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Guide to the Kenneth V. Thimann papers MS.071
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biographical Narrative
  • Scope and Content of collection
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Processing Information

  • Title: Kenneth V. Thimann papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MS.071
    Contributing Institution: University of California, Santa Cruz
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 78.4 Linear feet 162 boxes
    Date (bulk): Bulk, 1940-1990
    Date (inclusive): 1839, 1921-1997
    Language of Materials: The majority of the collection is in English, but some materials are written in German, French, and Czech.
    creator: Thimann, Kenneth Vivian, 1904-1997


    Collection is open for research. The use of certain media requires advance notice. Please contact Special Collections and Archives to request access to media.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the University of California. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permission to publish or to reproduce, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    Kenneth V. Thimann Papers, MS 71, Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of the Thimann family in 1997.

    Biographical Narrative

    Kenneth V. Thimann was an English-born American plant physiologist who is best known for his isolation of the plant growth hormone auxin. His identification of this hormone allowed for the production of several herbicides that were of critical importance to agricultural and horticultural industries. Thimann wrote or coauthored over 300 articles and several books, including Phytohormones (1937); The Life of Bacteria (1955); Hormone Action in the Whole Life of Plants (1977); and Botany: Plant Biology and Its Relation to Human Affairs (1982).
    Thimann was born in Ashford, England, on August 5, 1904 to Muriel Kate Harding and Israel Phoebus Thimann. He earned his B.Sc. in Chemistry in 1924 and Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1928, both from Imperial College, University of London. He married Ann Mary Bateman in 1929, with whom he had three children. He became an American citizen in 1941.
    Thimann taught at the University of London for several years before coming to the California Institute of Technology in 1930, where he was an instructor in bacteriology and biochemistry. In 1935, Thimann joined the faculty of Harvard University, where he remained for 30 years. He served as the director of Harvard's Biological Laboratories from 1946-1950, and was the Higgins Professor of Biology from 1962-1965. In 1962, he became the first master of East House at Radcliffe College. In 1965, Thimann moved to California, and became professor of biology and the first provost of Crown College at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He retired as provost in 1972, and moved to Haverford, Pennsylvania in 1989.
    Thimann was a technical consultant to the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development from 1942-1945. During this time, he also worked with the Operational Research Group of the U.S. Navy in Washington, D.C., London, and Pearl Harbor.
    Thimann served on numerous international scientific societies, associations, and editorial boards throughout his career. He was President of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (1965), the Botanical Society of America (1960), the American Society of Plant Physiologists (1950), the Society for the Study of Development and Growth (1955), the Society of General Physiologists (1949-1950), the American Society of Naturalists (1955), and the XIth International Botanical Congress (1969). He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1938, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1948, the American Philosophical Society in 1959, as well as several international academies. He was awarded the Balzan Prize in 1982. He died in 1997 in Haverford, Pennsylvania.
    For more biographical information:

    Scope and Content of collection

    This collection documents the career of Kenneth V. Thimann, particularly his extensive publishing activity and professional involvement in the scientific community. The largest portion of the collection comprises alphabetical subject files that reflect his activity within national and international scientific organizations during the 1950s-1970s, such as the National Academy of Sciences. Materials in the collection also document Thimann's editorial work for a number of journals, his laboratory research at the California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and the University of California Santa Cruz, as well as his role as provost of Crown College at UCSC. A small amount of personal and biographical material is also included.

    Related Archival Materials

    Harvard University Archives also maintains a collection of Thimann's papers: Papers of Kenneth V. Thimann, 1929-1988. 

    Processing Information

    Unless otherwise noted, materials are arranged in original order. Most folder titles are copied from the original folder label.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Thimann, Kenneth Vivian, 1904-1997
    Growth (Plants)