Name and location of repository
Level of description
Hallowell Davis Papers
- 1933-1971 (Creation)
- 1933-1971 (Creation)
24.4 cubic feet (61 boxes)
Name of creator
Hallowell Davis was born in New York City on August 31, 1896. He studied at Harvard University, receiving a B.A. there in 1918 and an M.D. in 1922. Davis's interest in electrophysiology developed while doing post-graduate research in England under Lord Adrian. In 1923, Hallowell Davis joined the Department of Physiology at the Harvard Medical School. His research concentrated on the electrophysiology of nerves. He became associated with the informal group of scientists known as "axonologists," which also included Joseph Erlanger, Herbert Gasser, and others of WUSM. In the 1930s Davis began concentrating on problems relating to hearing, but was also active in research on electrical activity in the brain. He contributed to the development of one of the first ink-writing electroencephalographs. During World War II he did vital war-related research on human tolerance to loud sounds and on the development of hearing aids.
Hearing aid research brought Davis into frequent contact with Central Institute for the Deaf, which was a subcontractor to a Harvard project. In 1946 he accepted an offer to establish a Research Department at CID and also to join the WUSM Departments of Physiology and Otolaryngology.
Among his first major projects in St. Louis was measurement of effectiveness of fenestration operations pioneered by Theodore Walsh. Davis's use of speech in these hearing tests was the beginning of speech audiometry. He became a leading figure in the development of the first American standards for audiometers and the adoption of the international zero reference level as part of that standard. He continued research under several contracts with the U.S. Armed Forces, contributing to work in ultrasonics, mechanical shock, and other areas. In the 1960s he was a member of the National Research Council's Committee on SST (super-sonic transport) and Sonic Boom.
Hallowell Davis retired officially in 1965, but remained active as CID Director of Research Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Otolaryngology. In 1976 he was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Gerald R. Ford. Davis died in 1992.
Scope and content
The Hallowell Davis papers donated in 1977 are arranged in five series. The first, by far the largest, is made up of general files, concerning all aspects of HD’s research, committee work, and other professional activities. Series 1 contains 13 subseries, representing filing units which were kept more or less “active” for periods up to four academic years each. Each of the subseries contains materials dated both earlier and later than what appears to be the active period. Together the 13 comprise a rough chronological progression tracing HD’s activities from the late 1940s to the late 1960s. Series 2 contains materials in one series relating to HD’s work on aviation medicine for the U.S. National Military Establishment Research and Development Board, 1948-1954. Series 3 contains materials assembled during just after the period when HD served on the Committee on SST-Sonic Boom, 1964-1970. In it there are two subseries, respectively, committee documents and background material. Series 4 contains laboratory notebooks in two subseries. The first of these documents noise experiments measuring cochlear response of various laboratory animals performed under contract with the Office of Naval Research. The second concerns experiments on human cortical evoked potentials (HAVOC experiments). The six narratives of Series 5 are filed in order received by the Library.
A lecture by HD on videotape, ”Sleep in Tuxedo Park,” about a former research associate, Alfred L. Loomis, the American discoverer of human electroencephalography, recorded May 21, 1979, is in the Archives media collection. An oral history interview with Estelle Brodman, Librarian of Washington University School of Medicine Library, recorded April, 1977, is also in the Archives collection.
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
The bulk of HD’s papers from his years at Harvard have been deposited at Harvard’s Countway Library. On March 14, 1977, HD donated the collection of his files and notebooks described below as Series 1-4 to the WUSM Library (Accession no. 77-006). They include materials which date from as early as 1933, but were located in “active” files at the time HD moved to St. Louis in 1946. The narrative writings that together comprise series 5 were individual gifts by HD in the 1980s and 1990s.
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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