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Clarence Dennis Papers 1927-2003
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Collection Scope and Content Note


Laboratory notes, correspondence, publications, and professional papers (46 linear feet; 1927-2003) chronicle the surgical and research career of Dr. Clarence Dennis. The papers span from his early education at Harvard College until his final years in Minnesota. The bulk of the collection documents Dennis's development of a pump-oxygenator, his research at the Veterans Administration, and his advocacy for the necessity of animal testing for medical advancement. The collection contains little in the way of personal materials.

Three series represent Dennis's work on open-heart surgery and the pump-oxygenator: Series 4: Heart-Lung Research, Series 5: University of Minnesota, and Series 6: State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center. Series 4 consists of Dennis's schematics for his pump-oxygenator and his laboratory notebooks chronicling his clinical trials for the apparatus. Included in Volume VI, 1951 is a detailed description of Dennis's first (ultimately unsuccessful) open-heart surgery on a human patient. The other two series contain materials which illustrate Dennis's administrative and educational duties; Series 8: State University of New York (SUNY) Stony Brook / Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC) also contains materials of this type. Additionally, Series 8 documents Dennis's studies into how wounds heal after such procedures as vagotomies.

Dennis's work as an administrator is further represented by Series 7: National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) and Series 9: Cancer Detection Center (CDC), University of Minnesota. The majority of Series 7 concerns Dennis's position paper on the status of the NHLI's Artificial Heart Program and the Institute's work with the Atomic Energy Commission to provide an energy source for the artificial heart. Series 9 focuses mainly on Dennis's attempts to expand cancer detection practices at the university, but it also highlights his abilities as a facilitator.

Both Series 11: Writings and Lectures and Series 12: Professional Activities illustrate Dennis's professional development. Series 11 contains drafts, manuscripts, illustrations, and final prints for the dozens of articles written by Dennis throughout his career; the series also includes notes and drafts for lectures and talks given by him on various occasions. Several different national and international medical organizations are represented in Series 12, but the bulk of the series documents the activities of the National Society for Medical Research and its successors.

Personal material constitutes a small portion of the collection. Series 1: Personal and Biographical includes biographical articles and sketches as well as information on his early education; Series 3: Patents reflects Dennis's interest in inventing non-medical devices along with various medical apparatuses. Both Series 2: Correspondence and Series 13: Photographs contain a mixture of personal and professional materials.

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