New arrivals at UCSF Archives & Special Collections

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.

Dr. Robert E. Allen, Jr., First Black Clinical Professor of Surgery at UCSF

Robert E. Allen, Jr., MD, (1935-2018), was born in Blountstown, Florida and always aspired to become a doctor. In pursuit of his dreams, Allen received a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Florida A&M University, master’s degree in Genetics from Michigan State University, and a doctorate in Medicine from Meharry Medical College. He completed his residency in surgery at UC San Francisco, and a fellowship in surgery oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Allen also completed two additional postdoctoral fellowships in surgery at the National Institute of Health and peripheral vascular research at San Francisco General Hospital. As a SFGH fellow in trauma, he organized the ambulance paramedic program while training under F. William Blaisdell, MD.

Robert Allen Jr. in hospital, David Powers collection, 1990-1991
Robert Allen Jr., David Powers collection, 1990-1991

Dr. Allen began his career at UCSF as a Surgical Oncologist, specializing in Melanoma Surgery. He soon became the first Black Clinical Professor of Surgery at UC San Francisco, serving as a faculty member for over four decades.

Allen was a cofounder of the Northern California Melanoma Center with Dr. Lynn E. Spitler and other surgeons. Here, he participated in consultation panels and surgeries on the Center’s patients until his retirement.

He has authored many articles for medical periodicals, wrote chapters in medical publications, and spoke a medical conventions throughout the United States and Europe. In addition, he was a member of various honor societies, including the UCSF Naffziger Surgical Society.

To learn more about Dr. Allen’s work, check out these articles:

*Authored by Jazmin Dew*

Remembering Thomas N. Burbridge, Superhero of Science and Medicine

The Society of American Archivists’ Science, Technology and Health Care roundtable recently launched a project titled Forgotten Superheroes of Science and Medicine to highlight “underrepresented and diverse persons and groups in collections of the history of science, technology and health care.” We’ll be contributing to this project by periodically posting to the blog regarding these heroes.

Thomas N. Burbridge, MD, PhD (1921-1972), was an African-American scientist, physician, and civil rights activist. He devoted his life to social justice and his work continues to impact UCSF and the larger San Francisco community.

Thomas N. Burbridge. Photograph collection, portraits.

Thomas N. Burbridge. Photograph collection, portraits.

Burbridge was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1921. He attended Talladega College and later joined the US Navy. After years of military service, he enrolled in the UCSF School of Medicine, earning his MD in 1948. He completed his residency at San Francisco General Hospital and then enrolled in a graduate program in the UCSF Department of Pharmacology.

While in graduate school, Burbridge helped lead UC’s efforts to support development of medical education at the University of Indonesia, following the Indonesian fight for independence. Burbridge worked with local students and officials in Jakarta from 1952-1955.

Thomas N. Burbridge with his wife and medical students at the University of Indonesia, circa 1952-1955. Photograph published in the Alumni-Faculty Association Bulletin of the UCSF School of Medicine, Winter 1956. University Publications.

Thomas N. Burbridge with his wife and medical students at the University of Indonesia, 1952-1955. Photograph published in the Alumni-Faculty Association Bulletin of the UCSF School of Medicine, Winter 1956. University Publications.

After returning to the US, Burbridge joined the faculty of the UCSF School of Medicine in 1956, where he conducted research related to the pharmacology of alcohol and the metabolism of marijuana. As a teacher and scientist, Burbridge advocated for increased minority student enrollment at UCSF. In the 1960s, he led recruiting trips to predominantly black universities in the southern United States, speaking with students about opportunities in the health sciences. He also served as a leader of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP and organized sit-ins of auto dealerships and other businesses in protest of their discriminatory employment practices. This non-violent, direct action strategy brought about equal employment opportunities for people of color in San Francisco.

Memorial of Dr. Thomas Burbridge. Published on the back cover of the October 1972 edition of the Black Bulletin, a newsletter created by UCSF's Black Caucus. Black Caucus records, MSS 85-38.

Memorial of Dr. Thomas Burbridge. Published on the back cover of the October 1972 edition of the Black Bulletin, a newsletter created by UCSF’s Black Caucus. Black Caucus records, MSS 85-38.

Following Burbridge’s death in 1972, the UCSF Black Caucus petitioned Chancellor Philip Lee to name a Chancellor’s Award in his honor. Today, Burbridge’s legacy continues to inspire the UCSF community through the Thomas N. Burbridge Chancellor’s Award for Public Service.

UCSF Archives & Special Collections houses the Thomas Nathaniel Burbridge Papers, 1959-1972 and other related collections. Please make an appointment if you would like to research the material.