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Guide to the Biology Divisional Records, 1926-1984
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Organizational History

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Biology Divisional Records,
    Date (inclusive): 1926-1984
    Creator: Biology Division, California Institute of Technology
    Extent: Linear Feet: 48
    Repository: California Institute of Technology. Archives.
    Pasadena, California 91125
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Institute of Technology Archives 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, Box and file number], Biology Divisional Records, Archives, California Institute of Technology.

    Organizational History

    The records of the Biology Division from 1936 to 1984 contain documents relating to the development of one of the most prestigious and productive biology programs in America. Since its founding by Thomas Hunt Morgan in 1928, the Biology Division has been dedicated to Morgan's vision of a program focused on the discovery of the fundamental principles of life. The seeds planted by Morgan have born fruit in a wide diversity of research programs, and have been crowned by the receipt of four Nobel prizes by faculty of the department: George Beadle in 1958, Max Delbrück in 1969, Roger W. Sperry in 1981, and Edward B. Lewis in 1995.
    Records of the earliest years of the department, from its founding in 1928 until Morgan stepped down as Chair in 1935, are contained within the Morgan Papers (boxes 3 and 4). Materials relating to the operation of the Division from 1936 to 1946, while the division was led by a Biology Council with several executive officers, form the first part of the Biology Divisional Records. Included in this are papers relating to the day to day administration of the department, especially its financial management and physical condition, as well as records on faculty and students. Papers from this period help to shed light on the consolidation and development of what was still a young and rapidly developing department, as well as the forging of ties between the Biology Division and institutions that support basic research such as the Rockefeller Foundation.
    Part two of the papers, which comprises the main bulk of the collection, consists of records kept while the department was under the leadership of George Beadle from 1946 to 1961. Under Beadle's guidance, detailed records of every facet of the department's activities were kept. While Beadle was Chair, his personal records were kept intermingled with those of the Division. When the Divisional files were passed on to the Archives, this original intermixing was retained. In 1992, a major reorganization of the Beadle papers was undertaken, and files relating only to Beadle were removed from the Biology Divisional Records. The Biology Divisional Records were then consolidated and put in their current state. Therefore, it is important to consult both the Beadle papers and the Divisional Records to get a full grasp on the range of activity undertaken by Beadle and his colleagues in this period.
    The papers that remain in the Biology Divisional records from this period are extensive. They cover many aspects of the Divisions activities, from faculty and student files to correspondence with many governmental departments and private institutions. Many aspects of the turbulent history of the 1940s and 1950s are represented, including documents relating to the Second World War, the atomic bomb, and the "Red Scare." The papers also shed light on the changing nature of both internal and external aspects of biology during the period. These include the widespread emphasis on genetic research, and the changes brought by a wider range of participants in the field, including women, minorities, and a broader range of foreign nationals.
    The final part of the Divisional Records covers records kept primarily since the time after the departure of Beadle as Chairman in 1961, although some older materials are also present. The bulk of these papers were collected during the Chairmanship of Robert L. Sinsheimer, who served from 1968 until 1977. The papers exhibit the changing character of biological research during the 1960s and 1970s, as governmental and industrial concerns began to dominate the field. There are also extensive files concerned with the department's efforts to come to grips with the affirmative action programs of the late 1960s and early 1970s. These papers also document the passing of the first generation of Caltech biologists, and the effort to develop a new generation of faculty to lead the department into the twenty-first century.

    --David A. Valone