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John J. Bonica papers, 1938-1996
Manuscript collection number 118  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Indexing Terms
  • Abbreviations Used in the Container List and Collection
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Oral History

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: John J. Bonica Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1938-1996
    Collection number: Manuscript collection number 118
    Origination: Bonica, John J.
    Extent: Number of containers: 137 cubic-foot cartons, ten oversize flat boxes, six 3"x5"x12" boxes, one 4"x6"x12" box, seven letter-size document boxes, and one legal-size document box.
    Repository: Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library

    History and Special Collections Division
    University of California, Los Angeles
    Los Angeles, CA 90095-1798
    Shelf location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    Collection is open for research, with the following exceptions: Folders in Box 135 and ledgers in Box 154 are restricted. Contact the manuscript curator at the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library, History and Special Collections Division, for information on access to these files.

    Publication Rights

    Information on permission to reproduce, quote, or publish is available from the History & Special Collections Division.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], John J. Bonica Papers (Manuscript collection 118). Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library, History & Special Collections Division, University of California, Los Angeles.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 4235744 

    Indexing Terms

    Personal Names

    Bonica, John J., 1917-
    Hornbein, Thomas, 1930-
    Loeser, John D. (John David), 1935-
    McDonald, John S.
    Wall, Patrick D.


    Pain. (MeSH)
    Pain --therapy. (MeSH)
    Pain Clinics. (MeSH)
    Pain clinics --Washington. (MeSH)
    Anesthesiology. (MeSH)
    Anesthesia. (MeSH)
    Anesthesia, Obstetrical. (MeSH)

    Corporate Names

    University of Washington. Multidisciplinary Pain Center.
    University of Washington. Dept. of Anesthesiology.
    Tacoma General Hospital.
    International Association for the Study of Pain.
    American Pain Society
    World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists.

    Abbreviations Used in the Container List and Collection

    • AA The Academy of Anesthesiology
    • AAAS American Association for the Advancement of Science
    • AAMC Association of American Medical Colleges
    • AANA American Association of Nurse Anesthetists
    • AAPM American Academy of Pain Medicine
    • AAPMgmt American Academy of Pain Management
    • AAUP American Association of University Professors
    • ABA American Board of Anesthesiology
    • ACA American College of Anesthesiologists
    • ACCPC American College of Clinical Pharmacology and Chemotherapy
    • ACP American College of Physicians
    • ACPA American Chronic Pain Association
    • ACS American College of Surgeons
    • ADSA American Dental Society of Anesthesiology
    • AHA Anesthesia History Association
    • AMA American Medical Association
    • AOA Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
    • AORN Association of Operating Room Nurses
    • APS American Pain Society
    • ARC Anesthesia Research Center
    • ARNMD Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease
    • ARNMS Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease
    • ASA American Society of Anesthesiologists
    • ASCM American Society of Chinese Medicine
    • ASCPT American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics
    • ASNS American Society for Neuroscience
    • ASPET American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
    • ASRA American Society of Regional Anesthesia
    • AUA Association of University Anesthetists
    • AUP Associated University Physicians
    • CCGRC Cancer Control Grant Review Committee
    • CSA California Society of Anesthesiologists
    • FAS Federation of American Scientists
    • FASEB Federation of Societies of Experimental Biology
    • FHCRC Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
    • FSARM Federation of Societies of Anesthesiologists of the Republic of Mexico
    • GMP General Medical Research Program. Project Committee
    • HEW Department of Health, Education and Welfare
    • IARS International Anesthesia Research Society
    • IASP International Association for the Study of Pain
    • ICA International College of Anesthesiologists
    • ICS International College of Surgeons
    • ICSOG International Correspondence Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
    • IPF International Pain Foundation
    • ISO International Organization for Standardization
    • ISP International Symposium on Pain
    • JJB John J. Bonica
    • KCMS King County Medical Society
    • LIU Long Island University
    • MEND Medical Education for National Defense
    • MOP Management of Pain
    • NCCGRC National Cancer Control Grant Review Committee
    • NCI National Cancer Institute
    • NIAID National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
    • NICHD National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
    • NIDA National Institute on Drug Abuse
    • NIDR National Institute of Dental Research
    • NIGMS National Institute of General Medical Sciences
    • NIH National Institutes of Health
    • NINCDS National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke
    • NPF National Pain Foundation
    • NWSA Northwest Society of Anesthesiologists
    • NYSSA New York State Society of Anesthesiologists
    • OAA Obstetric Anesthetists Association
    • PPOBAA Principles and Practice of Obstetric Analgesia and Anesthesia
    • SAAC Society of Academic Anesthesia Chairmen
    • SMA Mexican Society of Anesthesiology
    • SOAP Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology
    • TGH Tacoma General Hospital
    • UN United Nations
    • UW University of Washington
    • WFSA World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists
    • WHO World Health Organization
    • WSSA Washington State Society of Anesthesiologists


    John J. Bonica (1917-1994), called "pain relief's founding father" by Time magazine (11 June 1984), was an academic and clinical anesthesiologist, educator, and founder of the International Association for the Study of Pain.
    Bonica was born February 16, 1917, to a prominent family in Filicudi, a small island in Italy. His parents, Antonio and Angela, were middle-class, his father serving both in the Italian army during World War I and as deputy mayor of the island. Despite a comfortable and peaceful existence in Filicudi, Antonio, disturbed by Italy's emerging fascism, decided to move the family to America, and emigrated by himself in 1925. In 1928, the Bonica family joined Antonio in Brooklyn, New York, losing their considerable savings in the process. Antonio died in 1932, leaving John, 15 years old and the only son, to support the family by working several jobs. A collegiate wrestler, Bonica began his most lucrative odd job in 1936: wrestling professionally. He was able to support his family and finance his education through wrestling and working as a carnival "strong man" in the summers, and eventually became light heavyweight champion of the world (1941) under the name Johnny "Bull" Walker. He continued wrestling until 1950, well after he needed the money it brought him. Ironically, the sport that financed Bonica's medical schooling, allowing him to make so many advances in the field of pain management, was ultimately responsible for chronic hip and shoulder pains that resulted in numerous operations and lifelong discomfort.
    Bonica's interest in medicine began early, while he was still a boy on Filicudi. He studied pre-medicine at Long Island University and at New York University, from which he graduated in 1938 with a B.S. He was then an honor student for four years at the Marquette University School of Medicine. After receiving his M.D. degree in 1942, he married his long-time fiancée, Emma Louise Baldetti, and began a war-shortened internship and specialty training in anesthesiology at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City. Immediately upon finishing this training, Bonica was assigned to head the anesthesiology section of Madigan Army Hospital at Fort Lewis, Washington, where he was also in charge of training physicians and nurses in anesthesiology before they were sent overseas.
    After the war, in 1947 he went to work as Chief of Anesthesia at Tacoma General Hospital and Pierce County Hospital in Tacoma, Washington, where he co-founded the Washington State Society of Anesthesiologists (WSSA) and helped to found the Northwest Society of Anesthesiologists (NWSA), eventually being elected to the presidency of both societies. At this time he also began work on his 1,500 page monograph The Management of Pain , which was published in 1953 and soon came to be considered the "bible" of pain diagnosis and therapy. Additionally, Bonica was teaching anatomy (from 1948) and anesthesiology (from 1955) at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle.
    In 1960 Bonica decided to leave private practice in Tacoma to accept the Chairmanship of the newly created Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Washington. Shortly after assuming this position, he, along with a nurse and a neurosurgeon, founded the UW Multidisciplinary Pain Clinic, the model for similar clinics throughout the world. He continued as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology until 1977, and as Chairman Emeritus and Professor from 1978-1987. He continued working at UW as Professor and Chairman Emeritus until 1992.
    In 1973 he organized an International Symposium on Pain, a six and one-half day program that attracted over 350 scientists and health professionals from 13 countries who represented most of the basic science and clinical disciplines. In addition, Bonica suggested the founding of both an international association devoted to the study of pain and an international multidisciplinary journal. The following year the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) was officially founded; its journal, PAIN, was first published in 1975. In 1980, Bonica was elected president of the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists at its 7th World Congress, held in Hamburg, Germany.
    Bonica wrote and edited 41 books, was a collaborator and contributor to 60 other books, and wrote almost 300 scientific articles, two-thirds of which were devoted to pain research and therapy. Bonica's many honors include a degree of Doctor of Medical Science (honoris causa) by the University of Siena, Italy, a Doctor of Science degree from Northwestern University, the Silver Medal by the Swedish Medical Society, the Gold Medal for Neuroscience from the German Neurophysiologic Society, and the Gold Medal from the Italian Algologists. He was elected Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons, a group that is limited to 20 members worldwide. In 1967 he was made Commander and two years later, Grand Officer of the Knights of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy --the latter being the highest award given by the President of the Republic to foreign nationals. More recently, he was made Hereditary Knight in the Noble Order of Cingolo Militare at the rank of Baronet by Prince Cesare d'Altavilla/Napoli/Sicilia.
    In 1990 he was honored by Pope John Paul II for his contribution to improve the welfare of people worldwide, and the Pope requested a copy of the second edition of the two-volume The Management of Pain, published that year, for his private library. Bonica considered his greatest honor to be the establishment by the University of Washington of the John and Emma Bonica Endowed Chair for Anesthesiology and Pain Research, which is to remain in perpetuity.
    John J. Bonica died on August 15, 1994, following his wife of fifty-two years by just over a month. They are buried in Seattle, and are survived by their four children, Angela, Charlotte, Linda, and John.
    For more information on the lives of John and Emma Bonica, see the processor's Bonica page:


    Scope and Content

    The bulk of the collection pertains to Dr. Bonica's professional activities in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Early materials in the collection include notes from medical school, circa 1938-1940, and correspondence continues until immediately prior to Bonica's death. Additional post-mortem correspondence by his secretary follows. The collection contains manuscript notes, data, and correspondence; slides from presentations; original publication illustrations; audio and video tape reels; scrapbook items;and some personal and conference photographs. Major subjects covered in the collection include pain and its management, pain clinics, clinical and academic anesthesiology, and obstetric analgesia and anesthesia. Bonica's experience with the foundation of the International Association for the Study of Pain and the American Pain Society, close involvement with the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists, directorship of the University of Washington's Department of Anesthesiology and Multidisciplinary Pain Clinic, and work as Chief of Anesthesia at Tacoma General Hospital are also reflected in the collection. Frequent correspondents include Thomas Hornbein, John S. McDonald, Patrick D. Wall, and John D. Loeser.
    See the detailed series descriptions for further information.
    The Bonica papers were processed in 1996-1998 by David C. Gartrell with assistance from Heidi Sandstrom in 1997. The collection is organized into nine major series. Brief descriptions of each follow.

    Related Oral History

    The following oral history is available through the UCLA Library Center for Oral History Research: Available at the History & Special Collections Division.