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John T. Watson Papers 1964-2003
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Collection Scope and Content Note


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.

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