National Air and Space Museum Archives

Harold F. Pierce Aviation Medicine Collection

Collection ID:
Pierce, Harold Fisher, 1889-1963
Physical Description:
3.27 Cubic feet
4 legal document boxes; 1 legal half-size document box; 3 flat boxes
The Harold F. Pierce collection consists of documents relating to Pierce's career in aviation medicine, particularly his service as a flight surgeon in World War I and World War II and his work on the Henderson Pierce rebreathing apparatus. Materials include correspondence, photographs, military records, certificates, technical drawings, and news clippings.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
This collection consists of approximately three cubic feet of material relating to Harold F. Pierce's career in aviation medicine including correspondence; photographs; military records; certificates; technical drawings; and news clippings. The collection also contains a scrapbook which covers Pierce's service in World War I, his experiments at Oxford University and Columbia University, the Wilmer Institute, and World War II. Notable figures found in the collection include John Paul Stapp; David Goodman Simons; James A. Healy; Albert William Stevens; Sir William Osler; Merritte Weber Ireland; William H. Wilmer and others. The collection also contains personal letters from Pierce to his family written during his time in service during both World Wars. Large format drawings include maps of the Second and Third Aviation Instruction Centers, France, during World War I, and technical drawings for his rebreathing apparatus.

The collection is arranged into two series: Professional Materials and Personal Materials.
Series 1 contains documents related to Harold F. Pierce's career in aviation medicine, particularly his service as a flight surgeon during World War I and World War I.
Series 2 contains Harold F. Pierce's personal documents, including letters of appointment, resumes, news clippings (both biographical and on subjects of interest), photos and portraits, and family materials.
Some of the materials were organized by L. Pierce (the donor, Pierce's daughter) into categories, particularly those related to aviation, the Henderson-Pierce rebreathing apparatus, and inventions. Select paragraphs of correspondence were clipped from the original document and placed under these categories. These materials frequently were kept in the category in which they were found. Numerous notes (underlining, checkmarks, dates, etc.) made by L. Pierce can be found on documents throughout the collection.

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Harold F. Pierce (1889-1963) received his degree from Clark University in 1912, having previously served in the Navy. He then worked in the electrical engineering and testing laboratory of the General Electric Company. After entering academia, he was an instructor of chemistry at Dartmouth College and transferred to Harvard Medical School.
When the United States entered World War I, Pierce was working on gas mask technology for the Bureau of Mines. In 1917, he joined the American Expeditionary Forces, U.S. Army Air Service, Sanitary Corps in World War I as a flight surgeon. During his time in service, Pierce helped to develop the Henderson-Pierce rebreathing apparatus, based on his prewar work with Yale University's Professor Yandell Henderson. He was instrumental in establishing medical research laboratories, first at Hazelhurst Field, Mineola, Long Island, and then in France at the 2nd Aviation Instruction Center, Tours, and the 3rd Aviation Instruction Center, Issoudun.
After leaving the military in 1919, Pierce continued his studies and work with rebreathing equipment at Oxford University as a tutor and demonstrator of physiology, including involvement with British Mount Everest reconnaissance expeditions. In 1922, he earned a BSc (OXON) Degree in pathology.
He returned to the United States to serve as Associate Physiologist at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, earning his Ph.D. in colloidal chemistry in 1927. From 1927 to 1935, he served as Associate Professor of research ophthalmology at Wilmer Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. (He had served with founder William H. Wilmer in WWI.) In 1935, he received his M.D. and served as Assistant Resident in medicine at Bellevue Hospital, New York City. He also assisted in the design of the capsule for the Explorer II manned high-altitude balloon launch.
Pierce rejoined the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1942 serving as a flight surgeon and altitude physiologist at the School of Aviation Medicine, Randolph Field, Texas. In 1945, he was transferred to the Avon Old Farms Convalescent Hospital in his home state of Connecticut.
After World War II, Pierce served as medical director of the Connecticut State Welfare Department and as a consultant in aero-physiology at Hartford Hospital until retiring in 1960. He is recognized as a pioneer in the field of aviation medicine.

Elizabeth C. Borja
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Ms. L. Pierce, Gift, 2014.
Processing Information
Arranged, described, and encoded by Elizabeth C. Borja, 2018.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
No restrictions on access
Conditions Governing Use
Material is subject to Smithsonian Terms of Use. Should you wish to use NASM material in any medium, please submit an Application for Permission to Reproduce NASM Material, available at Permissions Requests.
Preferred Citation
Harold F. Pierce Aviation Medicine Collection, Acc. 2014.0044, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

More Information
Other Finding Aids
Other Finding Aids
The Harold F. Pierce Papers, 1889-1969, consisting of personal, family, and genealogical documents, can be found at the Connecticut Historical Society.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Aeronautics Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Aviation medicine Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
World War, 1914-1918 Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
World War, 1939-1945 Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Aviation Instruction Center, 3rd (France) Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Explorer II (Balloon) Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hazelhurst Field, Mineola, N.Y. Medical Research Laboratory Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wilmer Ophthalmological Institute Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Henderson, Yandell, 1873-1944 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Air and Space Museum Archives
14390 Air & Space Museum Parkway
Chantilly, VA 20151