UCSF Archives and Special Collections acquires and makes available the papers of Dr. Michael S. Gottlieb, pioneer HIV/AIDS researcher and clinician

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By Erin Hurley, User Services & Accesioning Archivist

June 5, 1981 is widely known as the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States because it was the day that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) published, in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the appearance of a cluster of diseases that would later come to be known as AIDS (Acquired Immune Difficiency Syndrome). The report, titled “Pneumocystis Pneumonia — Los Angeles,” was authored by five UCLA doctors: MS Gottlieb, MD, HM Schanker, MD, PT Fan, MD, A Saxon, MD, JD Weisman, DO, of the Division of Clinical Immunology-Allergy at the UCLA Medical Center. The article reports, “In the period October 1980-May 1981, 5 young men, all active homosexuals, were treated for biopsy-confirmed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at 3 different hospitals in Los Angeles, California.”[1] The primary author of this report, Doctor Michael S. Gottlieb – then 33 years old – made history as the person who discovered AIDS.  UCSF Archives & Special Collections is pleased to house Dr. Gottlieb’s archives, which are now processed and available for the first time. 

Photo of Dr. Michael Gottlieb by Elizabeth Nathane, originally published in the Los Angeles Blade

A record of his professional life and accomplishments, as well as the many honors and awards he received over the course of his career, the Michael S. Gottlieb papers contain published papers by Gottlieb and many others on AIDS-related topics. They also include information on various AIDS drug treatment studies (including AZT), professional and personal correspondence, and information about various talks and events attended by Gottlieb during the 1980s – a busy decade for him. They also document his prodigious philanthropic activities and AIDS advocacy.

Gottlieb figures prominently in this UCSF-generated timeline of the AIDS epidemic. The timeline, which begins with the 1981 MMWR report, notes that, in 1985, Rock Hudson – star of classic Hollywood films like Giant, All That Heaven Allows, and Written on the Wind – announced that he had AIDS and later died, becoming “the first major celebrity to succumb to the disease.”[1] Later that same year, the timeline reports, “The American Foundation for AIDS Research is founded with the help of movie star Elizabeth Taylor.” Gottlieb, who served as Rock Hudson’s physician from the time of his AIDS diagnosis to his death from the disease, was also one of the founding chairs of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, along with medical researcher Mathilde Krim and Taylor, who was a close friend of Hudson’s and his costar in Giant. The Foundation was established with a $250,000 gift from Hudson’s estate.  The Gottlieb papers also contain a fascinating trove of letters, which he dubbed “Crazy letters,” that he received after becoming publicly associated with Hudson in newspapers and the press. The letters indicate a fascination with the disease, which was still very new and widely misunderstood by the world at large.

If you’re interested in checking out the Michael S. Gottlieb papers, you can consult the finding aid or the library catalog record for the collection. The papers were a gift from Michael Gottlieb.


[1]Center for Disease Control. (1981, June 5). Pneumocystis Pneumonia — Los Angeles. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/june_5.htm

[2] Cisneros, Lisa. (2021, June 4). 40 Years of AIDS: A Timeline of the Epidemic. UCSF News. https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2021/06/420686/40-years-aids-timeline-epidemic


New arrivals at UCSF Archives & Special Collections

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By Erin Hurley, User Services & Accessioning Archivist

This coming Monday, September 28, 2020, is the day UNESCO has designated as International Access to Information Day. Their website notes that, this year, the day is focused on “the right to information in times of crisis and on the advantages of having constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information to save lives, build trust and help the formulation of sustainable policies through and beyond the COVID-19 crisis.” In a time of national and global crisis, this year’s theme may resonate particularly with Americans, whether it brings to mind the availability of voting information or attempts at voter suppression, or of the deliberate obfuscation of scientific data and fact by the highest levels of government.   

To this end, I’d like to celebrate libraries and archives, and their explicit mission to make information accessible. UCSF Library and its Archives & Special Collections, though closed to the public since the City of San Francisco’s “shelter in place” mandate on March 16th, continues to find creative ways to help students, faculty, staff, and outside researchers access the vast stores of information that the library and archives hold, and to find ways to facilitate access across great distances.

As the User Services and Accessioning Archivist, my job is to both make collections accessible through the accessioning process, and to help users navigate the various portals through which Archives and Special Collections shares its information. This may be through finding aids on the Online Archive of California, catalog records in the UCSF Library catalog, or through brief inventories attached to finding aids that tell a user what kinds of materials they can find in a given archival collection and to help them determine whether that particular collection may be of use to them.

Though the majority of my work is still remote, I have accessioned some exciting new collections on-site over the past couple of months, which will soon be available in the above-mentioned locations. Among these is an accrual to UCSF’s Black Caucus collection, focused on the Office of UCSF Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Diversity.  The collection was donated to A&SC in 2019, by Karen Newhouse, who served as Director of this office from 1970-2010, and includes materials documenting the work of various UCSF organizations committed to advancing diversity on campus, including Council of Minority Organizations (COMO), the Latin American Campus Association (LACA), and the pioneering Black Caucus organization, which was founded in May of 1968 – one month after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As the finding aid to the initial deposit notes, the organization is open to all Black women and men on campus, and “was instrumental in the establishment of an Affirmative Action Office, minority training programs and focused attention on the need for increased minority student enrollment at the UCSF campus.”

UCSF Black Caucus Flyer on a National Survey on Minority Admissions, January 1973, Black Caucus Records, MSS 85-38, UCSF Archives & Special Collections

Another exciting addition to the UCSF Archives includes the papers of Benjamin Libet – a neurophysiologist and professor of physiology at UCSF for nearly 50 years. Very recently donated to the Archives by his daughter Moreen, Libet’s papers consist of his personal files of research into the human brain, as well as extensive documentation of his experiments attempting to locate the origin of “free will.” The “Libet Experiment,” as it has come to be called, was conducted in the 1980s, and tried to determine whether conscious decisions first originate in the body or in the brain by asking subjects to perform simple movements while measuring their brain activity. This study seemed to indicate that the brain registers the decision to make a movement before a person is consciously aware of the decision to move, suggesting that decisions may originate in the body, and, as some have suggested, possibly disproving the idea of “free will.” This assertion of physical determinism has been much debated, and Libet’s experiments continue to be of great interest. His papers include some of the experimental devices that were constructed to help measure these brain activities, as well as handwritten notes, graphs and diagrams, and the data produced over the course these experiments. The collection is still in the process of being accessioned and inventoried, but will be available soon via OAC and the Library catalog.

If you’d like to learn more about any of these collections, or have questions about A&SC’s extensive digital collections, please feel free to get in touch.

New year, new collections!

We’re very pleased anytime we’re able to bring new collections out of dark corners and, you guessed it, into the light. The following newly cataloged collections cover a breadth of topics including tobacco control, AIDS history, nursing school in the 1920s, inventing the pap smear, surgery in the 19th century, and UCSF history:

  • MSS 2013-4 Grande Vista Sanatorium collection, 1922-1938: Collection includes various medical mailings that Dr. Hendrik Belgum, the founder of the sanatorium, received. The sanatorium was founded in 1914 in Richmond, CA where some of its ruins can still be found in the Wildcat Canyon Regional Park.
  • MSS 2013-9 Clara Edmonston papers, 1921-1924: Papers include Clara’s correspondence while she was a UCSF nursing student in the 1920s. Our holdings also include the papers of Clara’s friend, future sister-in-law, and co-nursing student: MSS 2011-14 Vivian Coats (Edmonston) papers, 1921-1935.
  • MSS 2012-30 Dr. George N. Papanicolaou collection, 1945-1990:  Research material put together by Dr. Robert Liner for a film documenting the story of the Pap smear development by Dr. George N. Papanicolaou. Dr. Liner was not able to produce the film. It includes two boxes with papers, photographs, and publications as well as a box of six audio cassettes with interviews of Mrs. Mary Papanicolaou, Mrs. Trout, Dr. Joseph Hinsey, and Constantine Railey.
  • MSS 2012-27 Carolyn B. Martin papers, 1988-2004:  Document Martin’s involvement with California tobacco control. She was a Lung Association volunteer and helped to lead the state campaign for Prop. 99 in 1988 and served as the first chairperson of the state advisory committee on program and expenditures. Martin participated in the negotiations for the implementation legislation for the proposition, numerous other tobacco related bills and lawsuits, and education efforts.
  • MSS 98-60 Villagomez manuscript, circa 19th century: A handwritten, unpublished manuscript in Spanish concerning surgery techniques from the 19th century.
  • AR 2013-08 UCSF School of Nursing – Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner Program records, 1991-1995: Documents the grant application for the UCSF School of Nursing Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner program.
  • MSS 96-32 Brooks Linton ephemera collection, 1983-1995: AIDS-related ephemera collected by Brooks Linton, a former San Francisco General Hospital AIDS Ward nurse, from approximately 1983-1995. Items include newspaper clippings, brochures, reports, magazine articles, announcements, and others.
  •  AR 2012-25 UCSF Division of Gastroenterology lab records, 1968-2012Collection contains electronic data files, spectrophotometer recordings, and gastroscopy records books that were kept by Dr. McDonagh in his lab. Other materials include, floppy disks, zip disks, CDs, DVDs, slides, and hard drives. Dr. McDonagh was a professor and researcher at UCSF from 1971-2012.
  • AR 2012-26 UCSF Medical Center Quality Improvement Department records, 1989-1999: Collection includes materials on the projects, reports, and initiatives of the Quality Improvement Department. The department aims to develop data-driven strategies to improve care and to lead the field by disseminating their experiences locally and nationally.

If these, or any, of our materials strike your fancy and you’d like a closer look, please head to our homepage and click on the calendar to the right to schedule an appointment. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us!

Other additions in the latter part of 2013 included: