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Elmer DeGowin and the Elmer DeGowin Blood Center Papers

Identifier: RG99.0320

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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 GeGowin

Series III: Articles and Papers by Others

Series VI: 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 files


  • Creation: 1937 - 1974


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

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.


5.50 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Founded the University of Iowa Hospital's blood bank in 1938, one of the nation's first. Co-author of the first modern text on Blood Transfusion (1949)

Method of Acquisition

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.

Related Materials

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

Folder, "DeGowin, Dr. Elmer," in Faculty and Staff Vertical Files Collection (RG01.0015.003)

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

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242