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Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Biology student records

Identifier: AC-0178

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Scope and Contents

This collection contains student records kept by the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1941-2008.


  • Creation: 1941 - 2008


Conditions Governing Access

This collection requires permission for access. Records are restricted for 75 years from the date of creation. Contact Distinctive Collections for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Historical Note

In 1871 a new course, Course VII, in natural history was established at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) under Professors Samuel Kneeland and Alpheus Watt. With the addition of William Thompson Sedgwick in 1883, the program became known for its work in microbiology and public health. At the same time, Sedgwick set up a curriculum, Course VII-B, designed to train students planning to enter the medical profession.

In 1889 a new Department of Biology replaced Course VII in natural history; the new department not only included premedical training, but also emphasized bacteriology and sanitary biology. Studies in water supplies, food supplies, and bacteriology of foods led to a change in the name of the department in 1911 to the Department of Biology and Public Health.

In 1936 a committee composed of MIT President Karl T. Compton, Vice President Vannevar Bush, and Professor John W. M. Bunker proposed that MIT develop a new type of biology–biological engineering–which would utilize basic knowledge of physics, mathematics, and chemistry, as well as several fields of engineering. Training in public health was abandoned in 1942 and the department name was changed to the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering.

As teaching and research related to food continued to develop, a separate Department of Food Technology was established in 1944, and the department’s name changed once again to the Department of Biology. The department was reorganized in 1955 and molecular biology was further developed with emphasis on biophysics, biochemistry, microbiology, and physiology-developmental biology. A strong program for post-doctoral training of M.D.s as well as Ph.D.s was developed.

MIT History, Department of Biology, 2020.


80.2 Cubic Feet (80 record cartons, 1 half manuscript box)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Other Finding Aids

A more detailed collection inventory is available to staff in the MIT ArchivesSpace staff interface.

Processing Information

In spring 2021, this finding aid was revised as part of a project to publish previously unpublished finding aids. The finding aid was brought up to minimum description standards and any personally identifying information in the description was removed.

Inventory to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Biology Student Records
Staff Use Only
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021: Edited by Lana Mason for compliance with DACS single-level optimum requirements and to remove personally identifying information from the description

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US