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Arch GA 37

Henderson, Lawrence Joseph, 1878-1942. Lawrence Joseph Henderson Papers, 1906-1942: A Finding Aid

Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University


Harvard Business School, Boston MA 02163.

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: Arch GA 37
Repository: Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University
Creator: Lawrence Joseph Henderson
Title: Lawrence Joseph Henderson papers
Date(s): 1906-1942
Quantity: 6 linear feet (4 boxes, 4 cartons)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: This collection documents the career of Lawrence J. Henderson, Professor of Biological Chemistry at Harvard University. Types of materials include correspondence, speeches, writings, and materials that document his work at the Fatigue Laboratory, the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Research Council.

Processing Information:

Processed: June 1995
By: Jeff Mifflin

Conditions Governing Access:

Appointment necessary to consult collection.

Preferred Citation:

Cite as: Lawrence Joseph HendersonPapers, Harvard Business School Archives, Baker Library, Harvard Business School.

Biographical Note:

Lawrence Joseph Henderson, son of Joseph and Mary Reed (Bosworth) Henderson, was born in Lynn, Massachusetts on July 3, 1878. He received the BA degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard College in 1898 and an MD from Harvard Medical School in 1902. Following graduation, he spent two years in Germany conducting research in the field of Biological Chemistry.
Upon his return to the United States in 1904, he began his long association with Harvard University. Henderson taught Biological Chemistry (1904-1905) at Harvard Medical School as an Instructor (1905-1910), Assistant Professor (1910-1919), and Professor (1919-1934). In 1934, Henderson became the Abbot and James Lawrence Professor of Chemistry, an honor he retained until his death in 1942. He was also Chairman of the Society of Fellows from 1933-1942 and a member of the Harvard Cancer Commission from 1928-38. In addition to his teaching career at Harvard, he was a visiting lecturer at the University of Paris (1921), Yale University (1928), the University of Berlin (1928), and the University of California (1931).
His principal field was biological chemistry, but he also taught and wrote on sociological topics. Professor Henderson established the Fatigue Laboratory at Harvard Business School in 1927 to discover physiological norms for human biological processes and to study the physiological changes that cause fatigue in workers. The lab continued to operate until 1947. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Harvard undergraduate concentrations in biochemistry and in history of science, as well as the doctoral program in the history of science and learning. He was an enthusiastic proponent of the cross-disciplinary exchange of ideas at Harvard.
Henderson was active in a wide variety of professional organizations. He was Foreign Secretary for the National Academy of Sciences and also for the National Research Council. He was Chairman of the National Academy of Sciences section on Physiology and Biochemistry, and he chaired the National Research Council's committee on Work in Industry and Committee on Inter-American Relations. He also played a pivotal role on the Rockefeller Foundation's Committee on Industrial Physiology.
He married Edith Lawrence Thayer in 1910. The Henderson's had one son, Lawrence, Jr. The family lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Professor Henderson died on February 10, 1942 after a short illness.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

Scope and Content Note:

The papers of Lawrence Joseph Henderson contain memos, correspondence, lecture notes, speeches, reviews, photographs, certificates, and financial records. The bulk of the collection pertains to his professional activities between 1919 and 1941, but some documentation of his personal life is also included. Of special interest are his unpublished autobiographical writings in Series VII, which furnish an introspective outline of the development of his interests.
The collection contains significant documentation regarding the need for curriculum change in higher education, social and economic conditions of the inter-war years (1919-1939), ideas of Italian sociologist and economist Vilfredo Pareto, effects of fatigue on productivity, and need for cross-disciplinary exchange in academia. These topics are well-documented in correspondence, Series I, and writings and speeches, Series VII. The collection illustrates Professor Henderson's concern for improving the quality of university training, promoting technological advances, fostering the safety of displaced European academics in the late 1930s, administration of fatigue research, and other matters. These activities are documented in correspondence, Series I, as well as committee records and correspondence in Series IV and V and lab administrative materials in Series III.
Additional information about Henderson's activities and ideas can be found among his speeches and writings, Series VII, which illustrate shifts in interest from physiology and chemistry to sociology and philosophy.

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