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Margaret Bullowa papers

Identifier: MC-0059

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The collection consists chiefly of Bullowa’s professional papers, including correspondence with colleagues, grant proposals and reports, programs and notes pertaining to conferences Bullowa attended, speeches, student notes, and drafts of publications. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1960s and 1970s. Aside from student notes, no personal papers have been located in the collection.

Some student notes from Bullowa’s days at Columbia are in the collection, as well as a copy of her master’s thesis. In addition, when she moved to MIT in 1965, Bullowa took several courses in linguistics and language development. Thus notes on courses taught by Noam Chomsky, Morris Halle, and others are included. The audiotapes, films and transcripts that comprise the research on child language and infant communication were given to the Human Studies Film Archives of the Department of Anthropology of the Smithsonian Institution.

Material received in 1987 (boxes 8-12) is unprocessed.


  • Creation: 1930 - 1978


Access note

This collection is open.

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.


Margaret Bullowa was born July 22, 1909, in New York City. She received the BA degree from Barnard College in 1930; the MS from Delmar Institute of Public Health of Columbia University in 1942; and the MD degree from New York University’s College of Medicine in 1942.

From 1946 to1947, Bullowa was assistant resident in neurology at the Neurological Institute of New York. Her experience there included six months of training in child neurology. From 1947 to 1953, Bullowa received further training in child psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Habit Clinic for Children, and Putnam Children’s Center. The American Board of Neurology and Psychiatry certified Bullowa as a psychiatrist in 1953. She continued private practice until 1972.

In addition to her private practice, Bullowa was staff psychiatrist at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center from 1956 until 1963. She also taught in the Department of Psychiatry of Harvard Medical School from 1957 to 1963.

In 1959, while she was at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Bullowa began extensive research on child language and infant communication. She visited three first-born children of non-academic families weekly, from the birth of the children until they were 2 ½ years old. The families were filmed and tape-recorded for later study of their interactions. Supplementary visits were made for several more years, and other children were also studied for shorter periods. The result was a substantial collection of parallel longitudinal studies, which served as the source of numerous analyses for several years.

When the Massachusetts Mental Health Center could no longer house Bullowa’s research, she became affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1965 she began working with the Research Laboratory of Electronics, the division which supported the study and teaching of linguistics at MIT. She continued her research at MIT until her death.

Margaret Bullowa died May 18, 1978.


12 Cubic Feet (12 record cartons)

Language of Materials



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

Processing Information note

The bulk of the collection was given to the Institute Archives in 1979, under the provisions of Margaret Bullowa’s will. At that time, the papers were still in Bullowa’s office at MIT. The collection was packed and moved by the Archives staff, with the assistance of Bullowa’s associates. Bullowa’s colleagues assisted the Archives staff in evaluating the collection, and with their approval, research data, notes on coding, and similar material that was found among the papers but that could not be reused for scientific purposes has been discarded. Printed copies of papers written by people other than Bullowa and duplicate copies of other items have also been discarded.

No extensive rearrangement of the papers has been attempted. They remain largely as created by Bullowa.

Processing Information note

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.

Preliminary Inventory to the Papers of Margaret Bullowa
Ready For Review
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of 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