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John T. Watson Papers 1964-2003
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All Series Level Scope and Content Notes

Reports, administrative records, requests for proposals, contract applications and reviews, conference files, videos, manuscript drafts, reprints, and three-dimensional medical devices document the mechanical cardiac assist device research conducted under the auspices of the NHLBI from 1964 to 2003. The John T. Watson Papers (33 linear feet) focus on the activities of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)'s Devices and Technology Branch (DTB) -- originally known as the Artificial Heart Program (AHP) -- and Watson's professional career as administrator of that branch. Although Watson did not join the NHLBI until 1976, the collection is rich in material from the period prior to his arrival.

The original goal of the AHP was to achieve the development of a working artificial heart in five years. When this became unrealistic, the program expanded to include the research and development of a variety of blood pumps, nuclear power sources, ventricular assist devices, noninvasive diagnostic instruments, and implantable biomaterials. Researchers interested in the overall management of the AHP (later the DTB) and its research programs over the course of its forty year history should consult Series 1: Administrative Files. Of particular note are the preliminary evaluation reports prepared from 1964-1966, which helped define the initial scope, goals, and implementation plan of the program. This series is also the richest source of information on Watson's career as Chief of the DTB. Records on the progress of specific research contracts can be found in Series 2: Research Contracts. These two series comprise over half of the collection's bulk.

Series 3: Medical Instrumentation and Prototypes contains examples of some of the mechanical heart assist devices developed by NHLBI-funded researchers, along with power sources, models, diagrams, and assorted medical supplies. Some instructional videos for NHLBI-funded devices are located in Series 4: Audiovisual Material. Additional videos include taped news broadcasts, press conferences, patient interviews, and raw footage of Watson interviewing William Kolff, an artificial heart pioneer whose research was funded through the NHLBI.

Manuscripts and reprints of articles written by Watson, NHLBI staff, and NHLBI-supported researchers can be found in Series 5: Writings, along with published institute reports on various artificial heart and cardiovascular research topics. Series 6: Conferences, Meetings, and Presentations contains information on professional cardiovascular events with some connection to Watson or the NHLBI, particularly the annual meetings held for DTB contractors.


This series documents the administrative decisions shaping the direction of the Artificial Heart Program (AHP) -- later known as the Devices and Technology Branch (DTB) -- and the research projects under its jurisdiction. Watson's career as Chief of the DTB also can be traced through these files. The series contains material from throughout Watson's association with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) as well as material created prior to his arrival. It is divided into three sub-series: AHP Management, Research Areas, and Reports. Researchers interested in the program's overall history and management should refer to the first sub-series: it includes correspondence and people files, legal documents concerning patents and lawsuits, manuals and procedural guidelines, congressional hearing files, financial summaries, and records of international cardiovascular research activities. The second sub-series focuses more on managing some of the research activities within the AHP: radioisotope power sources, ventricular assist devices, biomaterials, total artificial hearts, and bioengineering. Information on the testing and evaluation facilities established for assessing the capabilities of circulatory support devices also can be found here. Folders documenting individual research contracts are located in Series 2: Research Contracts. The third sub-series consists of reports on the AHP's status and research objectives (including the annual director reports) and submissions to the Cardiology Advisory Committee. Of special interest are the evaluative reports prepared at the AHP's inception to define the program's scope, goals, and implementation plan. Most materials in this series are arranged chronologically by date; the people files in the first sub-series are arranged alphabetically by last name.


The progress of specific National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) contracts is documented in this series. These contracts supported ongoing research into the development of temporary left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), permanent artificial hearts, and energy sources for these devices. They also detail research on the effects of biomaterials coming in contact with blood, atherosclerosis, clinical LVAD trials, and using lab rats and dogs for clinical research. There are five sub-series: Requests for Proposals (RFPs), Applications and Proposals, Reviews, Reports, and General. The first two sub-series contain solicitations to potential contractors for research proposals and the contractors' submissions. The Reviews sub-series consists of material gathered during the review of an application for a new research contract and renewals of existing contracts. This material includes lists of institutions receiving the RFPs, review committee member information, meeting minutes, summary sheets for recommended and not recommended proposals, and approval memos. Reports in the fourth sub-series are quarterly, annual, and final progress reports from the contractors. The General sub-series consists of correspondence, memoranda, reports, license applications, and miscellaneous files relating work done on specific research contracts. Each sub-series is arranged chronologically by folder date.


This series of three-dimensional objects gathers together components of various artificial heart and cardiac assist devices as well as related design models and medical instruments. Many unidentified objects are listed in the inventory based on their physical appearance (e.g. "[Green and silver valve with metal hooks]"). There are four sub-series: Artificial Hearts and Ventricular Assist Devices, Power Sources and Associated Devices, Models, and Supplies. The Artificial Hearts and Ventricular Assist Devices sub-series consists of metal ventricular assist devices, yellow plastic heart parts, volume compensators, various conduits, and a folder of images. Several components come from Willem Kolff's Laboratory at the University of Utah. Of particular note is the original silver carrying case that contains a Thermedics Inc Left Ventricular Assist System, operating instructions, negatives, and a CD of images. The Power Sources and Associated Devices sub-series consists of batteries, computer parts, cables, module parts, and a folder of images. The Models sub-series includes diagrams and three-dimensional renderings in wood or metal. The Supplies sub-series contains miscellaneous items such as jars, blood oxygenators, and catheters. The intellectual arrangement of the objects is alphabetical by name or description. The physical housing was based on the relative size, shape, and weight of the objects; individual compartments were constructed to store each item within a box. Folder numbers for boxes 17-20 refer to the item's compartment.


The videos collected in the Audiovisual Material series are primarily records of notable accomplishments in artificial heart research from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. Series 4 consists of four sub-series: Educational/Instructional Videos, News Broadcasts, Patient Interviews, and Dr. Willem Kolff Interviews. Videos in the first sub-series include animated diagrams of the Sterling Engine and background information on specific heart assist devices, such as the Heartmate Ventricular Assist Device developed by Thermedics Inc. The second sub-series includes a press conference regarding the National Institutes of Health's decision to cut artificial heart research funding and local news coverage of clinical ventricular assist device implants, particularly the early 1990's story of Michael Templeton. Two of the patient interview tapes in the third sub-series are restricted by HMD's Access to Health Information of Individuals policy; the other two tapes are silent footage used in the Michael Templeton news broadcasts. The last sub-series is raw footage of Watson interviewing artificial heart pioneer Willem Kolff, whose laboratory received support from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The interviews were conducted as part of a series sponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History; they also include footage of Watson discussing the NHLBI's involvement with artificial heart research. The first three-subseries are arranged chronologically by date and the fourth is arranged numerically by tape number.


The Writings series contains manuscripts, reprints, and published reports regarding a variety of artificial heart and cardiovascular research topics. The series is divided into three sub-series: Watson Drafts and Reprints, NHLBI Drafts and Reprints, NIH Publications. The first sub-series consists of drafts and journal articles that were authored or co-authored by Watson. Researchers should note that this is not a comprehensive set of Watson's published writings. The second sub-series includes articles by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) staff such as Frank Hastings, Frances Pitlick, and Alan Berson along with articles by researchers whose work was supported by NHLBI funding. The final sub-series contains reports, guidelines, and booklets published by the NHLBI or National Institutes of Health on topics such as the status of total artificial heart development, collaborative efforts in cardiovascular research, and arteriosclerosis. This last sub-series also includes "Salute to the Past," a publication celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the NHLBI. Each sub-series is arranged chronologically by folder date.


Information on professional meetings, lectures, and training workshops for cardiovascular researchers can be found in this series. All of these events are connected to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in some manner: sponsored or hosted by the institute, organized or co-haired by Watson, or attended by NHLBI staff members who took notes on the proceedings. Materials in this series include conference proceedings, programs, abstracts, reports, correspondence, speeches, photographs, and slides. The following sub-series are included: Images, American Society for Artificial Internal Organs (ASAIO), and Devices and Technology Branch Contractors Meetings. Folders in the first sub-series contain assorted photographs of presenters and exhibit booths along with lecture slides. Abstracts in the second sub-series feature notes written in the margins by the attendee. The final sub-series documents the annual meeting in which NHLBI-funded researchers reviewed their scientific accomplishments. The folders are arranged chronologically by event date.