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H MS c354

Mayer, Jean, 1920-1993. Papers, 1953-1975 (inclusive), 1965-1973 (bulk): Finding Aid.

Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)

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Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: H MS c354
Repository: Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)
Creator: Mayer, Jean, 1920-1993
Title: Jean Mayer papers,
Date(s): 1953-1975 (inclusive),
Date(s): 1965-1973 (bulk).
Quantity: 12.5 cubic feet (13 records center cartons, 1 half letter document box, and 1 oversized box)
Language of materials: Records are predominantly in English, with a smaller number in French, German, and Spanish.
Abstract: Records in the Jean Mayer Papers were created by Mayer during the course of his career as a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and as a researcher and author from 1953 to 1975. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence, but it also includes records related to Mayer's activities as a research scientist, a consultant on issues of nutrition and diet, and an author. Mayer's main areas of professional work and research interests were in human nutrition, diet, and weight loss and control.

Processing Information:

Processed by Hanna Clutterbuck, January 2011.
Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine refoldered, arranged, and described material and created a finding aid to improve access. The material arrived at the Center in three rough record groupings; these pre-accession groupings were maintained as separate series, with subseries created as necessary. Where folder titles existed in the original collection, they were transcribed on new folders; new titles were supplied as necessary for unfoldered or untitled material. Newspaper clippings and items with adhesives (primarily telegrams) were photocopied onto acid-free paper for preservation.

Conditions Governing Access:

Access requires advance notice. Harvard University records are restricted for 50 years from the date of creation; these restrictions are noted where they appear in Series I and II. Personal and patient records are restricted for 80 years from the date of creation; these restrictions occur in all series. The end of the restriction period is noted with each folder. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. The Papers are stored offsite. Researchers are advised to contact Public Services staff for more information regarding retrieval of material. Consult Public Services for further information.
The Papers are stored offsite. Researchers are advised to contact Public Services for more information concerning retrieval of material.

Conditions Governing Use:

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all the materials in the collection.Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to Public Services. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from Public Services are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.

Preferred Citation:

Jean Mayer Papers, 1953-1975 (inclusive), 1965-1973 (bulk). H MS c354. Harvard Medical Library, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Boston, Mass.

Related Collections in the Tufts University Digital Collections and Archives.

Biographical Notes

Jean Mayer (1920-1993), B.Litt, 1937, University of Paris; B.Sc., 1938, University of Paris; M.Sc., 1939, University of Paris; Ph.D., 1948, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; D.Sc., 1950, Sorbonne, Paris, was a Professor of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston (1950-1976), a Special Consultant to the President on Food, Nutrition, and Health (1969-1970), and a President of Tufts University (1976-1992). His main areas of research were human nutrition, diet, and weight loss and control.
Jean Mayer was born in 1920 in Paris, France. His father, André Mayer (1875-1956), was a noted physiologist who interned with Jean Charcot during the 1890s, and did key research work during World War I to help develop prophylactics against German gas attacks on the French trenches. Mayer's mother, Jeanne Eugenie Mayer, was also a professional physiologist. Influenced by his father's work, Mayer entered the University of Paris and received distinguished degrees in philosophy, mathematics, and biology in 1937, 1938, and 1939, respectively. He visited the United States and Harvard Medical School in 1939, but when World War II was declared, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the French army. He was captured by the Germans in 1940 and escaped from the prisoner of war camp to rejoin the Free French forces. During the rest of the war, Mayer fought with the Free French and Allied armies in Europe and North Africa, worked as an agent for English intelligence in Europe, and served as a staff member for General Charles de Gaulle in London. For his wartime service, Mayer received a total of fourteen decorations, including the Croix de Guerre. He met and married Elizabeth van Huysen in 1942.
After the war, Mayer moved to the United States and attended Yale University as a Rockefeller Foundation fellow. He received his Ph.D. in physiological chemistry in 1948, earned a doctorate in physiology from the Sorbonne in 1950, and joined the Harvard School of Public Health faculty in the Department of Nutrition the same year, a position he held until 1976. During the 1960s, Mayer was involved with several citizens' groups working against hunger in the United States, including the Citizens' Board of Inquiry into Hunger and Malnutrition in the United States, which published the controversial Hunger U.S.A. report in 1968. Mayer was appointed as a Special Consultant to President Richard M. Nixon in 1969 with a charge to organize the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health. The Conference produced a list of "priority points" to deal with issues of malnutrition, hunger, and poverty in the United States, including expanded welfare benefits, changes in the food stamp program, and improvements in school lunch programs and other Federally supported "free food" programs. On his return to Harvard, Mayer was involved with the development of Harvard's Center for Population Studies and was tapped to be the master of Dudley House, one of Harvard's undergraduate dormitories. In 1971, Mayer was the chairman of the Nutrition division of White House Conference on Aging, and in 1974, he coordinated the Senate National Nutrition Policy Study.
In 1976, Mayer was elected as President of Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, serving from 1976 to 1993. While at Tufts, Mayer was responsible for the founding of the first school of veterinary medicine in New England, substantially increasing in the Tufts endowment, and creating both a School of Nutrition and a Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. The Research Center was a partnership project between the United States government and Tufts. The Center is now known as the Jean Mayer USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. In 1992, a year before his death, Mayer left the office of President but was named a Chancellor of the University.
Throughout his career, Mayer championed the idea of a balanced diet and steady exercise as the best way to reverse weight gain, publishing extensively on issues of food, nutrition, weight, and diet both in academic journals (including Postgraduate Medicine and Science) and the popular press (including regular contributions to Family Health magazine and a nationally syndicated column co-authored with nutritionist Jeanne Goldberg called, "Food for Thought"). Mayer also authored several books on the same subjects, including Overweight: Causes, Cost and Control (1968) and A Diet for Living (1975), along with textbooks and a biography of Denis Diderot; after writing the introduction to Corinne Collins' handbook Key to Lasting Slimness, he purchased the rights to the volume in 1972.
During the 1960s, Mayer was one of those working to call attention to and halt the use of defoliants and starvation tactics in the Vietnam conflict. In 1969, Mayer was selected to travel to Africa as a member of the first international fact-finding mission to Biafra during the Nigerian civil war. After his return from Africa, Mayer and his colleagues worked to publicize the difficulties faced by those in Biafra, including widespread food shortages, potential famine, and long-lasting health problems brought on by malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, and the illnesses which attend large scale refugee situations. Mayer was also a member of a grant-sponsored group to help develop a foods and nutrition board in Ghanain collaboration with Harvard University, UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund), UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), and the World Health Organization.
Mayer and his wife Elizabeth Mayer had four sons (Andre, Jean-Paul, Theodore, and Pierre) and one daughter (Laura). Mrs. Mayer died in April 2006.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

Scope and Content

Consists of correspondence, memoranda, newspaper clippings, manuscripts, reports, pamphlets, publications, reprints, class curricula, meeting minutes, agendas, notes, and photographs generated as a result of Jean Mayer's work as a professor, researcher, and author in the field of human nutrition and diet in the United States, Europe, and Africa. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence created by or sent to Mayer regarding his professional interests in diet, nutrition, and weight control. Mayer corresponded regularly with a variety of scientists and researchers, including D. Mark Hegsted, the United States Army, the World Health Organization, and the Monsanto Corporation, as well as from private individuals seeking advice or medical assistance with issues of diet or weight control. The remainder of the records reflect Mayer's work as a Professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, his involvement with professional associations, and his international consulting work, including the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health.
Records are predominantly in English, with a smaller number in French, German, and Spanish.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Food supply – Africa, West
Nutrition
Nutrition – Research
Nutrition policy
Medicine – Periodicals
Nigeria – History -- Civil War, 1967-1970 -- Health aspects
Obesity
Body weight – Regulation
Medical education
Food Labeling
Nutrition disorders
Nutrition policy
Malnutrition
Nutrition disorders
Obesity
Body Weight
Overweight
Education, Medical
Food Labeling
Adolescent Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
Nutrition disorders
Nutrition policy
Nutritional Sciences
Mayer, Jean, 1920-1993
Hegsted, D. Mark (David Mark), 1914-2009
Stare, Fredrick J. (Fredrick John), 1910-2002
Harvard School of Public Health. Dept. of Nutrition
United States. Federal Drug Administration
White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health (1969 : Washington, D.C.)
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Postgraduate Medicine

med00139