Skip Navigation Bar
Clarence Dennis Papers 1927-2003
full text File Size: K bytes | 

 
All Series Level Scope and Content Notes

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.


Series 1 provides details regarding the personal life of Clarence Dennis through biographical sketches, curriculum vitae, medical licenses, and other items that are arranged alphabetically by folder title. There are also two subseries: Articles about Dennis and Education. Materials in the first subseries include career-spanning profiles, discussions of medical research, and book chapters; folders in this subseries are arranged chronologically by date. The second subseries consists of a yearbook, notebooks, diaries, and reunion materials relating to Dennis's early education. The folder "The relation of blood sugar to lactic acid in the normal animal" contains an untitled 75-page manuscript, outline, and notes written during his time at Harvard College. Education materials are grouped together by academic institution and arranged chronologically by date.


This small series contains a mixture of personal and professional correspondence that covers a variety of topics. There are two subseries: General Correspondence and Individuals. The contents of the General Correspondence folders are arranged chronologically by date. The Individuals subseries, arranged alphabetically by last name, bring together folders of letters from such correspondents as Owen H. Wangensteen and Mary Dennis, Clarence Dennis's second wife. Further correspondence specifically documenting Dennis's work at particular institutions is located in Series 6-9.


Materials in this series pertain to the various medical and culinary devices invented by Dennis, particularly a food slicer developed in the 1990s. Series 3 is comprised of copies of patents, patent applications, correspondence, brochures, instructions, illustrations, and invoices. Folders are arranged chronologically by date.


This series chronicles Dennis's early clinical trials during the development of a pump-oxygenator with Dr. Jackson Stuckey and Dr. Karl Karlson. These contain dog and human trials that were conducted at the University of Minnesota and continued at the State University of New York's Downstate Medical Center. The series consists of protocol books and dog records documenting the raw experiment data and conclusions gathered as well as oversized schematics for the Dennis-Stuckey-Karlson pump mechanism. All of these materials are grouped by type and arranged chronologically.

Portions of the series are restricted by HMD's Access to Health Information of Individuals policy.


Information about Dennis's graduate education and early administrative and research work can be found in this series. Notable items include his masters and doctoral theses and a diary spanning from 1941-1956 in which he recorded impressions of various conferences, trips, personal activities, and colleagues. There are three subseries: Education, Administrative Files, and Medical Studies. Folders within each subseries are arranged chronologically by folder date.

Portions of the series are restricted by HMD's Access to Health Information of Individuals policy.


Dennis's career as chairman of the Downstate Medical Center's new Department of Surgery is documented in this series, which includes correspondence, memoranda, reports, diaries, daily appointment books, research notes, and other material. The series is divided into four subseries: Administrative Files, Diaries and Schedules, Medical Studies, and Sabbatical. The Diaries subseries provide documentation of Dennis's personal life and reflections. Materials in the fourth subseries cover the sabbatical year Dennis spent in Stockholm, Sweden. Folders within each subseries are arranged chronologically by folder date.

Portions of the series are restricted by HMD's Access to Health Information of Individuals policy.


Materials in this series document Dennis's work as Director of the Artificial Heart Program, later renamed the Medical Devices Applications Program. 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 on providing an energy source for the artificial heart. There are five subseries: Administrative Files, Correspondence, Position Paper on NHLI Technological Development, Reports, and Research. Folders within each subseries are arranged chronologically by the first date in the folder date range, then alphabetically by folder title.

Portions of the series are restricted.


An extensive amount of material from Dennis's canine and human clinical research can be found in Series 8 along with additional evidence of his administrative capabilities. The series consists of five subseries: Research Project 1 - Wound Study, Research Project 2 - Urinary Conduit Study, Other Research Studies, Administrative Files, and Correspondence.

The Research Project 1 - Wound Study subseries is comprised of research protocols, human patient surgery files, and summary reports from Dennis's study on the effect of figure-of-8 sutures in hard-to-heal wounds. It has three sub-subseries: Protocols, Clinical Trial, and Data Analysis. The Research Project 2 - Urinary Conduit Study subseries consists of research protocols and raw surgery data from dog and human trials in creating a substitute urinary conduit. This subseries is divided into two sub-suberies - Protocols and Animal Subjects - and a folder of "[Human] Urinary Conduit Cases". Folders in the first three subseries are arranged chronologically by the first date in the folder date range, then alphabetically by folder title.

The Administrative Files subseries is divided into three sub-subseries: SUNY Stony Brook, VAMC Northport, and Clarence and Mary Dennis professorship and endowment fund. Notable folders in the SUNY Stony Brook sub-subseries include the various Visiting Professorship folders that contain Dennis's notes on the lectures and photographs of Dennis with the speakers. Materials in the Correspondence subseries include general correspondence, letters of recommendation, and letters of appreciation. The Administrative Files subseries and Correspondence subseries are arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Portions of the series are restricted by HMD's Access to Health Information of Individuals policy.


This series provides details on Dennis's activities as director of the Cancer Detection Center (CDC) from 1991-1996. The majority of the series consists of administrative papers, reflecting Dennis's shift away from surgical work. Researchers should note that many documents are printed in large font because Dennis was rendered legally blind by macular degeneration. There are three subseries: Administrative Files, Research Files, and Studies. The group of "CDC Closure Crisis" folders in first subseries pertains to the center's efforts to avoid a budget induced closure. The Administrative Files subseries and Research Files subseries are arranged alphabetically by folder title; the Studies subseries is arranged chronologically by the first date in the folder date range, then alphabetically by folder title.

Portions of the series are restricted by HMD's Access to Health Information of Individuals policy.


The Patient Files series consists of detailed medical records and correspondence of patients who were not participants in Dennis's specific research studies. Material types include patient lists, case summary reports, doctor/patient correspondence, pathology reports, physician progress notes, and financial statements. The records are divided into three subseries: University of Minnesota, State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center, and Cancer Detection Center (CDC). Folders within each subseries are arranged alphabetically by folder title, with individual patient files arranged alphabetically by last name.

The entire series is restricted according to HMD's Access to Health Information of Individuals policy.


Dennis's published writings and public speeches are documented in the Writings series. It contains manuscript drafts, published articles, reprints, speeches, illustrations, and research notes authored or co-authored by Dennis. Among the topics covered in these writings are appendicitis, chronic ulcerative colitis, the development of the pump-oxygenator, intestinal obstruction, left heart bypass, and the artificial heart. There are five subseries: Talks and Lectures, Illustrations, Articles and Reprints, Research Files, and Drafts and Manuscripts. Files in the Talks and Lectures subseries document the arrangements for the talks along with Dennis's speeches, although not every folder contains a copy of a speech. The Illustrations subseries contains drafts of charts and figures which were reused frequently for various articles, chapters, and talks. The Articles and Reprints subseries includes two bound volumes of reprints dating from 1937-1969 and two copies of each article or reprint. General reference material and handwritten notes not linked to specific paper drafts are found in the Research Files subseries. Copies of the printed version of an article were removed from their folders in the Drafts and Manuscripts subseries to the Articles and Reprints subseries. Folders within each subseries are arranged chronologically by folder date.


Materials in the Professional Activities series describe Dennis's involvement with various organizations, events, and awards pertaining to clinical surgery and biomedical research. A substantial portion of the series documents his involvement in the 1960s-1980s with the National Society for Medical Research (NSMR), a society devoted to promoting the continued use of laboratory animals in medical research. Materials include correspondence, programs, brochures, certificates, articles, reprints, printed matter, and a medal. Series 12 is arranged alphabetically by organization name, then alphabetically by folder title. Where present for any organization, general business folders are filed first.