Skip Navigation Bar
National Intitutes of Health
This finding aids platform will be replaced in Fall 2022. Please explore the new platform Beta soft release by visiting

Christian Anfinsen Papers 1939-1999 (bulk 1964-1999)
full text File Size: K bytes | 

All Series Level Scope and Content Notes

The collection consists primarily of materials related to Anfinsen's scientific career and is geared toward Anfinsen's research activities both inside and outside the laboratory. These scientific materials include professional correspondence with organizations or individuals, mostly from the 1980s; a long run of laboratory notebooks from 1961-1981, with most of the material by individuals other than Anfinsen; a collection of Anfinsen's publications from the 1950s to the 1990s; and a photographic collection containing portraits of Anfinsen's colleagues and an assortment of slides used for his scientific publications and lectures. Aside from a small number of clippings and articles, the collection contains few materials related to Anfinsen's receiving the 1972 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

The collection also contains a small series of personal and biographical information. Most of this material includes biographical sketches, articles, and items related to several memorial services held for Anfinsen. During his leisure time Anfinsen spent many hours sailing, and the collection contains a few sailing logs and photographs from various excursions.

Nearly half of the collection consists of Anfinsen's professional correspondence files from the 1960s to the 1990s related to his scientific activities. Another one-third of the collection is made up of laboratory notebooks from the late-1960s and 1970s. The rest of the materials consist of publications, slides, photographs, and biographical materials. The bulk of the materials in the collection thus came from the late-1960s to the early 1990s. Despite the small amount of early materials and Nobel Prize related items, this collection effectively documents Anfinsen's late 1960s - 1970s laboratory work and professional activities.

This series contains materials related to the personal life of Christian Anfinsen. This small series consists of four subseries covering biographical reminiscences, articles about Anfinsen, awards, and sailing. There is little on Anfinsen's childhood or pre-college years. Instead, much of the material in this series recalls Anfinsen's accomplishments as a scientist through various biographical sketches and dedications. These items are primarily from the 1970s through the mid-1990s. In addition to scientific biographical information, the sailing materials in this series reveal aspects of Anfinsen's favorite leisure activity. Other personal accounts from life outside of the laboratory are few.

The first subseries contains biographical sketches, curricula vitae, and several folders of material from memorial services following Anfinsen's death in 1995. The second subseries includes various articles about Anfinsen's life, mostly focusing on his scientific accomplishments. These accounts include a 1964 article by Anfinsen describing his college years at Swarthmore, Nobel Prize articles, and assorted clippings spanning the 1970s through the 1990s. The next subseries is a small collection of awards, some of which are kept with the oversize materials. The fourth subseries consists of materials documenting Anfinsen's favorite leisure activity, sailing. When outside of the laboratory, Anfinsen spent many hours sailing, and this subseries contains sailing logs, sailing charts, and details sailing his ship the Good Girl. Photographs from several sailing excursions as well as other personal images can be found in the photographs and slides series.

The material in this series consists of Anfinsen's professional correspondence with individuals and organizations, discussing a wide range of subjects. Although there are some files from the late-1960s and 1970s, the majority come from the last decade and a half of Anfinsen's life, after he retired from NIH and had become a professor at Johns Hopkins University. Divided into four subseries, alphabetical, chronological, recommendations, and peer reviews, the arrangement reflects Anfinsen's filing system. The content of this series reflects Anfinsen's professional activities outside of the laboratory. The files contain materials from various conferences, including lecture notes and class notes from his tenure with Johns Hopkins University. Some files document his support of certain political and humanitarian causes, such as Committee of Concerned Scientists. Correspondence with the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel) and the other editors of "Advances in Protein Chemistry" shows his longtime association with both endeavors. This series contains chronological files that provide ample documentation of Anfinsen's many correspondents. As an editor and scholar, Anfinsen collected a number of recommendation files and peer reviews. Because of their sensitive nature, some of these items in this series are restricted.

The alphabetical files make up the first of the four subseries. Retaining their alphabetical order, these files refer to Anfinsen's correspondence with organizations, individuals, events, places, or other subjects. The larger topics covered include humanitarian work, conference materials, affiliations with private businesses, patent applications, editorial board responsibilities, and work with several colleges and universities. This subseries also contains several name files, but the second subseries, the chronological files provides fuller documentation of Anfinsen's many correspondents. These files begin in the mid-1960s and conclude with correspondence from Libby Anfinsen, dating from 1995-1999. There is no name index but some of the correspondence is duplicated in the first subseries. The third subseries contains alphabetically arranged recommendation letters from Anfinsen in support of colleagues or students. The fourth subseries consists of alphabetically arranged files containing peer reviews. These files include Anfinsen's peer reviews for "Advances in Protein Chemistry" and other journals, as well as peer review of his own publications. All of the four subseries contain some restricted material.

This series contains approximately 40 laboratory notebooks and a few loose laboratory notes. Although these scientific notes come from Anfinsen's laboratory or from his colleagues, only a few are in Anfinsen's hand. The materials come from the late-1960s and extend into the early 1980s. These notes document various scientific experiments such as studies on chromatography, electrophoresis, and interferon assays. Since only a few of the notebook binders had names on the binder and nearly all items were dated, the series was arranged chronologically. For preservation considerations, materials were removed from binders and put into folders. Some of the items are fragile and should be handled with extra care. These notebooks provide important documentary evidence of Anfinsen's forty-year scientific career.

This series is divided into two subseries: the scientific publications of Anfinsen and those of his close colleagues. These publications begin in the 1950s and reach into the 1990s. Along with copies of nearly two hundred Anfinsen reprints, this series includes his Nobel address, abstracts, and drafts of articles. The reprints are arranged by Anfinsen's numbering system, and can be deciphered by using the master list of reprints and numbers (see Appendix C). These reprints account for approximately ninety percent of the articles he published during his forty years of scientific work. This series also contains a collection of publications by others including dissertations directed by Anfinsen and publications from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. In total, this series contains the majority of Anfinsen's prolific body of writings and research.

The first subseries features a lengthy run of Anfinsen's scientific articles from 1954-1993, as well as some of his other published and unpublished works. The master list of reprints and numbers indicates which articles are contained within the collection. In most cases there are two copies of each reprint. The second subseries features four dissertations from Anfinsen's doctoral students, a run of Pontifical Academy of Sciences publications mostly from the 1980s, a Weizmann Institute Directory from 1990, and a history of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

This series contains photographs and slides divided roughly into two aspects of Anfinsen's life, the personal and professional. These designations make up two subseries, arranged by subject. Personal items include portraits of Anfinsen, sailing photographs and slides, and snapshots following his 1979 wedding. Some of these personal photographs were taken from the personal and biographical series. The professional subseries contains photographs from awards ceremonies, conferences, and laboratory work. There is also a collection of portraits of Anfinsen's scientific colleagues, some with signatures, dates, and inscriptions on the front. Nearly all of the individuals have been identified, allowing for the alphabetical arrangement by the individuals' last names. Anfinsen also collected several binders of scientific slides which he used for various presentations and conferences. There appears to be no particular order to the slides, so the items were transferred to slide pages and kept in their original arrangement. Together these photographs and slides document both Anfinsen's scientific career and personal life.

This series contains audiovisual materials in two subseries. All the tapes in this subseries are copies dubbed from originals loaned by Libby Anfinsen. The first subseries consists of a short home movie of Anfinsen's family during a 1948 trip to Norway. This early footage was originally on an 8mm tape. The second subseries contains two videotapes documenting parts of Anfinsen's professional career. The first videotape is from a 1972 roundtable discussion featuring Anfinsen and other Nobelists. The second videotape is a 1990 interview with Anfinsen at his home in Baltimore, Maryland. Additional professional materials may be found in the HMD collection, and are described in Appendix A.

Oversize materials are items that were too large to house in normal sized Hollinger boxes and are kept separately for preservation considerations. Materials are kept in large oversize boxes, except for the posters and awards which are kept loosely. These items consist of two commemorative plates, posters, a wire sculpture of an amino acid structure, and Anfinsen's typewriter.