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H MS c220

Krayer, Otto, 1899-1982. Papers, 1917-1982 (inclusive), 1946-1968 (bulk): Finding Aid.

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


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

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: H MS c220
Repository: Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)
Creator: Krayer, Otto, 1899-1982
Title: Otto Krayer papers,
Date(s): 1917-1982 (inclusive),
Date(s): 1946-1968 (bulk).
Quantity: 13.3 cubic feet (13 records center cartons and 1 flat oversized box)
Language of materials: Records are in English and German.
Abstract: The Otto Krayer papers, 1917-1982 (inclusive), 1946-1968 (bulk), are the product of Krayer's activities as a pharmacologist, editor, author, and professor.

Processing Information:

Processed by Bryan Sutherland, 2011 December.
Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged, and described the records and created a finding aid to improve access to the collection. To enhance preservation, processing staff re-housed the collection and, where necessary, photocopied documents onto acid-free paper. Duplicate records and records that did not meet the collection policy of the Center for the History of Medicine were discarded. Folder titles were transcribed from the originals.
As a product of processing, four cubic feet of records were transferred to the Harvard Medical School Archives and processed as Series 00377, Records of the Department of Pharmacology.

Conditions Governing Access:

Access requires advance notice. Access to personal and patient information is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions appear in Series I, II, and III. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. 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:

Otto Krayer papers, 1917-1982 (inclusive), 1946-1968 (bulk). H MS c220. Harvard Medical Library, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Boston, Mass.

Related Collections in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Center for the History of Medicine

Related Records at the Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School.

Biographical Note

Otto Krayer (1899-1982), M.D., 1926, University of Freiburg, Germany, was a pharmacologist, professor, and researcher. Krayer was an international leader in the field of pharmacology and Head of the Department of Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, for twenty-eight years. In 1933, Krayer refused an appointment to an academic chair at the University of Dusseldorf after the removal of the Jewish incumbent by Nazi government officials in Germany. For this, Krayer was banned from German academic, library, and scientific facilities, prompting relocations to England, Lebanon, and eventually the United States of America. Krayer's primary research focus during his tenure at Harvard Medical School was cardiac pharmacology and veratrum alkaloids.
Otto Herman Krayer was born in Kondringen, Germany, on 22 October 1899, the son of Frieda Wolfsperger and Hermann Krayer. The couple had four other children, Frieda, Lina, Emma, and Wilhelm. Growing up, Krayer helped his parents run an inn and operate the family farm. During World War I, he was drafted into the German Army in 1917, at age eighteen. Krayer saw frontline infantry combat from April to October 1918, and was wounded in battle before the 1918 armistice. During his recovery, Krayer completed his university entrance requirements and in 1919 entered the University of Freiburg to study medicine. Krayer earned his M.D. in 1926.
After receiving his M.D., Krayer joined the Department of Pharmacology at Freiburg, working under pharmacologist Paul Trendelenburg (1884-1931). In 1927, Trendelenburg moved to the University of Berlin to become the head of the pharmacology department and Krayer followed. After Trendelenburg's death in 1931, Krayer was made acting head of the department and, in 1932, was appointed Professor Extraordinarius of Pharmacology and Toxicology. In the spring of 1933, Krayer was offered a departmental chair position at the University of Dusseldorf. Krayer declined, as the Jewish incumbent, Philipp Ellinger, had been removed from the chair on racial grounds by the Nazi government. As a result, the Prussian Minister for Science, Art and National Education suspended Krayer from his academic positions and banned him from German academic, library, and scientific facilities. In October 1933, Krayer was reinstated to the University of Berlin and had his academic privileges restored, but, having secured a Rockefeller Fellowship, left Germany at the end of 1933 for University College, London.
After his fellowship ended in the fall of 1934, Krayer moved to American University Beirut as Visiting Professor and Head of the Department of Pharmacology. In 1936, Krayer was American University's representative to Harvard University's Tercentenary Celebration. That fall, he stayed on as a visiting lecturer in pharmacology at Harvard Medical School. Encouraged by Walter B. Cannon (1871-1945), Krayer returned to Harvard in 1937 and was appointed Associate Professor of Pharmacology. In 1939, Krayer was appointed Associate Professor of Comparative Pharmacology and Head of the Department of Pharmacology, a position he held until a Harvard-mandated retirement in 1966. Krayer would go on to be appointed Professor of Pharmacology (1951), Charles Wilder Professor of Pharmacology (1954), and Gustavus Adolphus Pfeiffer Professor of Pharmacology (1964, Emeritus 1966).
As Head of the Harvard Medical School's Pharmacology Department, Krayer was known for emphasizing collaboration among his staff and maintaining a balance between the Department's teaching and research functions. He also recognized the importance of incorporating other fields, namely biochemistry, physiology, and psychology, into pharmacological research, in order to study the full range of the effects of pharmaceuticals. Krayer's primary research focus during his tenure was cardiac pharmacology and veratrum alkaloids, and he was noted for his skill in using the Starling heart-lung preparation. Additionally, influenced by B. F. Skinner (1904-1990), Krayer and department member Peter B. Dews (born 1922) explored the behavioral effects of drugs and helped to legitimize it as field of study within pharmacology. In 1938, Krayer, frustrated in his dealings with the administration at the medical school, accepted a position at Peiping Union Medical College, China, but ultimately remained at Harvard, in part due a petition signed by his students asking the medical school administration to retain him. Krayer had a difficult relationship with Dean C. Sidney Burwell (1893-1967), but formed a productive relationship with his successor, Dean George Packer Berry (1898-1986), until Berry's retirement in 1965.
During World War II, Krayer was classified as an enemy alien and his travel was restricted to a twenty-five mile radius around Boston. During the immediate post-war period, Krayer joined Unitarian Service Committee-sponsored medical missions to Czechoslovakia (1946) and Germany (1948). He was also a supporter of the Committee for Aid to German and Austrian Scholars, serving as secretary-treasurer of a fundraising committee based at Harvard Medical School . Krayer was highly involved with the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, becoming a member in 1938 and serving as president (1957-1958) and as chairman of the Board of Publications Trustees (1960-1962). He served as an editor for the Society's journal, Pharmacological Reviews (1948-1959), including editor-in-chief (1953-1959). Krayer also served as an Associate Editor for the German publication Ergebnisse der Physiologie (1933-1935, 1939-1976).
During his career, Krayer received the following awards and honors: the inaugural Torald Sollmann Award of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (1961); Schmiedeberg Plakette of the German Pharmacological Society (1964); Otto Krayer Lectureship at Harvard Medical School (established 1966); Research Achievement Award, American Heart Association (1969); Otto Krayer Award in Pharmacology, American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (established 1985). Additionally, the Otto Krayer Professorship of Pharmacology was established at Harvard Medical School in 1981. Krayer received honorary degrees from Harvard University, the University of Freiburg, the University of Gottingen, and the Technical University of Munich.
Krayer married physician Erna Ruth Phillip, his long-time assistant, in 1939. The two first met while Krayer was studying at Freiburg in the early 1920s. Phillip was also a victim of Nazi racial policies, having been dismissed from a Berlin hospital position for being Jewish. She assisted Krayer in completing the book began by his mentor Paul Trendelenburg, Die Hormone, after Krayer had been banned from German libraries. Phillip moved with him to Beirut as his literary assistant, and then to Boston as well. The couple had no children. After retiring, Krayer moved to Tuscson, Arizona in 1972, serving as Visiting Professor in the Department of Pharmacology, College of Medicine, University of Arizona (1972-1980), and spent his summers in Germany as a Visiting Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Technical University of Munich (1972-1980). Krayer died in 1982 of prostate cancer.

Resources on Otto Krayer

Series and Subseries in the Collection

Scope and Content

The Otto Krayer papers, 1917-1982 (inclusive), 1946-1968 (bulk), are the product of Krayer's activities as a pharmacologist, editor, author, and professor. The collection includes professional correspondence generated by Krayer while in Germany and the United States and records of his: involvement with professional organizations; editorial work; and service to European aid organizations, as well as his activities as an author and professor of pharmacology. Biographical records and awards and honors received by Krayer are also included in the collection.
The Otto Krayer papers consist of six series: I. Personal and Professional Correspondence; II. Professional Activities Records; III. Teaching Records; IV. Writings and Publications; V. Personal and Assorted Biographical Records; and VI. Bound Reprints.
Materials are in English and German.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Cardiovascular pharmacology
Drug addiction
National socialism -- Moral and ethical aspects
Veratrum Alkaloids
Substance-Related Disorders
Germany -- Social conditions -- 1933-1945
Lecture Notes
Krayer, Otto, 1899-1982
Berry, George Packer, 1898-
Blinks, John R.
Fawaz, George
Goldstein, Avram
Hunt, Reid, 1870-1948
Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978
Ossietzky, Carl von, 1889-1938
Reiter, Melchior
Simson, Otto Georg von, 1912-
Stock, Alfred, b. 1876
Van Dyke, Harry Benjamin, 1895-
Weber, H. H. (Hans H.)
American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Harvard Medical School -- Department of Pharmacology -- Teaching
American University of Beirut -- Department of Pharmacology
Committee for Aid to German and Austrian Scholars
Ergebnisse der Physiologie.
German Pharmacological Society -- Schmiedeburg Plakette
Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker
Harvard Medical School -- Department of Pharmacology
John J. Abel Award in Pharmacology
Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Pharmacological Reviews
Technische Universität München
Torald Sollman Award
Unitarian Service Committee
United States -- Food and Drug Administration