Name and location of repository
Level of description
Joseph Erlanger Papers
- 1890-1964 (Creation)
21.50 Linear Feet
Name of creator
Joseph Erlanger (1874-1965) was born in San Francisco, studied at the University of California (B.S., 1895) and received his medical education at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (M.D., 1899). He was an intern at the Johns Hopkins University Hospital under William Osler, 1899-1900. From 1900 to 1906, Erlanger was an assistant in physiology at Johns Hopkins under William H. Howell. He became professor of physiology at the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1906. In 1910, he accepted an appointment as professor and head of physiology at Washington University in St. Louis. Erlanger retained this position until retirement in 1946, continuing in research at the university for several years afterward. In 1944, he and Herbert S. Gasser were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for discoveries relating to the highly differentiated functions of nerve fibres."
Erlanger's chief contributions to physiology can be divided into two distinct phases. Until 1921, he concentrated on problems relating to the cardiovascular system, developing an improved sphygmomanometer, and making important discoveries about the relation of blood pressure and the conduction of electrical impulses in the heart. The second phase of his research career began in collaboration with Gasser, a former student. The two adapted a cathode-ray oscillograph for the purpose of amplifying and recording electrical conduction, or action potentials, of the nervous system. Using this instrument, they analyzed and compared action potentials of different portions of the nervous system, determining that the speed of conduction is proportional to the diameter of the nerve fiber. Erlanger's later research built upon this key electrophysiological discovery, with studies of excitation and polarization of nerve fibers, among other investigations. Throughout his tenure at Washington University, Erlanger played an important role in the governance of the medical school through its Executive Faculty council. He also made important contributions to the American Physiological Society and other scientific organizations.
Scope and content
The collection consists of eight series. The attempt has been made to maintain the original order as much as possible, and particularly in the correspondence and scientific data series. Much of the material, however, was transmitted and accessioned in small portions in the years 1963-1966, and in some cases items were placed on display in the Library before being arranged in series. The microfilming, moreover, was carried out before the final arrangement and analysis of the collection could be made; somewhat premature filming decisions have, therefore, affected the final arrangement that is presented here and some items are missing or poorly described on the film.
System of arrangement
Conditions governing access
The collection is open and accessible for research.
Conditions governing reproduction
Users of the collection should read and abide by the Rights and Permissions guidelines at the Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives.
Users of the collection who wish to cite items from this collection, in whole or in part, in any form of publication must request, sign, and return a Statement of Use form to the Archives.
For detailed information regarding use of this collection, contact the Archives and Rare Book Department of the Becker Library (email@example.com).
Item description, Reference Code, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University in St. Louis.
Languages of the material
Scripts of the material
Language and script notes
Gift of Joseph Erlanger and the Erlanger estate, 1963-1966.
Immediate source of acquisition
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related archival materials
Rules or conventions
"Describing Archives: A Content Standard, Second Edition (DACS), 2013."
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