Name and location of repository
Level of description
E. V. Cowdry Papers
- 1909-1975 (Creation)
117.00 Linear Feet
Name of creator
The interests and achievements of Edmund Vincent Cowdry (1888-1975) combined several careers in one. He was born in Alberta province, Canada, and grew up in Ontario. He studied at the University of Toronto, receiving his BA in 1909. Continuing with graduate training in anatomy, he received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1913. He was on the faculty of Johns Hopkins University from 1913 to 1917. From 1917 to 1921, he was among the first professors at Peking Union Medical College, established by the Rockefeller Foundation in Beijing, China. From 1921 until 1928, Cowdry was an associate member of the Rockefeller Institute, the medical research center in Manhattan that is now known as Rockefeller University. Beginning with that period, he made several research trips to African countries. In South Africa, he was instrumental in isolating the organism (thereafter called Cowdria ruminantium) which causes heartwater in animals. In Tunisia, he investigated the etiology of malaria. In Kenya, his chief interest was yellow fever.
E.V. Cowdry joined Washington University School of Medicine in 1928 as head of the Cytology program and co-chair of the Department of Anatomy, and for that purpose moved to St. Louis. The city became his and his family's home for the remainder of his life, although he continued his earlier pattern of extended leaves and foreign travel. He became a United States citizen in 1930. Later he became director of research at Barnard Free Skin and Cancer Hospital (1939), then an independent hospital, but which he guided toward eventual integration with Washington University School of Medicine. In 1941 he became the formal head of the Department of Anatomy (1941). Cowdry's chief laboratory research interests in those years came to focus on cancer. He was noted not only for work in the laboratory, but also for his advocacy of increased public support for programs to fight malignant diseases. He was also widely known for coordinating interdisciplinary work in gerontology and is considered today to be one of the founders of contemporary scientific approaches in that branch of applied medicine and social work. E.V. Cowdry stepped down as head of anatomy in 1950, accepting in its place the position of director of the Wernse Cancer Research Laboratory at the school. He was named professor emeritus and director emeritus of the Wernse laboratory in 1960. Cowdry remained active in research in the university and at Jewish Hospital of St. Louis until his death in 1975.
Scope and content
The Cowdry papers consist of 74 document series of various lengths, most of which are on paper. The arrangement of the series reflect various phases, locales, and time periods of his long career. In terms of subjects, the collection concerns a variety of basic scientific and clinical areas, among them anatomy, cytology, gerontology, cancers, arteriosclerosis, leprosy, and yellow fever. There is an extensive array of important institutions that figure prominently in this collection: Peking Union Medical College, China Medical Board, Rockefeller Institute, American Society for the Aged, Carnegie Corporation, National Research Council, American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, International Cancer Research Council, International Union Against Cancer, American Association for Cancer Research, City of Hope Medical Center (Los Angeles), Tata Memorial Hospital (Bombay), International Association of Gerontology, International Gerontological Congresses, Gerontological Society, Bermuda Biological Station for Research, and the Institutum Divi Thomae Foundation. Of local interest there is material on Washington University School of Medicine administration, the Department of Anatomy and its Division of Cytology, Barnard Free Skin and Cancer Hospital, and Jewish Hospital of St. Louis. Formats of documents comprising the collection include correspondence, departmental records, notebooks, scrapbooks, manuscripts, certificates, photographs, and press clippings. In addition, certain series represent EVC’s complete short publications – papers on scientific topics for the most part – which were bound together in volumes at his request. EVC’s many monographic works and collaborative volumes under single titles are cataloged and stored separately from the collection, but citations to these works may be found in Series 1.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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
EVC formally declared his wish “to donate my letters and unpublished documents to the Library” in a statement signed February 24, 1967. He sent the materials to the Library in segments in 1967 (67-003, 67-004, 67-006, 67-016, 67-022, 67-023), 1969 (69-005), and 1974 (74-042). After his death there were gifts in name of the estate and by the Cowdry family (1975, 75-031, 75-032, 75-039; 1976, 76-019; 1988, 88-041; 1990, 90-062). Together all their contents are identified in the individual series descriptions as “Cowdry accessions, 1967-1990.” In addition, there were two significant transfers of documents to the Library directly from the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology (1979, 79-009; 1990, 91-007). No meaningful description of 79-009 was made at the time of accession other than to note it contained 9 ft. of correspondence, so in effect these files must now also be considered to be part of the Cowdry accessions. Accession 91-007 encompasses series 47 through 60, and resulted from the rediscovery in 1990 of 12 linear feet of EVC’s files that had been stored in a “crawl space” between the fourth and fifth floors of the North Building, amidst pipes, power lines, and environmental debris. Substantial portions of those file series (notably in series 60) were damaged beyond restoration. Further details about the various accessions may be found in the collection control file that is maintained by the Archivist.
Immediate source of acquisition
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related archival materials
- E. V. Cowdry Oral History (OH002)
- E. V. Cowdry Oral History (OH008)
- E.V. Cowdry Photographs
- E.V. Cowdry Certificates and Artifacts
- E.V. Cowdry Cytological Drawings
- Cowdry, Edmund V., Prize in Histology, Vertical File
- Barnard Free Skin and Cancer Hospital Records
- Cowdry, Edmund V., Vertical File
- E.V. Cowdry Photographs, Negatives, and Lantern Slides
Rules or conventions
"Describing Archives: A Content Standard, Second Edition (DACS), 2013."
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