project that resulted in the development of a centrifuge-purified influenza vaccine.
    By the end of the war, Stanley's work had garnered numerous awards: the American Association for the Advancement of Science Prize in 1937, Harvard Medical School's Isaac Adler Prize, the University of Chicago's Rosenberger Medal, and the City of Philadelphia's John Scott Medal, all in 1938; the American Institute's Gold Medal in 1941; a Copernican Citation in 1943; and the American Chemical Society's Nichols Medal in 1946. It was no surprise when his work with viruses was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1946. Stanley shared the prize that year with his colleague at the Rockefeller Institute, John H. Northrop, and with James B. Sumner of Cornell University. He went on to win many other awards, including a Presidential Certificate of Merit (1948) and a Modern Medicine Award (1958) for his influenza work; awards from the American Cancer Society in 1959 and 1963; the City of Hope Medical Progress Award in 1962; the Fellow Award of the American Phytopathological Society in 1965; and the American Medical Association's Scientific Achievement Award in 1966. Dr. Stanley's achievements were also recognized in other countries: the Government of Japan awarded him the Second Class Order of the Rising Sun in 1966, and in 1970 he was elected a Foreign Associate Member of the French Academy of Sciences of the Institute of France.
    Dr. Stanley came to Berkeley in 1948, where he founded the Virus Laboratory, a new Department of Biochemistry and in 1958 a Department of Virology (these were expanded in 1964 to become the Department of Molecular Biology). As Director of the Virus Laboratory and chairman of the departments mentioned above, Stanley was not only responsible for the training of many distinguished scientists, but he also supervised research ranging from electron microscopy to chemical genetics, which led to important advancements in the study of poliomyelitis and other virus-driven diseases. As early as 1956, one year after the historic isolation of the polio virus in his Virus Laboratory, Stanley asserted his belief that the origins of cancer lay in a virus, and that a cancer cure might be based on virological studies.
    In addition to his research activities, Stanley was interested in educating new generations of scientists. He lectured widely throughout his career, both as part of honorary lectureships such as U.C. Berkeley's Hitchcock Professorship, Cornell's Messenger Lectureship and Princeton's Vanuxem Lectures, and on television and radio. He served on the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Society of Biological Chemists, and on the National Advisory Cancer Council of the United States Public Health Service. He was a member of many national committees and panels and for many years served on the World Health Organization's Expert Advisory Panel on Virus Diseases. He was active on the editorial boards of several journals and for five years held the chairmanship of the Editorial Board for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
    Wendell M. Stanley died on June 14, 1971, while in Spain to chair a symposium in honor of Dr. Francisco Duran-Reynals.

    Scope and Content

    The Wendell M. Stanley Papers document the career and activities of a distinguished scientist and long-time member of the U.C. Berkeley faculty. The great majority of the collection, organized in Series 1, is comprised of correspondence between Stanley and individuals, institutions, colleges, universities, publishers, broadcasters and filmmakers. As an internationally-recognized scientist, Stanley corresponded with many important people and institutions. Prominent individual correspondents include: George W. Beadle, Francis Crick, Max Delbruck, Renato Dulbecco, Francisco Duran-Reynals, John F. Enders, Hermann O.L. Fischer, Arthur Komberg, Louis O. Kunkel, Salvador Luria, Karl F. Meyer, Hermann J. Muller, John H. Northrop, Severo Ochoa, W.J.V. Osterhout, Linus Pauling, Albert Sabin, Jonas Salk, James B. Sumner and Vincent Du Vigneaud. Major institutional correspondents include: the American Cancer Society, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, Inc. and the National Institutes of Health.
    Stanley's writings are represented by class, laboratory and research notes, beginning in his graduate school days. Series 2 also contains articles, speeches, book reviews, and transcripts of his testimony in the 1955 Cutter Laboratory poliomyelitis vaccine case.
    In Series 3, materials on Stanley's professional activities include documentation of his participation in organizations including the American Chemical Society Board of Trustees and the National Research Council's Committee on Growth. Of particular interest among the University of California, Berkeley files are the materials relating to Stanley's tenure on the Committee on Academic Freedom during the Loyalty Oath controversy in the early 1950's, various medical education study committees, historical information on the Biochemistry Department and a dozen folders containing information about the Virus Laboratory.
    Series 4, Biographical Information, summarizes Stanley's many activities and contains some of the honorary degrees and other awards received by Stanley during his lifetime.