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Finding Aid

Papers of Elmer DeGowin and the DeGowin Blood Center
RG 99.0320
Collection Dates: 1937-1974
5.5 ft.

Access and Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Digital Surrogates: Except where indicated, this document describes but does not reproduce the actual text, images and objects which make up this collection. Materials are available only in the Special Collections Department.

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Acquisition and Processing Information: The papers were transferred to the University Libraries by the DeGowin Blood Center in 2003. Collection processed in 2004; guide posted to the Internet in 2004; updated January 2008.

Photographs: Boxes 2, 9

Elmer DeGowin, 1963
Elmer DeGowin, 1963


Scope and Contents

The  Papers of Elmer DeGowin and the DeGowin Blood Donor Center document a period of rapidly-expanding research in the field of blood preservation, storage and transfusion. The blood donor center, founded at the University’s hospital in 1938, was begun only one year after the opening of the nation’s first such center at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.

As a member of the College of Medicine faculty and founding director of the donor center, Dr. DeGowin conducted extensive research on blood and plasma inventory management, in both clinical and field settings. During World War II his research turned to the practicality of applying blood storage and transfusion techniques on the battle front. It marked the first time modern blood transfusion practices were put into place in time of war. The papers chronicle Dr. DeGowin’s central role in the 1942 creation of the Shock and Transfusion Service for the U.S. Army and Navy and, in 1948, his contribution to the development of standards for the U.S. armed forces’ blood transfusion equipment

Dr. DeGowin’s professional relationships with his peers at other teaching hospitals, the U.S. Public Health Service, and numerous national organizations are well-documented, particularly from the 1940’s period. The emergence of national standards for blood transfusions following World War II and the creation of a National Blood Donor Program in cooperation with the American Red Cross are also chronicled within the collection. Accompanying a single bound volume of Dr. DeGowin’s published articles are typewritten drafts of many of the same articles, often including hand-written notes, in Series II.

References to World War II and the need for emergency blood supplies during wartime are noted particularly in Series V (Correspondence: Whitby, Col. Lionel E.H.) and Series VII (Organizations: National Research Council sub-series; Newhouser, L.R.). Reference to animal testing is made in Series X (Research Data: “Pathology of Transfusion Nephrosis”).

The collection also includes evidence of early and later activity at the blood bank in Series I (Administrative) and Series XI (Subject).

The collection consists of 11 series:

Series I: Administrative

Series II: Articles and Papers by Elmer DeGowin

Series III: Articles and Papers by Others

Series IV: Conferences

Series V: Correspondence

Series VI: Faculty

Series VII: Organizations, including the American Association of Blood Banks, the National Research Council, the American National Red Cross, and the American Medical Association.

Series VIII: Photographs

Series IX: Presentations

Series X: Research Data

Series XI: Subject


Biographical Note

Dr. Elmer Louis DeGowin, a blood researcher and founder of the University of Iowa Hospital’s blood bank in 1938, was born September 27, 1901, in Cheboygan, Michigan, a son of Frank Louis and Nora Dickes DeGowin. He married Laura Evelyn Meader on June 21, 1924, in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Dr. DeGowin obtained his B.A. degree in 1923 and his M.D. degree in 1928, both from the University of Michigan. He was an instructor there for two years before joining the UI faculty in 1932. In 1969 he was named an emeritus professor of medicine.

He founded one of the first blood banks in the U.S. in 1938, developed a solution to preserve whole blood, founded and managed the Central Fluid Laboratory, designed patient records, and directed the Thyroid Clinic. In 1949 he co-authored with Robert Hardin and John Alsever a pioneering text, Blood Transfusion (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Co., 1949). Another of his books, Bedside Diagnostic Examinations (New York: Macmillan, 1965), became a standard text in U.S. medical schools and has been widely translated.

He was awarded the American Medical Association’s Gold Medal in 1939 for an exhibit at a national meeting in St. Louis on “Preservation of Blood.” He was also named “Iowa Internist of the Year” in 1978 by the Iowa Clinical Society of Internal Medicine. He was a member of Alpha Omega Alpha, an honorary medical society; the American Society for Clinical Investigation; the Association of American Physicians; the National Research Council; the Central Society for Clinical Research; the American Society of Internal Medicine; and the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine.

Dr. DeGowin died in Iowa City on August 31, 1980, at age 78.

(Portions of the biographical note are from the Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 2, 1980.


Related Materials

DeGowin, Dr. Elmer. Oral history interview, University of Iowa Archives, 1976.

Folder, "DeGowin, Dr. Elmer," in Faculty and Staff Vertical Files Collection (RG 01.15.03)

Hardin, Robert C. “An Iowa Contribution to Blood Banking.” In Journal of the Iowa Medical Society 73(10): 399-404 (October 1983).



Box Contents List

Box 1

Series I: Administrative

Annual Report, blood bank – 1959-1968

Floor plan, 7th floor – n.d., 1953 [?]

Personnel, blood bank – 1953-1955

Personnel schedule for blood collection – 1942-1943

Procurement of donors, procedures and summaries – 1950-1952

University Hospitals, memoranda and procedures – 1939-1946

Series II: Articles and Papers by Elmer DeGowin

Papers of Elmer L. DeGowin, M.D., 1928-1970 (bound volume)

Appraisal of Isohemagglutinin Activity – 1944

Book review: “Adventure in Blood Transfusion” – 1942-1943

Book review: “Blood Groups,” British Medical Bulletin – 1959

Book review: “Blood Groups and Transfusion” by Alexander S. Wiener - 1943

Book review: “Doctors in Gray: The Confederate Medical Service” and “A Texas Surgeon in the C.S.A.” – 1958

Book review: “Drugs: Their Nature, Action, and Use” – 1958

A Case of Infection with Brucella Suis – 1945

Changes in Osmotic Pressure of Erythrocytes During Storage – 1941

Box 2

Chemical, Clinical, and Immunological Studies on the Products of Human Plazma [sic] Fractionation – 1944

Clinical Isosensitization to the Rh Factors – n.d., prob. 1946

A Clinical Perspective on the Rh Factor – 1945

Deficit of Prothrombin and Accelerator Globulin in Man from Prolonged Excessive Feeding of Methionine – 1955

Errors in Mass Blood Grouping and Methods of Minimizing Them – 1943

Hypertension during Blood Transfusions for Hemorrhagic Shock in a Patient with Unilateral Renal Ischemia (includes photographs) – 1949

Isomunity to the Rh Factor as a Cause of Blood Transfusion Reactions – 1945

‘Isosensitivity’ Instead of ‘Isoimmunity’ – 1945

A Manual on the Preservation and Transfusion of Blood – n.d., prob. 1942

Modern Treatment of Traumatic Shock – 1943-1944

A New Format of the Patient’s Medical Record for Clinical Teaching and Practice (includes illustrations) – 1961

Newer Methods in the Treatment of Secondary Shock – 1943

Box 3

Osmotic Changes in Erythrocytes of Human Blood during Storage - 1942

Parenteral Therapy in the University Hospitals - 1944

Permanent Residual Damage in Patients Recovering from … Endocarditis – 1945

A Plan for Collection, Transportation and Administration of Whole Blood and of Plasma in Warfare – 1941

The Possible Role of Whole Blood Transfusions in Military Medicine – 1944

Reactions from Blood Transfusion – n.d.

Studies on Preserved Human Blood: VII. Osmotic Changes in Erythrocyes – n.d.

Studies with Inagglutinable Erythrocyte Counts – 1951-1952

Box 4

The Transfusion of Whole Blood – 1950

Transfusion Reactions (pamphlet) – 1959

Treatment of Thyrotoxicosis – 1959

Two-Stage Schedule for the Treatment of Thyrotoxicosis with Radioiodine – 1954

Use of Stored Blood in Civil Medicine – 1941

Series III: Articles and Papers by Others

Experimental Studies of the Nature of Hemolytic Shocks (Hesse, E.) – 1932

Grave Sequelae of Blood Transfusions: A Clinical Study of 13 Cases – 1938-1939

Series IV: Conferences

American College of Physicians – 1951

American College of Physicians panel questions – 1952

Annual conference, including exhibit plans, American Medical Association – 1939

Blood preservation conference – August 30, 1944

Conference on Blood Preservation – October 4, 1944

Conference on Blood Preservation – January 19, 1945

Conference on Differential Agglutination of Erythrocytes – 1952

Box 5

Conferences on Fibrin Films, Blood Preservation – May 17-18, 1945

Conference on Globin – April 21, 1944

Meeting: Iowa Serum or Plasma Center Proposal, Des Moines – 1942

National Research Council Conference on Blood Substitutes – February 14, 1949

National Research Council Conference on Fibrin Film – 1945

Subcommittee on Blood Grouping Tests – 1951

Series V: Correspondence

Alsever, John B. – 1940-1944, 1955

Boyd, William C. – 1947

Diggs, L.W. – 1940-1942

Doan, H.W. – 1947

Gibson, John G., II – 1943

Gregory, Raymond – 1937-1944

Hardin, Robert C. – 1941-1945

Janney, Clinton D. – 1954-1955

Johnston, F.D. – 1945

Jones, G.W. – 1955

Larkey, Sanford V. – 1941-1942

Muether, R.O. – 1940-1942

Randall, C.C. – 1941-1942

Ravid, Jacob M. – 1940

Reichel, John, Jr. – 1941-1944

Riddell, Victor H. – 1937-1940

Robinson, G. Canby – 1942

Ross, Joseph F. – 1940, 1943

Rowley, Mrs. Robert D. (Ruth) – 1943

Scudder, John – 1940-1941

Sturgis, Cyrus G. – 1938-1941

Thomas, C.D. – 1955

Turner, Edward L. – 1955

U.S. Army Office of the Surgeon General – 1954-1956

Wangensteen, Owen H. – 1942-1945

Whitby, Col. Lionel E.H. – 1941

Wiener, Alexander L. – 1939-1947

Witebsky, Ernest – 1941-1945

Box 6

Series VI: Faculty

Animal House Organization and Operations – n.d.

College of Medicine Faculty and Committees – 1950, 1955

A Faculty for the College of Medicine: mission, goals – n.d.

Graduate Council and Graduate Faculty – 1950-1951

Series VII: Organizations

American Association of Blood Banks:

              Directory of Blood Banks in the U.S. – 1949

              Newsletters – 1948-1949

              Organization and Administration of Blood Banks – 1954

American Board of Internal Medicine:

              Written examination questions – 1941-1945

American Human Serum Association:

              Program, annual meeting – 1941-1943

American Medical Association:

              Dickinson, Frank G. – 1949

American Red Cross:

              Committee on Blood and Blood Derivatives – 1945-1947

              First Progress Report on Recommendations of the Special Medical and Health Survey Committee – November 1945

              Minutes, report; Johnson County [Iowa] chapter – 1942-1943
            Omaha Regional Blood Center - 1949-1950

              National blood program – 1948-1950

Box 7 

American Red Cross:

              O’Connor, Basil – 1947

              Taylor, Earl S. – 1941-1944

              Viets, Henry – 1946, 1949

Central Society for Clinical Research:

              Membership list, constitution – 1947-1948

National Research Council:

              Directory of Medical Advisory Committees – 1948

              Notices, committee lists – 1941-1945

              Committee correspondence – 1941-1945

              Committee on Blood and Blood Derivatives – 1948-1950

              Subcommittee on Blood Substitutes – 1941-1943

              Subcommittee on Blood Substitutes, including gelatin conference – 1944

Box 8 

National Research Council:

              Subcommittee on Blood Substitutes (two folders) – 1944

              Subcommittee on Blood Substitutes (three folders) – 1945

              Blalock, Alfred – 1941-1945

              Cannon, Walter B. – 1941-1943

              Cohn, E.J. – 1941-1945

              Kendrick, D.B. – 1941-1944

              Newhouser, L.R. – 1940-1945

              Rhoads, C.P. – 1941-1942

              Robertson, O.H. – 1940-1941, 1961

              Strumia, Max M. – 1941-1943

              Thalhimer, William – 1938-1944

              Veldee, M.V. – 1945-1946

              Wearn, J.T. – 1944-1945

              Weed, Lewis H. – 1940-1946

International Society of Hematology:

              Constitution, by-laws, newsletter – 1953

Various committees:

              Medical advisory committees – 1948-1949

Box 9

Series VIII: Photographs

Blood bank lab, offices, staff, including floor plan – 1940

Faculty, graduates – 1949, 1960, n.d.

Hardin, Robert C.; DeGowin, Elmer R.; Alsever, John B.: Authors, “Blood Transfusions.” – n.d., prob. 1949

Series IX: Presentations

The Blood Bank is Two Years Old – 1940

Blood Transfusion in the Last 75 Years - 1945

Historical Perspectives of Blood Banking - 1968

Leonardo da Vinci as an Anatomist – 1938

New Quarters for the Hospital Blood Bank (includes floor plan) – 1953

Radio talk – WSUI and WOI – 1941

Radio talk – WSUI – “Blood Transfusions” – 1938

Series X: Research Data

Blood grouping methods – 1943

Blood storage data chart, equipment inventory – n.d.

Inactivation of Isohemagglutinins in Preserved Human Blood (use of type “O” as universal donor) – 1941

Pathology of transfusion nephrosis – n.d., after 1937

Reports of Samples of Blood Grouping Globulins – 1944-1945

Sources of Error in Mass Blood Grouping – 1942

Box 10

Series XI: Subject

All-Medical Alumni Reunion – 1950

Blood Bank, University Hospitals – 1939, 1947-1949

Blood Bank, University Hospitals – 1950-1964

Blood Bank, University Hospitals – 1967-1974

Civilian Defense Blood Plasma Center – 1942-1944

Civilian Defense Blood Plasma Center publicity, history – 1942

Drug accumulation – 1950, 1958, 1961

National Blood Donor Program, controversy re procurement funding – 1949-1950

North Central District Blood Bank Clearing House – 1955

Box 11 

Proposed Specifications for Blood Bank Equipment – U.S. Army – 1948

Shock and Transfusion Service, creation of – U.S. Army and Navy – 1942-1943

Standards for a Blood Transfusion Service, first ed.; American Association of Blood Banks – 1958

State Civil Defense Health and Medical Service – 1950-1952

Study Document Regarding University of Iowa Hospitals and the Era of Increasing Federal Involvement in Health – 1966

Survey of Blood Banks in the U.S. – 1950

U.S. Army Blood Transfusion Service – 1939-1944

U.S. Office of Civilian Defense – correspondence – 1942-1943

U.S. Office of Civilian Defense – interoffice memoranda – 1942-1944

U.S. Office of Civilian Defense – Iowa correspondence – 1943-1944

U.S. Office of Civilian Defense manuals: Blood Preservation and Transfusion; Citrated Human Blood Plasma – 1942

Water distillation – 1953