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Wilbur A. Sawyer Papers 1879-1995
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Collection Scope and Content Note


Laboratory Notes, photographs, typescripts, correspondence, manuscripts, blueprints, reprints, printed matter, awards, certificates and diplomas provide comprehensive coverage of Dr. John H. Gibbon's professional life, especially his work on developing the first artificial heart-lung bypass machine. The collection principally consists of material on Gibbon's experiments relating to artificial circulation and oxygenation and the devices he invented, while developing the heart-lung machine and the oxygenator. These subjects, along with his contributions to the advancement of heart surgery, provided the core of Gibbon's work and are the areas within medicine where he was most influential.

Series I includes an array of biographical and genealogical data on John H. Gibbon. Newspaper clippings from the town named for his family (Gibbon, Nebraska) as well as documentation of past physicians in the family show a long history of medical practitioners in the family. This series also includes various photographs of him and his acquaintances, as well as his CV. Additional information about Gibbon's personal life are also provided.

Series II, III, and IV (Heart-Lung Machine, Artificial Circulation, Oxygenator, respectively) include laboratory notes, photographs, and blueprints, documenting in great detail the development and creation of the apparatuses and procedures that incorporated them . While some of the experiment notes are written by Gibbon himself, the folders titled "Artificial Circulation - Laboratory Notes" in Series III are transcriptions of unknown sourced laboratory notes. They were provided by Ada Romaine-Davis (A.R.Davis) who authored the book John Gibbon and His Heart-Lung Machine (1991). Notes by Don Rex from the IBM Corporation, the engineer of the oxygenator, as well as notes and detailed photography of various parts of the different incarnations of the machines, comprehensively document the actual construction of the machinery. Additional information about Gibbon's experiments and machinery construction can also be found in Gibbon’s scientific publications within Series VII.

Series V: Correspondence, contains the majority of Gibbon's letters in the collection. While there are some personal letters, the majority of the correspondence is professional in nature while at Jefferson Medical College and afterwards. It represents Gibbon's communication with other physicians and companies involved in the development of the machinery, as well as his relationships with various institutions. Letters between the Mark Company and IBM concerning the heart-Lung machine are notable.

Series VI: Awards and Prizes and Series VIII: Professional Activities illustrate Gibbon's achievements in medicine and his influence in the national and international medical community. Series VI contains actual awards and plaques and Series VIII contains many pictures, the bulk of which highlights the American Friends Service Committee in Hanoi, North Vietnam.

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