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Lafayette Benedict Mendel papers

Call Number: MS 1146

Scope and Contents

Lafayette B. Mendel achieved international prominence as a scientist and educator for his research and teaching in the specialized areas of nutrition and diet. Although the Mendel Papers reflect the career interests of Mendel, they lack any comprehensive research data relative to his scientific investigations. The papers are divided into four series:


Series I is divided into select and general correspondence, as originally maintained by Professor Mendel. Select correspondence consists of letters to and from his wife Alice and with nieces and other relatives. (An asterisk next to a name on the folder lists indicates that the folder contains ten or more items.) In addition there are letters of introduction written on behalf of Mendel by Herbert Hoover and F. C. Walcott, as officials of the United States Food Administration. General Correspondence (1905-1940) is arranged chronologically. Mendel corresponded with many of his Yale colleagues as well as with scientists and nutritionists around the world. Individuals of note include: James R. Angell, F. C. Bing, W. B. Cannon, Russell H. Chittenden, Harvey Cushing, R. H. Hubbell, Jacques Loeb, Graham Lusk, Clemens Pirquet, Anson Phelps Stokes, Thomas A. Storey, Victor C. Vaughan, Carl Voegtlin, William H. Welch, and R. S. Woodward. The subjects of this correspondence were often routine matters of lectures, conferences, and congratulatory notes on publications. A smaller portion of this correspondence does focus on the exchange of scientific information and thought relative to Mendel's work in areas of nutrition and growth. This material is incomplete, however, as the research data and enclosures, which are the subject of many of the letters, are missing from the papers. Additional correspondence is also located in Series III, again, as originally maintained by Mendel.

Series II contains the professional writings, student papers, and memorabilia of Mendel. Professional writings include drafts and printed copies of the author's scientific investigations. The subjects of diet, digestion, growth, food economics, nutrition, and Vitamin "A" are some of the areas of research represented. Material here ranges from an early manuscript entitled "Growth" (folders 26-27), to experimental notes and assignments (folders 28-30), to the two-volume edition of Collected Papers (1901-1907), edited by Mendel and Russell H. Chittenden (folders 31-32). Articles published by Mendel are arranged chronologically and have been cited in the various bibliographies (folder 23) compiled and maintained by the author. The articles in the collection are not a total representation of Mendel's work. Files relating to "Physiological Seminary" (folders 40-41) consist of lists of papers reviewed by students and faculty of the Physiological Chemistry Department at Yale. These papers dealt with a variety of nutritional and scientific subjects.

Student writings consist largely of college admission exams, papers, and poetry. Personal journals (1884-1935) and notebooks (1888-1909) also deal primarily, but not exclusively, with the student years of Mendel. Entries in both the journals and cashbooks (1906-1935) are perfunctory personal and financial accounts of activities and expenditures. Entries in the journals often consist of no more than a scribbled "At home" or "Laboratory" to denote the primary locale for the day in question. Notebooks (40 volumes) include class notes from Mendel's undergraduate and graduate subjects, and also contain experimental notes for the later years (1884-1909). The folders of Memorabilia include several eulogies of Mendel, by colleagues, students, and friends, which provide detailed biographical data. Clippings and programs from Yale activities and travel brochures from foreign visits are also present.

Series III contains Topical Files, a distinct set of files created by Mendel on a wide range of topics. These files include correspondence and papers on many specific activities and interests unmentioned or only superficially discussed in Series I. These files contain material on many committees and foundations of which Mendel was a member. Two examples are the American Medical Association's Committee on Foods, and the Commission on Medical Education. Extensive budgetary data and correspondence is present for the Department of Physiological Chemistry, which Mendel was a vital part of from 1892-1935. Additionally, there is correspondence on the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, relating to grant applications and memberships. Material on the Russell Sage Foundation focuses on the Institute of Pathology, as Mendel served there as director and secretary. Mendel also served as an advisor to the Protein and Nutrition Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Chemistry and Soils. Reports and recommendations are included in this file. Other topics of interest focus on the New York Food and Health Exposition of 1932-1933, the Pennsylvania State Emergency Relief Fund, 1933, and "personnel" files which include correspondence to and from Mendel relative to the staffing of academic positions around the world.

Series IV consists of photographs in the Mendel Collection and is a fine complement to the papers. Individual photographs of Mendel in his youth and as an adult, group poses, and individual photographs of the Mendel family, and moments with colleague Thomas Osborne, Mrs. Alice Mendel, Yale students, and while in Germany add a personal flavor to the collection.

The Mendel Papers were donated by Richard L. and Robert F. Herrmann. Additional material was transferred from the Yale Medical Library and the World War I Collection. Related collections holding material by or about Lafayette B. Mendel include the Russell H. Chittenden Papers, and the Sheffield Scientific School Papers. The Herrmann donation was accessioned in 1980.


  • 1879-1941


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Richard L. and Robert F. Herrmann, 1980, and Benjamin Katzin, 1997.


Arranged in four series and one addition: I. Correspondence, 1905-1941. II. Writings, Notes, and Memorabilia, 1879-1937. III. Topical Files, 1895-1941. IV. Photographs, 1880-1935.


6.75 Linear Feet (17 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers are composed of family and professional correspondence, writings, diaries, scientific notebooks, research files, photographs, and memorabilia which relate to Lafayette Mendel's research on nutrition and growth. Professional correspondents include both Yale colleagues and scientists and nutritionists from around the world. Topical files also document his activities as chairman of the Department of Physiological Chemistry (1920-1935).

Biographical / Historical

Lafayette Benedict Mendel was born in Delhi, New York, on February 5, 1872. He received a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1893 and remained at Yale all his professional life, attaining the rank of professor of physiological chemistry in 1903. His research focused on nutrition, particularly the amino acids of proteins and the importance of vitamins in diet. He served on the Inter-Allied Scientific Food Commission during World War I and was a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Mendel died in New Haven, Connecticut, on December 9, 1935.

Guide to the Lafayette Benedict Mendel Papers
Under Revision
compiled by William E. Brown, Jr.
January 1982
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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