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


Highlighting the work of Freeman Bradley, of UCSF’s Research Development Department and the Black Caucus

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By Shannon Foley, Archives & Special Collections Intern

Brought to Light wants to bring attention to remarkable former UCSF faculty member Freeman Bradley. His significant contributions to the medical community and the Black community at UCSF deserve to be recognized. Bradley grew up in Alabama, and after high school, he continued his education at Howard University in Washington D.C., where he received his bachelor’s degree in Biology. After his graduation, Bradley moved to Maryland and started working at the National Institute of Health, where he remained for four years before starting his career at UCSF. His position was with the Cardiovascular Research Institute, where he conducted research about respiratory changes associated with various anesthesias.

During his time at UCSF, Freeman Bradley worked as a technician to Dr. John Severinghaus and and Bradley’s contributions were fundamental to Severinghaus’s groundbreaking work. From 1957 to 1958, Dr. Severinghaus and Mr. Bradley combined technology created by Richard Stow and Leland Clark to create the first blood gas analysis system. Shortly after the first system was created, they were commercialized and proved revolutionary in health care. In Dr. Severinghaus’s written account of his research and the evolution of the invention of the blood gas analysis system, he emphasizes how his and Mr. Bradley’s invention changed medicine. By the 1960s they blood gas analysis systems were widely available, and and these tests provided essential information about a patient’s illness.. These systems are still used today, and in 1985 Dr. Severinghaus donated the first apparatus he and Mr. Bradley worked on at the Smithsonian Museum. In 1977 after his research with Dr. Severinghaus, Mr. Bradley was appointed Director of Development and Research. In this position, he helped progress the technology and development of medical tools. One of the other advancements he made at his time at UCSF was in the transportation technology of newborn babies or neonates. His contributions to medical advancements do not go unnoticed. 

Image taken from SYNAPSE – THE UCSF STUDENT NEWSPAPER, VOLUME 27, NUMBER 19, 24 FEBRUARY 1983, https://synapse.library.ucsf.edu/?a=d&d=ucsf19830224-01.1.3.

Freeman Bradley was not only an incredible asset to advancing medical research, but he also was an active member in UCSF’s Black Caucus. The Black Caucus is a club at UCSF whose mission statement is “The Black Caucus is a forum open to all Black-identified individuals and allies on this campus. Here they may openly express themselves regarding matters of race as they affect life on the campus and in the community. The Black Caucus serves as an instrument for the formation of a Black consensus on those racial matters that affect every person on this campus. This consensus will then be presented to the Administration for appropriate action.” One of the founding members and President of the Black Caucus, David Johnson, worked to create this community where Black members of UCSF could have their needs and concerns met. During Freeman Bradley’s time at UCSF and as an active member of the Black Caucus and used his calm temperament to make sure issues could be addressed and changes made. Mr. Bradley is quoted saying that even though he was criticized for staying diplomatic, he knew that it was the way to be more successful in the long run. In a 1983 interview of Mr. Bradley printed by Synapse, he shared his concerns with the lack of Black role models for youths in the sciences. He believes that minorities would be more likely to become a part of the medical field with more role models. Freeman Bradley is the perfect example of a role model to the youth and can be seen as an inspiration to all.

Works Cited:

“David Johnson, Freeman Bradley – Black Caucus Leaders.” Synapse, Volume 27, Number 19, 24 February 1983, synapse.library.ucsf.edu/?a=d&d=ucsf19830224-01.1.3, accessed April 21, 2021.

Severinghaus, John W. “The Invention and Development of Blood Gas Analysis Apparatus.” Anesthesiology, vol. 97, no. 1, 2002, pp. 253–256., doi:10.1097/00000542-200207000-00031, accessed April 21, 2021.

“They Were Really Us”: The UCSF Community’s Early Response to AIDS — A New Exhibition on Calisphere

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By Polina Ilieva, Head of Archives and Special Collections

When HIV/AIDS first seized the nation’s attention in the early 1980s, it was a disease with no name, known cause, treatment, or cure. Beginning as a medical mystery, it turned into one of the most divisive social and political issues of the 20th century. The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) was at the forefront of medical institutions trying to understand the disease and effectively treat early AIDS patients.

Drawing on materials from the AIDS History Project collections preserved in UCSF’s Archives and Special Collections, the UCSF Library presents “They Were Really Us”: The UCSF Community’s Early Response to AIDS, a new digital exhibition on Calisphere that highlights the ways UCSF clinicians and staff addressed HIV/AIDS from its outbreak in the 1980s to the foundation of the AIDS Research Institute in 1996. 

From medical professionals defining the disease and developing a model of care, to activists calling for treatments and public education, this exhibition amplifies the resilience of a community not only responding to its local needs, but also breaking ground on a larger scale with efforts that continue to impact HIV/AIDS care and research today. 

The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt panels displayed at San Francisco City Hall during San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Freedom Day Parade, UCSF Library, Archives and Special Collections.

This exhibition, including the digitization of materials used in this exhibition, has been made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (PW-253755-17) “The San Francisco Bay Area’s Response to the AIDS Epidemic: Digitizing, Reuniting, and Providing Universal Access to Historical AIDS Records,” awarded to the UCSF Library in 2017-2020.

About UCSF Archives and Special Collections

UCSF Archives and Special Collections identifies, collects, preserves, and maintains rare and unique materials to support research and teaching of the health sciences and medical humanities and to preserve UCSF institutional memory. The Archives serve as the official repository for the preservation of selected records, print and born-digital materials, and realia generated by or about the UCSF, including all four schools, the Graduate Division, and the UCSF Medical Center.

The Special Collections encompasses a Rare Book Collection that includes incunabula, early printed works, and modern secondary works. The East Asian Collection is especially strong in works related to the history of Western medicine in Japan.The Japanese Woodblock Print Collection consists of 400 prints and 100 scrolls, dating from 16th to the 20th century. The Special Collections also contains papers of health care providers and researchers from San Francisco and California; historical records of UCSF hospitals; administrative records of regional health institutions; photographs and slides; motion picture films and videotapes; and oral histories focusing on development of biotechnology; the practice and science of medicine; healthcare delivery, economics, and administration; tobacco control; anesthesiology;  homeopathy and alternative medicine; obstetrics and gynecology; high altitude physiology; occupational medicine; HIV/AIDS and global health.

About Calisphere

Calisphere provides free access to California’s remarkable digital collections, which include unique and historically important artifacts from the University of California and other educational and cultural heritage institutions across the state. Calisphere provides digital access to over one million photographs, documents, letters, artwork, diaries, oral histories, films, advertisements, musical recordings, and more.
Calisphere Exhibitions are curated sets of items with scholarly interpretation that contribute to historical understanding. Exhibitions tell a story by adding context to selected digital primary sources in Calisphere, thereby bringing the digital content to life. Calisphere Exhibitions are curated by contributing institutions and undergo editorial review. We are currently refining these processes, which are outlined in the Contributor Help Center. Please contact us if you’re interested in learning more about Calisphere Exhibitions.