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Guide to the John Hundale Lawrence Papers, 1935-1987.
BANC MSS 87/86 c  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: John Hundale Lawrence Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1935-1987.
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 87/86 c
    Creator: Lawrence, John Hundale
    Extent: Microfilm: 12 reels Number of containers: 9 cartons, 2 boxes Linear feet: Approximately 12.25
    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.

    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], John Hundale Lawrence Papers, BANC MSS 87/86 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.


    John Hundale Lawrence was born January 7, 1904 in Canton, South Dakota, the second son of Gunda Jacobson and Carl G. Lawrence. Carl G. Lawrence was a prominent educator in South Dakota; over the course of his career he served as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, President of Southern State Normal School, and President of Northern State Teachers College. Gunda Jacobson Lawrence was a mathematics teacher. Lawrence's older brother was the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ernest Orlando Lawrence (1901-1958).
    Both John Lawrence and his brother Ernest received their undergraduate education at the University of South Dakota. After graduation, John Lawrence attended Harvard Medical School. After receiving his degree, Lawrence became an Instructor in Medicine at Yale University, where he studied the effects of radiation on the pituitary gland. With Dr. Harvey Cushing, Lawrence identified estrogen as the first chemical found to give protection against radiation.
    In 1935, Lawrence traveled to Berkeley, California to visit his brother Ernest, who was working with his newly-developed cyclotron. At that time, John Lawrence became interested in the possible use of artificially produced radioisotopes and nuclear radiation in medicine. With Dr. Paul Aebersold, Lawrence made the discovery that neutrons had a destructive effect on living tissue, and that the damage was five times more than that caused by an equivalent dose of x-rays.
    In 1936, Lawrence founded the Donner Laboratory within the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (then called the U.C. Radiation Laboratory). It quickly became a major center for experimental medicine as well as for training physicians in atomic medicine. What is now Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory's Research Medicine and Radiation Biophysics Division got its start under Lawrence as well.
    Called the "true father of radiopharmaceuticals," Lawrence made many contributions to medical science. In 1937, he used the radioisotope phosphorus-32 to successfully treat polycythemia vera, and in 1939 he initiated the use of accelerator particle beams (neutrons) in the experimental treatment of cancer. The same year, using iron-59, Lawrence made significant contributions to the understanding of normal blood metabolism and blood disease. In 1946, with Hardin B. Jones and Cornelius A. Tobias, he discovered the narcotic properties of the rare gas xenon, which has since been used as an anesthetic. Later, Lawrence used beams from the 184-inch cyclotron to successfully treat acromegaly, Cushing's disease, and several other conditions.
    Over the course of his career, Lawrence served as Director of Donner Laboratory (1948-1970), Professor of Medical Physics at the University of California at Berkeley (1950-1970), Physician-in-Chief, Donner Pavilion (1954-1970), and Associate Director, Lawrence Radiation Laboratory (1959-1970). After retiring from Donner Laboratory, Lawrence was appointed by then-governor Ronald Reagan to serve as a Regent of the University of California, a post Lawrence held until 1983. Lawrence died in 1991.
    Lawrence's wife, the former Amy Bowles, died in 1967. Lawrence and his wife are survived by four children and eight grandchildren.
    Quote attributed to William G. Myers.

    Scope and Content

    The John Hundale Lawrence Papers offer a window into a highly significant period of scientific history: the development of nuclear energy and the exploration of its applications. The John Hundale Lawrence Papers also reveal the politics of nuclear research during the period following World War II.
    The younger brother of Ernest O. Lawrence, John Lawrence was a pioneer of nuclear medicine in his own right, being among the first to use radioactive isotopes to treat disease in human subjects. His writings (Series 1) document his findings and progress, as well as his advocacy for nuclear medicine and his role in national and international political and scientific policy-making.
    Lawrence's course notes from Harvard Medical School (Series 2) are written on note cards and are neatly organized by course name. This series conveys the health concerns of the 1920's and Lawrence's habits as a student.
    Very little of Lawrence's personal correspondence is found in the correspondence series (Series 3), although there is a small collection of photocopies of letters from Lawrence's father, Carl G. Lawrence, addressed to both John and his older brother Ernest, as well as letters from Ernest to John. Most of the correspondence in Series 3 is professional in nature, and includes correspondence with such prominent individuals as Albert Hosmer Bowker, Charles Johnston Hitch, Hardin B. Jones, Edward Teller, Cornelius A. Tobias, and Caspar W. Weinberger.
    Lawrence served as a Regent of the University of California from 1970 to 1983, and his papers contain information about issues and events taking place in the U.C. system in the years following the political and social turbulence of the 1960's. The John Hundale Lawrence Papers, however, do not include Lawrence's official papers as a Regent of the University of California.
    Although the John Hundale Lawrence Papers do contain publications based on Lawrence's scientific research, one laboratory notebook, and some Donner Laboratory administrative records, for a more extensive collection of these materials the researcher is directed to records held by Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.