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Ross Granville Harrison papers

Call Number: MS 263

Scope and Contents

The Ross Granville Harrison papers consist of eleven series and eleven large folios:












FOLIOS NOS. 166-176

The first three series contain a large part of Professor Harrison's correspondence, the bulk of which spans the years after his arrival at Yale in 1907 with appointment as head of the Zoology Department and Bronson Professor of Comparative Anatomy. Some earlier correspondence with Professor Moritz Nussbaum beginning in 1894 and Gustav Born in 1899 is included in Series III. In Series I, III, and VIII (PROTOCOLS) and Folio No. 173 there is material that goes back to his early student days at the Johns Hopkins University (1889-1892, 1893-1894) and the University of Bonn (1892-1893, 1895, 1898, 1899).

Correspondence and records of Harrison's affiliation with academies, societies, and other organizations are in Series V.

The range of the contents of the papers is further indicated in the following abbreviated survey. Evidence of the year Harrison spent at Bryn Mawr as Lecturer on Morphology and eleven years of his scientific career in the Department of Anatomy at the Johns Hopkins Medical School is found in his early lectures in the COURSE OF STUDIES, Series IX (1894-1906), and WRITINGS, Series VII. PROTOCOLS, Series VIII (1897-1907), contains histories of Harrison's first grafting and tissue culture experiments, later continued at Yale. The dominant interest of subsequent years in the relations of symmetry in the developing embryo is apparent in his earliest experiments. The PROTOCOLS provide a complete record of his experimental research programs with analytical study of the findings, tabulations, and drawings. The original manuscripts are in Series VII; a list of publication dates and journals is included. Lecture schedules and notes used in lectures and addresses and other research-related material are in WRITINGS, Series VI.

Although Harrison's experimental work on the organization and development of the embryo (the title of his Silliman Lectures) was of paramount interest to him throughout his scientific life, the many administrative duties and responsibilities as Chairman and Director of the Osborn Zoological Laboratory and committee member with close connections with the Yale Medical School and other university departments occupied a great deal of his time and resulted in the heavy schedules that can be traced in his papers (Series IV). In addition there were the many years as managing editor of the Journal of Experimental Zoology (1903-1946). The complete records of the Journal of Experimental Zoology from its founding in 1903 to 1963, donated by the Wistar Institute of Philadelphia, are a separate collection in the Manuscripts and Archives Department. See manuscript group 1098.

After assuming the role of Sterling Professor Emeritus in the Department of Zoology in 1938, his administrative skill received a new challenge in the same year with the appointment to the important post of Chairman of the National Research Council. During World War II, emphasis was mainly on scientific aspects of defense. The close contact and friendship with the president of the National Academy of Sciences, Frank B. Jewett, is discernible in their correspondence. It is obvious that although Harrison shunned publicity, the soundness of his counsel was recognized and appreciated by associates who served under him on many committees. Restricted World War II papers in Professor Harrison's laboratory were removed or incinerated under the direction of Nyla Welpley, executive secretary, who was sent here from the Washington office after his retirement from the Council in 1946.

The classifications of the series maintain Professor Harrison's original arrangement of the material in his files. There has been some consolidation under various headings, particularly in the CORRESPONDENCE (Series I-III), WRITINGS (Series VI), and COURSE OF STUDY (Series IX) with the addition of some early material that had been stored in Harrison's home. The subdivision of the correspondence in the three series was guided to some extent by notations on some early letters. Bibliographical information and birthday celebrations and messages (1930-1955) are in Series III; the 1930 birthday party material is in Folio No. 174. The collection of photographs, memorabilia and other records are listed in Series X, XI, and the Folios.

More complete descriptions of the contents of the series follow;


The three series are international in scope. The material of a number of correspondents (e.g. E. G. Conklin, Karl von Frisch, T. H. Morgan, Richard Goldschmidt) is distributed in more than one series, depending on the nature of the subject matter. A selected list of foreign correspondents in Series I, II, and III includes William T. Astbury, Fritz Baltzer, William Bateson, Albrecht Bethe, Gustav Born, Albert Brachet, Mrs. Theodore Boveri (Germany and U.S.A.), Margret Boveri, Hermann Braus, S. Ramon y Cajal, William Cramer, Albert M. Dalcq, Gavin R. De Beer, Reinhard Dohrn, Hans Driesch, Rhoda Erdmann (Germany and U.S.A. 1914-1935), Alfred Fischel, Emanuel Faure-Fremiet, I. Filipjev, Albert Fischer, H. Munro Fox, Karl von Frisch, J. Stanley Gardner, J. Bronte Gatenby, Richard Goldschmidt (Germany and U.S.A. 1910-1950), Oscar Herbst, Richard Hertwig, J. P. Hill, Lancelot Hogben, J. Holtfreter (Germany and U.S.A. 1931-1946), Sven Hörstadius, Julian Huxley (1912-1941), Theodore Huzella, Paul Kammerer, Fritz E. Lehmann, Guiseppe Levi (1922-1956), Otto Mangold, Petar N. Martinovitch, S. Matsumoto, S. Mollier, P. D. L. Murray, Naples Zoological Station (Reinhard Dohrn, Ernst Scharrer, et al., post World War II rehabilitation), Joseph Needham, Dorothy Needham, P. D. Nieuwkoop, Moritz Nussbaum, Emilio Parlato, Pasquale Pasquini, John Paul, V. Petkovic (re: Kammerer experiments), Heinrich Poll, Hans Przibram, Wilhelm Roux, Royal Society (London), Gudrun Ruud, K. Sembrat, G. Elliott Smith, Hans Spemann, D'Arcy W. Thompson, L. von Ubisch, Walther Vogt, C. H. Waddington, Franz Weidenreich, Martinus W. Woerdeman.

An abbreviated list of American correspondents and topics includes John J. Abel, A. Elizabeth Adams, Edgar Allen, James Rowland Angell, George W. Beadle, Albert Blakeslee, George Blumer, Isaiah Bowman, Detlev W. Bronk, William Keith Brooks (planning of Memorial Volume, E. A. Allen, William Bateson, R. G. H., and others), Montrose T. Burrows (1910-1948), Walter B. Cannon, Alexis Carrel, J. Mc Keen Cattell, Ware Cattel, Russel S. Chittenden, George E. Coghill, Leon J. Cole, Edwin G. Conklin, Wilbur L. Cross, Harvey Cushing (1907-1937), Helmut de Terra, Samuel R. Detwiler, Abraham Flexner, Simon Flexner, John F. Fulton, Simon H. Gage, Arthur T. Hadley, Viktor Hamburger, Lawrence J. Henderson, Yandell Henderson, George L. Hendrickson, Ruth B. Howland, Reid Hunt, G. Evelyn Hutchinson (Yale North Indian Expedition 1931-1933), Irving Fisher, Herbert S. Jennings, Frank B. Jewett, Johns Hopkins University (miscellaneous), Ernest E. Just (France and U.S.A.), William W. Keen, Henry McE. Knower, Zing Yang Kuo, R. A. Lambert, Warren H. Lewis, Margaret R. Lewis, Frank R. Lillie (1908-1938), Jacques Loeb, Leo Loeb, Carl A. Lohmann (re: Gertrude Stein 1934), Franklin P. Mall, Lafayette B. Mendel, Charles W. Metz, Robert A. Millikan, Charles S. Minot, Henry Allen Moe (1925-1956), Thomas Hunt Morgan (1903-1943), Herman J. Muller, National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, J. S. Nicholas, Jane M. Oppenheimer, W. J. V. Osterhout, T. S. Painter, George H. Parker, Raymond C. Parker, Raymond Pearl (1915-1937), Alexander Petrunkevitch, recommendations of faculty and students (1936-1954), Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship Awards (1924-1951), Peyton Rous, Florence R. Sabin, Asa A. Schaeffer, Ernst Scharrer, Oscar Schotté, George H. Smith, Carl C. Speide1, George L. Streeter, Francis H. Swett, C. V. Taylor, Victor C. Twitty, Paul Weiss (1931-1952), Edmund B. Wilson (1910-1945), Edwin B. Wilson (1914-1951), C. E. A. Winslow, Milton C. Winternitz, Dorothy Wrinch (1937-1951), Robert M. Yerkes.

In Series III, SELECTED CORRESPONDENCE, material has been assembled under the heading Tissue Culture (Box 40, Folders 346-373). The tissue culture experiments of Harrison and Carrel were publicized in accounts that appeared in the popular magazines, McClures and Munsey's, in 1912 and the New York Times in 1913. Other facets of the discovery of the tissue culture method by Harrison include his discussion of the method of growing isolated animal tissues and cells outside the body, in relations to previous experiments of other workers. His first publication, "observations on the living developing nerve fiber" appeared in 1907 (Anat. Rec. 1:116-118 and Proc. Exp. Biol. and Med., 4:140-143) and was followed by the classic paper "Outgrowth of the Nerve fiber as a mode of protoplasmic movement". (Journal of Experimental Zoology, 9:787-846). There is evidence of the acclaim he received as the originator of the technique. The International Harrison Commemoration Meeting of the Tissue Culture Association in Glasgow and a letter from John Paul in 1957 tell of the esteem of the members fifty years after the discovery of the method (Series XI, Box 165).

In the correspondence (Series I) of Raymond Parker, Yale graduate and tissue culturist who worked at the Rockefeller Institute in Carrel's laboratory, reference is made in a New York Times 1938 clipping to another coworker, Charles Lindbergh, and his invention of a heart pump.

There has been some controversy about the award of the Nobel Prize to Carrel in 1912. This was done "in recognition of his works on vascular suture and the transplantation of blood vessels and organs." The Nobel Prize Committee voted the award to Harrison in 1917 for his tissue culture research, but it was not given that year because of World War I. Although tissue culture was used as a standard method of research in histology, pathology, and serology, particularly in the study of tumors, it did not bring the award to Harrison in a 1933 review by the Nobel Committee. Its great importance was realized with the virus research of John F. Enders which made possible the discovery of the poliomyelitis vaccine. For this he shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine with Robbins and Weller in 1954. In 1956 Harrison was awarded the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei International Prize, "Antonio Feltrinelli" Foundation (Biological Science and Application).

In addition to the roster of individual correspondents (arranged alphabetically), Series III contains a wide range of correspondence and material of a personal and scientific nature, assembled under special headings:

Bibliography - lists of R.G.H. published papers (1893-1948)

Biographical information

Birthday celebrations and messages (1930-1955)

Camping trips

Curiosa - publications and inquiries (collected by R.G.H. 1913-1954)

Evolution theory (R.G.H. et al.)

Family (genealogy and miscellaneous correspondence)

Feltrinelli Prize Award (official announcement)

Harvard Tercentenary Conference of Arts and Sciences (invitation, program, publication of R.G.H. and Spemann manuscripts)

Honorary awards: 3 medals; honorary degrees (1907-1954); elections (1908-1954); (Medals in MEMORABILIA, Series XI; certificates in Folio No. 173)

Lectureships: Croonian, Dunham, Harvey 1933, Silliman

Lecture invitations and arrangements (1908-1949) (Lecture notes (1895-1954) in Series VI, WRITINGS; manuscripts (1893-1955) in Series VII)

Memorial tributes to R.G.H. (1960-1961)

National Academy of Sciences (1913)

National Research Council (1918, 1937-1950)

Normal Stages of Amblystoma punctatum (correspondence) (Normal series and preparation of plates in Series VI, WRITINGS)

Offers (academic 1907-1910, 1918, 1926)

Postcards from colleagues and students (1928-1954)

Reprint book and other reprint mailing records (1893-1955)

R.G.H. retirements - Osborn Zoological Laboratory (1938); National Research Council (1946)

Sabbatical year (1927-1928)

Tissue culture 1910-1915, 1920-1928, 1935-1948, 1956-1958 (Harrison Commemoration-International Tissue Culture Association, Glasgow 1957)


World War I (1915-1918) correspondence and documents concerning enemy alien arrest and internment: K. O. Bertling, Rhoda Erdmann, Richard Goldschmidt, E. I. Werber) See also: Series I and II

The impact of World War I on the lives of two visiting German scientists at the Osborn Zoological Laboratory, Rhoda Erdmann and Richard Goldschmidt, (1914-1920) is found in Series I. Other war related material is assembled in Series III and IV under the heading World War I.

Additional correspondence (Series I) with Richard Goldschmidt (1933-1942) provides information concerning his move to the United States after the Nazi invasion of German academic life. The difficulties encountered by Guiseppe Levi in Italy (1934-1941) and eminent scientists in Germany (Holtfreter et al.) are included in this series. Under a separate heading, "Displaced Foreign Scholars," there is additional material concerning other scientists. Correspondence with and concerning Otto Mangold reveals his role as Nazi sympathizer and refers to the status of Hans Spemann.

With the end of World War II, news of foreign scientists began to arrive in this country. In 1945 D. E. Minnich and Arthur D. Hassler wrote about Karl von Frisch, and a copy of a Wilhelm Schleip letter to Margret Boveri describes post-war conditions in Würzburg (1947).

Material that is relevant to World War II years and the early subsequent period is contained in the following series: Series I, Box 8, Folder No. 564. Letter from Albert Einstein (copy). Statement and appeal for funds from the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists 1947; Series I, Box 13, Folders 1006-1912. Frank B. Jewett, President of the National Academy of Sciences 1939-1944; Series II, Box 32, Folder No. 250. Letter from J. Robert Oppenheimer (copy) to Senator Brien H. McMahon on clearance procedures for Atomic Energy Commission Fellowship Candidates 1949; Box 32, Folders 236-238. National Research Council 1942, 1944, 1951; Series III, Box 38, Folder No. 250. National Research Council - Chemical Warfare Medicine 1950; Series V, Subject File. National Academy of Sciences: Box 80, Folder No. 261. Research Board for National Security - Stimson, Forrestal and F. B. Jewett, R.G.H. and F. B. Jewett 1944. Box 82, Folder No. 292. Defense Research Committee - OSRD, Report on German Research and Engineering 1945; Box 83, Folder No. 292. List of National Research Council war-time associates 1948.


Departmental correspondence and records reflect the many aspects of laboratory administration by Prof. Harrison as Chairman and Director of the Department of Zoology during the years 1907-1938. The material is arranged in alphabetical order; six sections have been inserted in the general correspondence and records and retain their original designations as follows:

Graduate School - Dean's Office 1909-1931

President's Office 1912-1928

Provost's Office 1920-1928

Secretary's Office 1910-1934

Treasurer's Office 1909-1931

L. L. Woodruff - Acting Chairman 1927-1928

There are eight additional sections with the following headings:

Osborn Memorial Laboratories - Construction 1910-1914

University Service Bureaus 1910-1927

Sheffield Scientific School 1911-1935

Yale College - Dean's Office 1912-1928

Graduate School - Student Assistantships 1914-1934

Yale University Library 1913-1928, 1934

Medical School 1917-1939

Peabody Museum 1917-1928

The records of the construction of the Osborn Memorial Laboratories commence with the 1910 Yale Corporation authorization of plans in a letter (copy) from Secretary Anson Phelps Stokes to Eli Whitney, a member of the building committee. They show Harrison's involvement in every aspect of construction: frequent consultations with President Arthur T. Hadley and the architect, Charles C. Haight; supervision and modification of building specifications that have accounted for the enduring excellence of the building; transfer of equipment from the Sheffield Biological Laboratory on Hillhouse Avenue; and the ordering and installations of new equipment, In addition, Harrison had sought advice and recommendations from his faculty, staff, and numerous outside sources. The new laboratories were open for classes in the fall of 1913.

In a March 16, 1914 letter, Anson Phelps Stokes wrote to Professor Harrison: "You and Professor Evans might be interested in the following quotation from the executor of the Osborn Estate. 'Thanks for yours of the 12th inst. and the Yale Alumni Weekly [Vol. 23, pp. 667-672]. I have read the latter with the greatest pleasure and do not see what more could have been said to bring out the great usefulness of the two departments.'" The initial interest of the donor of the laboratories, Mrs. Miriam Osborn, was due to the influence of her lawyer, John Sterling (Personal communication from George W. Pierson).

The Departmental Records constitute a history of the Osborn Memorial Laboratories under the guidance of Ross Harrison and give some understanding of his contribution in establishing with his staff the high quality of the Biology Department as a research and teaching center.


The Subject File is composed of material maintained as a separate file by Professor Harrison and relates mainly to a multitude of administrative matters and responsibilities. This series contains correspondence and records that indicate the extent of his active participation in numerous academies, associations, and societies. He served as member, chairman, treasurer, trustee, vice-president or president. Further information about the year of appointment or election and his status is found in the Harrison biography in SELECTED CORRESPONDENCE, Series III, Box 34, Folder No. 21.

The correspondence and records cover a wide span of years and supply data concerning the early history of the following societies and associations: American Society of Naturalists (1903-1947); American Society of Zoologists (1911-1927); American Association of Anatomists (1912-1946); American Association of University Professors (formation and organization 1913-1915 and subsequent years 1916-1947); American Association for the Advancement of Science (1925-1943); and Anatomische Gesellschaft (1930-1952).

An abbreviated selection of material indicates Harrison's service in later years: Conference Board of Associated Research Councils (Chairman 1944-1954); various domestic and international projects, e.g., Human Resources and Fields of Learning (1946-1954) and International Exchange of Persons - Fulbright Act (1946-1954); Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research (1936-1952); the Johns Hopkins Half-Century Celebration Alumni Drive (1924-1926); and the American Philosophical Society (1939-1953). For additional material, see Series I, GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE, Johns Hopkins; American Philosophical Society (1912-1917).

The responsibilities of election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1913 are seen in the correspondence and records of subsequent years, 1915-1954: Bache Fund distribution of grants (1915-1927); Council and Executive Committee (1932-1946); election of members - committee on reorganization (1931-1947); medal awards (1930-1943); foreign associates - elections and biographies (1922-1954); National Science Foundation (establishment 1939-1945); nominations and ballots (1918-1935) and appointment of the president (Frank R. Lillie, 1934-1935); publication and selection of editorial board of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (1914-1955); Research Board for National Security (1944); and the Section of Zoology and Anatomy (1925-1951).

National Research Council material starts in 1925 and continues through the World War II years when Professor Harrison served as Chairman of the Council (1938-1946) to 1955. This includes records of the Division of Biology and Agriculture (1925-1945); action of the Fellowship Board (1931-1937); Latin American studies (1941-1947); correspondence with Herman J. Muller re: Pilgrim Trust Lecture (1945); National Defense Research Committee (1945); organization and members (1943-1944); Science Advisory Board (1933-1935); list of war-time associates (1948); Douglas Whitaker survey of international relations in science (1949-1950); Pacific Science Board (1947-1953). See also: Gen. Corres. Ser. I, Frank B. Jewett.

Contact with the Rockefeller Foundation is evident in a series of reports on "Activities in the Natural Sciences" (1933-1938) and the 1939 report prepared by Harrison as chairman of the Committee of Review, Appraisal and Advice, Natural Sciences. Close relations with the Rockefeller Institute were maintained for many years (1939-1953) when Harrison served on the Board of Scientific Advisers and as Chairman of the Executive Committee (1941-1953), Vice-President, and President (1953) with subsequent permanent appointment to the Board of Trustees. In addition to the copious correspondence with the business manager, Edric B. Smith, and records of trustees' meetings, there are copies of the memorial tribute to Phoebus A. T. Levene by W. A. Jacobs and Donald D. Slyke (1940) and the remarks by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., on his retirement from the presidency of the Rockefeller Institute in 1951.

A selection of other correspondence and records conveys information concerning: National Advisory Cancer Council (1937-1941); Science Service (agenda and minutes 1935-1955); meetings of the Society for Development and Growth (1947-1952); establishment of the Tissue Culture Association in 1947 and the Harrison Commemorative Meeting in Glasgow in 1957. Material of international scope occurs in correspondence concerning: foreign research fellows, most of whom worked in the Osborn Zoological Laboratory (1926-1931); various international congresses (1926-1950), including the VIIth meeting of the International Society of Cell Biology in New Haven 1950 (see also: WRITINGS, Series VI, Addresses); Reinhard Dohrn's nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize with material from Margret Boveri (1932-1933); and association with several foreign societies.

Records of the plans and personnel of five biological stations provide considerable information about the problems of their establishment and organization. Extensive material supplies a thirty year history of the Bermuda Biological Station (1925-1955). With the appointment as member of the Board of Trustees in 1925 and service as treasurer from 1930-1946, Harrison became actively involved with the administration of the Station. This is revealed particularly in the correspondence with E. G. Conklin who was president 1926-1935 and E. L. Mark, director of the Executive Committee from 1926-1936. The correspondence with various directors and trustees continued in subsequent years. Financial records, minutes and reports are also included.

Through the years Harrison maintained an active interest in the administration of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole and served as Trustee from 1908-1940, Trustee Emeritus 1940-1959. Correspondence and minutes of meetings cover the period 1911-1955. The annual trustee meetings were attended regularly; on these visits to Woods Hole he was the house-guest of either the Conklins or the Lillies.

The appointment as Trustee of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1930 brought administrative responsibilities and attendance at annual meetings that usually coincided with the time of the Marine Biological Laboratory meetings. The records cover the years 1931-1955.

Harrison became a member of the Board of Directors of the Long Island Biological Association in 1926 with Emeritus status after 1951. Correspondence, minutes and reports cover the years 1927-1953.

Records concerning the Mt. Desert Biological Laboratory extend through the years 1898-1935.



Graphic Notes

Discussion Notes

Introductions (by RGH)

Lecture Notes (1895, 1907-1954)

Medals - awards to RGH, G. E. Coghill, T. S. Painter

Old and Miscellaneous Notes (1889-1891), 1901, 1931, n.d.)


Reviews of Literature (c. 1895, 1929, 1931)


Tissue Culture - Burrows 1910 paper (proof); Conference Hershey, Pa. 1946

Memorial Tributes (by RGH)

Normal Plates

Normal Stages

Bibliography (lectures, published papers, and special references)

The writings are assembled in the fifteen sections listed above. Seven sections contain an extensive collection of notes used by Professor Harrison in the presentation of addresses and lectures.

The addresses span the years 1897 to 1950 and start with Harrison's report to the Society of Morphologists on his first grafting experiments, published in Science in 1898. Of the eight remaining addresses, four were delivered during tenure of the Chairmanship of the National Research Council; only one, entitled "National Research Council and Its Action in the Field of Medical Sciences," was published (1944). The address at the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences Symposium to honor Professor Alexander Petrunkevitch on his retirement in 1944 records the esteem and affection of friends and colleagues. In the last address, Harrison, as honorary chairman, opened the 7th International Congress of Cell Biology held at Yale in 1950.

The series includes Harrison's informative introductions of eight foreign guests who were invited to lecture at Yale: William Bateson, geneticist (1922); Albert Brachet, embryologist (1928); Honor B. Fell, tissue culture pioneer (1946, 1953); Paul Kammerer, known for his experiments on the inheritance of acquired characteristics (1924); Joseph Needham, Terry Lecturer ("Order and Life" 1935); Hans Spemann, embryologist (1931); Erwin Stresemann, ornitholgist (1935); and Vincent Brian Wigglesworth, insect physiologist (1945). Supplementary material concerning the lecturers and lecture arrangements are in Correspondence Series I and II.

Lecture Notes are arranged under headings which indicate the subject or locale of the lectures. A few examples follow: notes for papers presented at meetings of The Club (Old Men's Club) at Yale during the years 1909-1954; the Dunham Lectures at Harvard 1926; tissue culture 1911-1932; transplantation of limbs 1912-1936; heteroplastic transplantation 1913-1936; ear development and symmetry 1924-1939; Croonian Lecture (Royal Society London) 1933; die Neuralleiste (Königsberg, Germany) 1937; the Linacre Lecture (Cambridge, England) 1939; and Silliman Lectures at Yale 1949.

The medal awards consist of the acceptance speech of Harrison on receiving the Carty Medal of the National Academy of Sciences (see also: Series III, Box 36, Folder No. 127) and his remarks when presenting the Elliott Medal of the National Academy to George E. Coghill and T. S. Painter. This section is followed by early notes on theories of evolution and heredity from the writings of Darwin, Wallace, T. H. Huxley, et al. (1889-1891); preparatory material for a paper published in 1901 on the occurence of tails in man (Cauda Humana); and some miscellaneous material.

The section on Research is varied in content: correspondence with President James Rowland Angell concerning plans for a never-realized research institute in experimental and related fields (1929-1930); material on the histogenesis of the nervous system (Johns Hopkins Medical School 1900-1907); origin of Schwann cells - Raven's experiments (1937); notes and reports that outline Harrison's experimental programs (1908-1940) and the research of his students and visiting scientists (1911-1926). Other sections are composed of Reviews of Literature (Wetzel, Morgan, Schleip, Korschelt); notes and reports by Harrison et al. from three Symposia (Pigmentation 1940, 1946; Causality 1949); Tissue Culture (proof of M. T. Burrows' 1910 paper and report of Tissue Culture Conference sponsored by National Research Council, Committee on Growth at Hershey, Pa. 1946). Additional materials on tissue culture may be found in Series I, Cold Spring Harbor Biol. Lab. (1934) and Series III, Tissue Culture.

Harrison's memorial tributes include the names of former close friends and colleagues: Lafayetts B. Mendel, Henry McElderry Knower, Walter B. Cannon, L. L. Woodruff, Frank R. Lillie, and Edwin Grant Conklin.

In the sections labelled Normal Plates and Normal Stages are photographs, drawings, descriptive material and other records used in the preparation of the complete series of normal stages of Amblystoma punctatum and selected stages of Amblystoma tigrinum. The normal plates with the original drawings of the live embryos delineated by Lisbeth Krause, laboratory artist, are in Folio No. 167. Notes and correspondence on the nomenclature controversy — Amblystoma vs. Ambystoma — support Harrison's use of the genus designation Amblystoma (See also: Series III, Box 34, Folder No. 1). Miscellaneous material in these sections consists of some early drawings and descriptions of the development of Rana and Bufo embryos.

The drawings and descriptions of the Harrison Normal Series of A. punctatum are included as Chapter 2 in the book that represents the Harrison Silliman Lectures, "Organization and Development of the Embryo", prepared for publication by Sally Wilens and published by the Yale University Press in 1969.

Harrison's extensive bibliographies (on cards) were compiled for inclusion in his lectures and publications; the special collections contain references on molecular structure of proteins, symmetry, tissue culture and miscellaneous fields.


Harrison's manuscripts consist of his first and revised drafts (hand-written and typescripts) of seventy-nine papers and lectures (1893-1948), and one unfinished paper. Original figures and in many instances publishers' proofs are included. Large figures are in Folios No. 166 and Nos. 169-172. The manuscripts are in chronological order with a bound copy of Harrison's Ph.D. dissertation, handwritten in English (1894) and the following unpublished manuscripts: the paper read before the American Morphological Society (1900, later amplified and published in 1901); his address as retiring president of the American Association of Zoologists (1925) and three lectures (Franklin Institute 1918, Dunham Lectures - Harvard 1926, the Spaeth Memorial Lecture - Woods Hole 1931). See also: Writings, Series VI, Addresses and Lecture Notes.

Harrison's last and unfinished manuscript, on which he devoted considerable time between 1950 and 1955, presents his analysis and review of amphibian limb development, entitled "Origin, development, and growth of the fore limb - parts played by ectoderm and mesoderm". With the manuscript almost in final form, illness prevented him from continuing the work and Professor J. S. Nicholas undertook its completion. The edited copies of the manuscript were still in process of preparation for publication at the time of Nicholas' sudden death in 1963.

Harrison did not prepare his Silliman Lectures for publication by the Yale University Press. His original lecture notes and other material assembled for preparation of the lectures are with his WRITINGS - Series VI, Lecture Notes. The lectures which he presented in 1949 were entitled "Organization and Development of the Embryo". The manuscript which represents his six lectures was prepared by Sally Wilens, accepted for publication by the Yale University Press and published in 1969. The book retains the title of the Silliman Lectures. Manuscript, figures, and proof have been added to the collection by Sally Wilens.

The card catalogue of reprint mailing lists is inserted at the end of this series. The cards and the reprint book with lists beginning in 1893 (Series III, Box 39, Folder No. 303) give a complete record of domestic and foreign recipients of reprints. A copy of the Harrison bibliography supplies information concerning publication dates and journals. Of the total number of published papers listed in the bibliography, nine manuscripts, mainly short abstracts of papers presented at meetings, are missing from the collection.


The Research Records, termed Protocols, consist of hand-written descriptions of experiments and detailed histories of the tissue culture and microsurgical grafting operations Harrison performed, with analytical tabulations, summaries, and drawings. Early research, while a graduate student at Johns Hopkins, is described in some notes (1890) when he had the position of assistant with the U.S. Fish Commission at Woods Hole and worked on the development of the oyster — a project under the direction of W. K. Brooks. In the following year (1891) he was a member of the Johns Hopkins University expedition to Jamaica. The records of his work in Jamaica consist of drawings of actinians. (See General Correspondence Series I, E. A. Andrews 1891, 1946 - Box 1, Folder No. 61 and Photographs, Series X, Box 161, Folder No. 1).

Six research notebooks contain preparatory Ph.D. material on the development of the fins of teleosts and indicate the range of Harrison's interests at the University of Bonn (1892-1893) and Johns Hopkins (1893-1894). In Bonn he worked on his research problem under the guidance of Professor Moritz Nussbaum and continued at Johns Hopkins under William K. Brooks. There is an additional notebook with tabulations and the study of sectioned Salmo material for his Bonn M.D. dissertation on the histogenesis of the nervous system (1898-1900). Harrison was awarded the M.D. degree in 1899.

After Harrison's appointment as instructor at the Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1896, the records of his research show his recognition of the recently published work of Born on embryonic transplantation and its importance for the study of morphological problems. He adapted and utilized Barn's method in his first series of grafting experiments on the growth and regeneration of the tail of the frog larva and the study of the development of the lateral line sense organs (1897-1903).

The research protocols of the following eight years reveal the intensive program of study of the origin and development of the nervous system (neuroblast vs. sheath cell in the development of peripheral nerves, development of nerve fibers, muscle-nerve relationship). This work culminated in the crucial experiment of isolating small pieces of living embryonic tissue in culture media, i.e., Harrison's discovery of a method of growing animal tissues outside the body that provided definitive proof of the outgrowth of the developing nerve fiber from a single nerve cell (1907). The tissue culture experiments were started at Johns Hopkins and continued at Yale after Harrison's move to New Haven in 1907. The definitive tissue culture paper was published in 1910. In Harrison's final utilization of tissue culture, he studied the stereo-tropic influence of solid structures on developing embryonic cells. Results were published in 1911 and 1914.

The planning and scope of the research programs in subsequent years can be traced in the records that follow the tissue culture experiments. They show the carefully planned study of the embryonic development of a number of organs, such as the limb, balancer, eye, the gills, the ear, and the role of component tissues, including the neural crest. In homoplastic and hetero-plastic transplantation experiments, Harrison used his microsurgical technique, five species of Amblystoma provided twenty interspecific graft combinations. The extensive series of limb experiments for study and analysis of developmental growth processes and relations of symmetry of the amphibian forelimb (1906-1932) are equalled in number and emphasis by the experiments on the localization and symmetry of the internal amphibian ear (1917-1938). The results of the limb experiments have been published with the exception of the review paper (See: MSS, Series VII, Box 121, Folders No. 164-167). Though there is considerable analysis of the series of ear experiments in the protocols, in published papers, and in the volume that represents his Silliman Lectures (Yale University Press 1969), Harrison did not prepare a definitive paper for publication (See: Writings — Lecture Notes, Series VI).

X-ray preparations and experiments with W. T. Astbury and K. M. Rudall are described in 1938 protocols.

Supplementary material consists of records, drawings, and tabulations used in the analysis of the ear experiments and in the "Wound Healing" paper published in 1947; miscellaneous operating records and notes are also included A box containing original tissue culture preparations on glass depression slides and wax reconstructions of the ear and nervous system made from the drawings in the Protocols and used in the study and publication of selected cases, are in the Historical Library and Department of Anatomy of the Yale Medical School, with other Harrison operating equipment and memorabilia. The preserved experimental animals and the sectioned material with descriptions of the operations, including amphibian normal stages in various orientations, are in the Peabody Museum under the care of the Director.


This series consists of Harrison's class lectures and material relating to the courses in his teaching schedules during the years 1894-1938. An early series of lectures (handwritten) is undated but appears to have been prepared for use during the year when he had the position of Lecturer on Morphology at Bryn Mawr College (1894-1895). This is indicated by his examination questions for the Bryn Mawr Biology Courses (General Biology, Embryology, and Invertebrates), copies of which have been added to the series; the originals are filed in Selected Correspondence, Series III, Bryn Mawr 1895, Box 35, Folder No. 55. Additional early material (Department of Anatomy, Johns Hopkins 1896-1907) consists of lectures on Comparative Anatomy, Histology, and Osteology, with laboratory schedules and examinations. All of the early material (before 1907) had been brought to New Haven and stored in Harrison's home on Huntington Street.

After his move to Yale in the fall of 1907, records of lectures, laboratory notes, and schedules show his involvement in the undergraduate Elementary Biology Course (1907-1910), Embryology and Comparative Anatomy or Histology (1907-1911), and Embryology (1912-1920). Lectures, lecture notes, and an extensive card catalogue of preparatory references supply the content and schedules of the graduate courses Harrison taught at Yale from 1908 to the time of his retirement in 1938: Experimental Embryology Parts I and II; Regeneration; Vertebrate Morphology Parts I and II (R.G.H. and student reports).

Notes taken in the Experimental Embryology and Regeneration courses have been contributed by two former graduate students, Jane M. Oppenheimer (1932-1934) and Roland H. Alden (1937-1938). Adjunct lecture material in this series consists of catalogues of charts, lantern slides, and models.


The Photographs Series reveals Harrison's interest in assembling a collection of photographs of contemporary American colleagues and eminent European scientists, many of whom he had known as a result of his numerous visits abroad. In addition, there are a large number of photographs of Harrison that span many years. The earliest photograph is his Johns Hopkins class picture in which he stands next to his close friend, Richard Edes, after whom he named his first son (B.A. 1889 - filed in Folio No. 175). There is a group picture taken at Woods Hole in 1890 when Harrison was one of several students of William K. Brooks, who worked on the development of the oyster at the U.S. Fish Commission Station. In this picture Brooks, who was naturalist in charge of the Station, is the central figure with his 9 year old daughter. In addition to Harrison and Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Andrews, the group includes the graduate students Conklin, T. H. Morgan, Knower and five other men (unidentified). An 1891 photograph of Harrison, Morgan and one other figure was taken during a Johns Hopkins Expedition to Jamaica; a description of the expedition by E. A. Andrews is in the General Correspondence, Series I (E. A. Andrews 1891, 1946).

Two portrait photographs of Harrison came from a Baltimore studio, one undated taken about 1899 and the other autographed and dated 1911 with one unsigned duplicate. Other pictures of Harrison taken both by professional and amateur photographers between 1914 and 1950 include copies of the drawing made by the English artist Joseph Oppenheimer while on a visit to the Osborn Zoological Laboratory in 1950. The original drawing was given to the laboratory by Harrison's son, Ross G. Harrison Jr. Requests for Harrison's photograph came constantly from laboratories in the United States and foriegn countries. Many of the original negatives are in the collection.

A number of photographs are reminders of the early influence of two German scientists: Gustav Born (1894, 1900) and Moritz Nussbuam (1894-1904). The photographs of foreign scientists include F. Baltzer; Professor and Mrs. Theodore Boveri, their daughter Margret and their home in Höfen-Berlin Dahlem; Max Schultze; Cajal (autographed); A. Brachet (autographed); Julian Huxley (autographed); a group picture with Gebhardt, Harrison, Oppel, and Roux in Roux's garden; Spemann (Silliman lecturer 1931) and Harrison; Walther Vogt, Mrs. Vogt, and Harrison on their trip to Stonehenge, Oxford, and various cathedrals in 1934; and W. Schleip. Of particular interest is a series of photographs with inscriptions and autographs of fifteen foreign scientists (1909): Boveri, Bütschli, de Vries, Driesch, Haeckel, C. Herbst, O. Hertwig, R. Hertwig, Lang, Roux, Strassburger, Verworn, Weismann, Wiedersheim, and Ziegler (Folio No. 175).

Photographs of American scientists include the anatomists F. P. Mall, Jeffries Wyman, S. C. Morton, H. Allen (1919), and J. S. Kingsley (1929), all from Wistar Institute Press; H. A. Bumstead; W. E. Castle; E. G. Conklin; V. Hamburger; H. McE. Knower (1903); F. R. Lillie; T. H. Morgan; G. H. Parker; A. Petrunkevitch; V. C. Twitty; L. H. Weed; Paul Weiss; Edmund B. Wilson (autographed).

An original etching by B. W. Kunkel of the Sheffield Mansion, 2 Hillhouse Avenue, headquarters of the biology laboratories to 1913, is in General Correspondence, Series I, Kunkel, Box 16, Folder No. 1136. Photographs of the new Osborn Memorial Laboratories were published in an article by Harrison in the Yale Alumni Weekly in 1914 (vol. 23, pp. 667-672); photographs of the staff with descriptions of their specialties appeared 25 years later in 1939 in the Yale Alumni Magazine (vol. 2, pp. 6-7). Numerous photographs of staff and graduate students (members of the Journal Club) date from 1915 to 1937. The last group picture - Science Service Trustees Meeting - is dated 1953. A small number of miscellaneous pictures are described in folder title listings. Eleven rolls of 35 mm. film of pictures taken by Harrison on his travels in the U.S.A. and Germany are included.

Large photographs and group pictures are in Folios No. 174 and 175.


Memorabilia in this series include the following: Forty-two lantern slides which give a full record of one of Harrison's canoeing expeditions with three colleagues (undated, c. 1930). Two maps on slides locate the trip in the Timagami Forest Reserve, Ontario, Canada. The slides have the label Charles E. Cole; his name does not appear in the correspondence. In the Selected Correspondence, Series III, Camping Trips, there are letters that refer to numerous walking and mountain-climbing expeditions and provide a partial list of the participants from various universities: E. G. Conklin, G. H. Parker, Charles Mixter, Clark S. Robinson, John Brayton, William R. Buckminster, John Meade, and others.

A copper plaque that accompanied election to the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (1929).

Three medals awarded to Harrison: Archduke Rainer, Vienna (1914); John Scott, City of Philadelphia (1925); John J. Carty, National Academy of Sciences (1947). See: Selected Correspondence Series III - Honorary awards (announcement and acceptance of awards) and Folio No. 173 (citations).

Harrison's guest book with signatures and dates of visitors and lecturers who came to the Osborn Zoology Laboratory - started in 1928 and continued by Harrison to 1955, carried to 1961 by Sally Wilens.

Autographed list of members attending the meeting of the International Congress of Developmental Biology, Brown University, Providence, R. I. (July 25-26, 1956) - sent to Harrison.

Volume of photographs of guests at the 50th Anniversary Commemoration Dinner of the Tissue Culture Association in Glasgow, 1957, in honor of Harrison's first tissue culture experiments in 1907, sent to Harrison with a letter and reprint by John Paul.

FOLIOS No. 166-176

The Folios contain the following material:

Folios No. 166, 169, 170, 171, 172 - Large original figures from published manuscripts (1893, 1910, 1924, 1925, 1935, 1947, 1950). Manuscripts in Series VII.

Folio No. 167 - Original drawings of Harrison Normal Stages: 7 plates of wash drawings of live Amblystoma punctatum embryos (stages 1-46) and 1 plate of A. tigrinum embryos (several stages); 7 plates of stippled drawings which were copied from the original A. punctatum series; miscellaneous stages of various species. All drawings by Lisbeth Krause, laboratory artist. See also: Writings (Series VI) Normal Plates and MSS (Series VII) Box 122, Folder No. 177 and 181.

Folio No. 168 - Unpublished drawings of transplantation experiments, 1918-1935 (eye, gills, limb, ear). Drawings by Lisbeth Krause.

Folio No. 173 - Diplomas and Certificates of Honorary Elections and Degrees; Johns Hopkins University diplomas; University of Bonn: Certificates, Courses of Lectures 1892-1893, Medical School 1895-1896, 1898-1899; Citations of Scott and Carty Medals. See also: Memorabilia (Series XI), Selected Correspondence (Series III) - Honorary Awards, Writings (Series VI) - Medals.

Folio No. 174 - Miscellaneous pictures and records (1926-1950): Group pictures- U.S.A. Meetings and members of various organizations. See also: Photographs (Series X). Harvard Tercentenary 1936 - Boston Herald Magazine and map of Harvard University (original design). See also: Selected Correspondence (Series III) Harvard Tercentenary. R.G.H. 60th Birthday Celebration (Osborn Zoological Laboartory) 1930.

Folio No. 175 - Miscellaneous pictures: Meetings: Group pictures (with R.G.H.) U.S.A. and foreign 1898-1932. See also: Photographs (Series X). Johns Hopkins University Class picture (A.B. degree 1889). Staff of Clark University - 1891 or 1892. Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research - Board of Scientific Directors (3 pictures). Series of 15 photographs of famous German biologists 1909: Boveri, Bütschli, de Vries, Driesch, Haeckel, C. Herbst, O. Hertwig, R. Hertwig, Lang, Roux, Strassburger, Verworn, Weismann, Wiederheim, Ziegler. Hans Spemann and Harrison (Spemann as Silliman Lecturer 1933).

Folio No. 176 - Honorary degree - University of Budapest 1935, Diploma and program of events. See also: Selected Correspondence (Series III) Box 36, Folders No. 131 and 131A. Yale North India Expedition - Memoir Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences 1936. See also: General Correspondence (Series I), G. E. Hutchinson.


  • 1820-1975
  • Majority of material found within 1889 - 1959


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Existence and Location of Copies

Selected correspondence, 1893-1959 is available on microfilm (6,254 frames on 6 reels, 35mm) from Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, at cost. Order no. HM145.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for 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

Chiefly the gift of Dr. Elizabeth Harrison, 1959-1981. Other contributions from Ross G. Harrison, 1951; Dorothea K. Harrrison, 1968; R.H. Alden and Jane M. Oppenheimer in 1970; and Paula Dain Wilens-Metzler, 1997.


Arranged in eleven series and two additions: Series I. General Correspondence, 1907-1955. Series II. Personal Correspondence, 1907-1954. Series III. Selected Correspondence (Personal R.G.H.), 1893-1959. Series IV. Departmental Records, 1907-1938. Series V. Subject File -- Correspondence and Records, 1903-1957. Series VI. Writings -- Lectures and Research, 1895-1949. Series VII. Manuscripts, 1893-1955. Series VIII. Protocols Research Reords, 1890-1947. Series IX. Course of Study, 1894-1938. Series X. Photographs, 1889-1955. Series XI. Memorabilia, 1914-1961. FOLIOS NOS. 166-176


71.75 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence, administrative and teaching files, and research materials which document the personal life and professional career of Ross Granville Harrison. Correspondence with many academic, medical, and scientific figures is included, as are the records relating to Yale University's Department of Zoology (1920-1938) and Osborn Zoological Laboratory (1919-1938). Drafts of writings, lectures and related visual materials, research files, and photographs are also arranged in the papers.

Biographical / Historical

Ross Granville Harrison was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on January 13, 1870. He graduated from Johns Hopkins (A.B., 1889; Ph.D., 1894) and the University of Bonn (M.D., 1899). He taught at Johns Hopkins (1896-1907) and at Yale University (1907-1959). Harrison conducted extensive scientific research in embryonic development and related fields, and produced several publications. At Yale, Harrison's administrative responsibilities included service as director of the Osborn Zoological Laboratory (1918-1938) and chairman of the Department of Zoology (1920-1938). He also served as chairman of the National Research Council (1938-1946). Harrison died on September 30, 1959.

Guide to the Ross Granville Harrison Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Sally Wilens
September 1978
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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