Pierre Lecomte du Nouy papers, 1883-1972 (bulk 1917-1949)

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Pierre Lecomte du Nouy papers, 1883-1972 (bulk 1917-1949)

MS 174

Collection Summary

Creator: Lecomte du Noüy, Pierre, 1883-1947
Collection Name:Papers of Pierre Lecomte du Noüy,
Inclusive Dates: 1883-1972 (bulk 1917-1949)
Physical Description:26 linear feet
Abstract:Scientific manuscripts, lectures, articles and lab manuals relate to Lecomte de Noüy's research in biophysics; performed chiefly at the Rockefeller Institute, New York, 1920-1927, and the Pasteur Institute, Paris, 1927-1936. After 1936, his writings concern philosophy of science; specifically as it relates to evolution, religion, and teleology.
Collection Number:MS 174
Repository: University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections
University of Arizona
PO Box 210055
Tucson, AZ 85721-0055
Phone: 520-621-6423
Fax: 520-621-9733
URL: http://speccoll.library.arizona.edu/

Biographical Note

French bio-physicist and philosopher born in Paris on December 20, 1883. He obtained his degrees of LL.B; PH.B; SC.B; PH.D; and SC.D at the Sorbonne in Paris and graduated from Law School, though he never practiced. A descendant of writers and artists, who included Corneille, he was brought up in free thinking, intellectual circles and started life by writing short stories as well as several plays which were produced with success. His deep interest in philosophy and the belief that to progress, it would, henceforth, have to be based on science, led to his taking up his scientific studies again under the Curies, Appell, and others.

The outbreak of World War I sent him to the front as a lieutenant in the "Chasseurs à pied" but his knowledge of mechanics and driving soon put him in command of a motor section with headquarters at Compiègne, where he met Dr. Alexis Carrel, with whom he worked in his spare hours on the problem of the cicatrization of wounds. At Dr. Carrel's request he was attached in 1915 to his unit where he remained until the end of the war, with the exception of a short mission to the United States.

In 1920 he joined the Rockefeller Institute in New York as an associate member, leaving there in 1927 to go to the Pasteur Institute in Paris, where he created the first laboratory of molecular bio-physics in Europe. Heisenberg's theory of indeterminism, as well as the laws of chance, coupled with years of work on living matter by means of physical methods, had convinced him that life and the steady progress of evolution cannot be accounted for by modern physical laws and that materialism can no longer be based on science. His articles and lectures on the subject aroused the enmity of the left wing and forced his resignation from the Pasteur Institute in 1936. The title of Director of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes at the Sorbonne did not provide the laboratories necessary to contine his scientific work and after a trip around the world he wrote L'Homme devant la Science which shows that the laws of chance cannot account for life and evolution. Modern laboratories were being built for him by an industrialist outside of Paris when World War II broke out. Conditions under German occupation prevented experimental work and he devoted himself to writing L'Avenir de l'Esprit, published in 1941 and crowned in 1942 by the French Academy. In 1944 the University of Lausanne awared the Arnold Raymond prize for the most valuable contribution to the philosophy of science to these two books and Le Tempe et la Vie (Bilogical Time) which had come out in 1936. This book gave his new concept of biological time differing from sidereal time, deduced from his experiments on the cicatrization of wounds.

Together with his wife, an American, whom he married in 1923, he escaped from Paris at the end of 1942, reaching the United States of America in January 1943. La Dignité Humaine, which developed some of hthe ideas in his first two books and stressed moral and spiritual conclusions, was published by Brentano in New York in 1944. That year he covered 35,000 miles, lecturing for the YMCA and the USO on his experiences in Paris under the Germans. Human Destiny, a synthesis of his three French books was published in 1947, shorltly before his death on September 22, 1947 after a long and painful illness.

Lecomte de Noüy's scientific work can be classed in four principal groups:

1915-1920--Cicatrization of wounds--He established the mathematical formula based on the surface of the wound and age of the patient and could thus calculate beforehand the exact date of cicatrizatiuon and scientifically check the treatments employed to deduce the physiological age.

1920-1926--Absorption phenomena of surface tension--The tensiometer which won a Franklin Institute award in 1923, enabled him to provide evidence of the existence of monomolecular layers which in turn disclosed three minima in the surface tension of sodium oleate and enabled him to clculate the three dimensions of the molecule as well as the dimension of the ovalbumine molecule and give a determination of the Avogadro number in excellent accord with previous ones.

Physico-chemical characteristics of Immunity--The study of thin layers of serum on water led to the discovery of a physico-chemical phenomenon not due to immunization and showed that the serum is constituted of asymetric prismatic molecules capable of being polarized in monomolecular layers.

1927-1933--Experiments made by heating serum at a temperature above 55 degrees Celcius. Showed an increase in surface tension, viscosity, rotatory power, rotatory dispersion, etc. Altogether twelve new phenomena were discovered, proving that serum and plasma are true solutions molecularly dispersed and not colloids as had been thought hereto fore. Most of these experiments were based on new insturments and new techniques, which have since been extensively used in scientific and industrial laboratories. Amongst these figure the tensionmeter, a microviscosimeter, an ionometer for the measurement of pH up to the 4th and 5th decimal points and an automatic spectrophotometer in the infra-red.

Scope and Content Note

Scientific manuscripts, lectures, articles and lab manuals relate to Lecomte de Noüy's research in biophysics; performed chiefly at the Rockefeller Institute, New York, 1920-1927, and the Pasteur Institute, Paris, 1927-1936. After 1936, his writings concern philosophy of science; specifically as it relates to evolution, religion, and teleology. Manuscripts present include L'Avenir de l'Espirit, La Dignité Humaine, L'Homme Devant la Science, Expose des Travaux, Le Temps et la Vie (Biological Time), and Human Destiny. Correspondents include Alexis Carrel, Pierre Devaux, charles Guye, Ferdinand Hercík, and Charles Lindbergh. Correspondence and articles provide information about Lecomte de Noüy's association with the American USO from 1944-1945. His plays and short stories appear to have been written from 1902-1914. Photographs are of Lecomte, his laboratory, and his family.

Some materials are in French.


This collection is organized into eight series:





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Access Terms

Personal Name(s)
Carrel, Alexis, 1873-1944 -- Correspondence
Devaux, Pierre, 1897- -- Correspondence
Guye, Charles Eugène, db. 1866 -- Correspondence
Hercík, Ferdinand, 1905-1966 -- Correspondence
Lecomte du Noüy, Pierre, 1883-1947
Lecomte du Noüy, Pierre, 1883-1947 -- Archives
Lindbergh, Charles A.(Charles Augustus), 1902-1974 -- Correspondence

Corporate Name(s)
United Service Organizations (U.S.)

Chronobiology -- Experiments
Religion and science -- History
Science -- Philosophy
Wound healing -- Experiments

Genre Form(s)
Laboratory Notebooks

Administrative Information

Credit Line

Pierre du Nouy papers(MS 174).Special Collections, University of Arizona Libraries.

Container List

Series I: Family and professional correspondence, 1883-1961
11 Family correspondence: various. , 1883-1894
12-3 Family correspondence: André (father) and Hermine (mother). , 1884-1886
14 Family correspondence: school notebooks. , 1891-1894
15 Family correspondence: Sully Prudhomme (School Master) and Hermine (mother). , 1898-1907
16 Family correspondence: various. , 1895-1903
21 Family correspondence: various. , 1904-1910
22 Family correspondence: diaries. , 1883-1910
23 Family correspondence: various. , 1911-1916
24 Professional correspondence: Dr. Carrel and Cicatrization. , 1915-1922
25 Professional correspondence: Pierre Devaux. , 1926-1942
26 Professional correspondence: Charles Eugene Guye. , 1929-1941
27 Professional correspondence: Ferdinand Hercík. , 1928-1939
28 Professional correspondence: Ecole des Hautes Etudes. , 1936-1942
29 Professional correspondence: Ph. Lasseur. , 1929-1942
210 Professional correspondence: Radio Corporation. , 1933
211 Professional correspondence: Technicians, Institute Pasteur. , 1928-1932
31-4 Professional correspondence. , 1920-1943
35 Professional correspondence: Charles and Anne Lindberg. , 1936-1939
36 Professional correspondence: College de France. , 1937
37 Professional correspondence: War documents and permits. , 1939-1942
41-4 USO correspondence. , June 1944-1945
51-2 Correspondence and death: general. , 1946-1947
53-6 Correspondence and death: letters of condolence. , August 1947-September 1948
57 Correspondence and death: letters of condolence, sympathy, calling cards, etc.
58 Correspondence: general correspondence with Mary Lecomte du Noüy. , 1948-1952
59 Correspondence: dedication of Pierre Lecomte du Noüy Room, University of Arizona. , 1961
Series II: Literary manuscripts, 1902-1914
61-2 Plays: L'Admirable Experience (manuscript, typescript).
63 Plays: Autopsie; La Chambre Maudite; Coujr Double; and Une Experience.
64 Plays: Fils de Roi.
65 Plays: Four Corners Bar.
71 Plays: La Grande Ombre.
72 Plays: The Great Shadow.
73 Plays: Miscellaneous and unfinished.
74-5 Short stories.
76 Miscellaneous literary manuscripts.
77 Short articles. , 1908-1909
81-2 Literary manuscripts: miscellaneous.
83 Literary manuscripts: short articles. , 1904-1909
84 Literary manuscripts: scrapbook (Blue Star Cowboy's Co.). , 1906-1907
9 Literary scrapbook. , 1902-1914
Series III: Photographs, 1883-1947
10 Photograph Album. , 1883-1947
Series IV: Scientific manuscripts, 1916-1946
111 Scientific manuscripts: calculation for Avogrado number. , 1924
112 Scientific manuscripts: hypothesis on cell structure and cell movements. , 1926
113 Scientific manuscripts: cicatrization (curves and drawings). , 1916-1917
114-6 Scientific manuscripts: cicatrization of wounds. , 1916
117 Scientific manuscripts: cicatrization of wounds (thesis). , 1917
118-10 Scientific manuscripts: cicatrization of wounds. , 1917-1919
1111-12 Scientific manuscripts: cicatrization of wounds. , 1935-1939
1113 Scientific manuscripts: cicatrization of wounds (Dessins des plaies).
1114 Scientific manuscripts: crystallization. , 1922-1925
1115 Scientific manuscripts: dessicated serum (photographs).
1116 Scientific manuscripts: culture of tissues. , 1929-1930
1117 Scientific manuscripts: critical temperature of blood serum. , 1930
1118 Scientific manuscripts: depolarization. , 1930
1119 Scientific manuscripts: energy and vision. , 1920
121 Scientific manuscripts: immunity. , 1934
122 Scientific manuscripts: interfacial tension. , 1925-1928
123 Scientific manuscripts: interferometer.
124-7 Scientific manuscripts: ionic equilibria. , December 1930-1935
128 Scientific manuscripts: pH. , 1934
129 Scientific manuscripts: photometry. , June-October 1929
1210 Scientific manuscripts: polarimetry. , 1928-1929
1211 Scientific manuscripts: refractometry. , 1929
1212 Scientific manuscripts: serum. , 1937-1939
131 Scientific manuscripts: spectrophotometry (infra-red). , 1920-1931
132-4 Scientific manuscripts: spectrophotometry (ultraviolet). , 1932-1934
135 Scientific manuscripts: surface equilibria. , 1922
136-14 Scientific manuscripts: surface tension. , 1921-1929
141-2 Scientific manusripts: surface tension. , 1929-1942
143 Scientific manusripts: time (physiological). , 1932-1938
144 Scientific manusripts: true solutions. , 1921
145-7 Scientific manusripts: viscosity.
151 Scientific manuscripts: whole blood. , 1940
152 Scientific manuscripts: x-rays.
153-4 Scientific manuscripts: patents. , 1920-1931
155-6 Scientific manuscripts: tensiometers. , 1925
157 Scientific manuscripts: infra-red spectrophotometer.
158 Scientific manuscripts: viscosimeter.
159 Scientific manuscripts: miscellaneous projects and photographs.
Series V: Laboratory manuals,
16 Lab manuals, no. 1-13, note and address books.
17 Lab manuals, no. 14-26, miscellaneous manuals and notebooks.
Series VI: Lectures and articles, 1917-1946
181 Lectures: "Conférence sur Pasteur." , January 13, 1923
182 Lectures: "La Psychologie de la Science," (given in Montreal, Quebec, New York, and Le Havre). , 1925
183 Lectures: "Deux Conférences." , 1931
184 Lectures: "Le Probleème Biologique et la Valeur de Méthodes," (Brussels). , June 1931
185 Lectures: "Les Cultures de Tissus en Dehors de l'Organisme," (Conférence Sorbonne). , 1931
186 Lectures: "Etudes Physico-chimique sur le Sérum," (Congrés de Rome). , 1932
187 Lectures: Discours Radio Forum. , 1932
188 Lectures: "Une Mesure de l'Activité Physiologique," (Congrés de Rome). , 1932
189 Lectures: "Communication à la Societé de Pathologie Comparée." , November 8, 1932
1810 Lectures: Société de Sérilogie. , December 1932
1811 Lectures: "Phénomènes Physico-chimique dans l'Immunité," (Rome). , 1933
1812 Lectures: Conférences. , 1934
1813 Lectures: "La Lutte pur la Vie," (Conférence Radio-Diffusée). , January 23, 1935
1814 Lectures: "Biochimie et Biophysique," (Brussels, Congrés de biochimie). , October 1935
1815 Lectures: "Sur l'Unité de la Méthode dans les Sciences Physiques et Biologiques Comparés." , September 1935
1816 Lectures: "Le Temps et la Vie," (Conférence Radio-Diffusée). , 1936
1817 Lectures: "Considérations Experimentales sur l'Adsorption dans les Phénomènes Biologiques." , May 1936
1818 Lectures: 2ème Congrés Philosophie Scientifique (Copenhagen). , 1936
1819 Lectures: "L'Homme Devant la Science," (Conférence Bruxelles). , October 20, 1936
1820 Lectures: "L'Homme Devant la Science," (Lyons). , November 15, 1936
191 Lectures: "Adresse au Déjeuner." , February 15, 1937
192 Lectures: "Les Limites de l'Inférence Léegitime," (Colleège de France). , March 10, 1938
193 Lectures given in Montpellier. , December 9-10, 1938
194 Lectures: "Notre Univers et son Image," (Conférence Collège de France). , February 27, 1939
195 Lectures: "Figures de la Science," (Radio-Diffusée). , January 2,18 and February 12,15, 1940
196 Lectures: "Le Rythme de la Vie," (Radio-Diffusée en Amérique). , April 20, 1940
197 Lectures: "Physique, chimie & Bilogie." , May 3, 1941
198 Lectures: "L'Adsorption," (Palais de la Découverte). , June 29, 1941
199 Lectures: "Jubilée Devaux," (Bordeaux). , July 2, 1941
1910 Lectures: "L'Avenir de l'Esprit," (Universite de Lyon). , December 7, 1941
1911 Lectures: "Discours pur Distribution de Prix," (Lycée Carnot). , 1941 or 1942
1912 Lectures: Questionnaire pour Radio-Diffusion. , July 1942
1913 Lectures: "Physiological Time," (Annual General Meeting of the American Philosophical Society). , April 22-24, 1943
1914 Series of Lectures on "La Physico-Chimie de Sérum dans les Rapports avic l'Immunité," (Institut Scientifique Franco-Candien). , Mat 3-13, 1943
1915 Lectures: "La France Inspiratrice," (French Institute, New York). , March 14, 1944
1916 Lectures: "L'Avenir de l'Esprit," Alliance Française, New York). , March 21, 1944
1917 Six broadcasts, (New York). , April-June 1944
1918 Lectures: "L'Expérience et la Connaissance," (Congrés Philosophique de Haiti). , September 1944
1919 Lectures: "Le Parfum de la France," (French Insititute, New York). , April 10, 1945
1920 Printed lectures and miscellaneous articles (bound in one volume). , 1925-1946
201 Miscellaneous articles: "Carrel Mission," (Temporary Hospital 21, Compiegne). , 1917
202 Miscellaneous articles: "Principals of General Physiology," by W.M. Bayliss (authorization and beginning of translation). , 1918
203 Miscellaneous articles: "La Biologie Moderne et le problème de la Vie," Revue Scientifique. , February 8, 1930
204 Miscellaneous articles: "A Titling Gas Stopcock," Science. , February 1931
205 Miscellaneous articles: "Replacing the Telephone by a Loud Speaker for Measurements Conductitity," Nature. , February 1931
206 Miscellaneous articles: "La Cicatrisation de Plaies en Surface," Livre Memorial Du Dr. Tuffier. , July 1931
207 Miscellaneous articles: "Boutaric, Remarques sur l'Etude des Transformations Pouvant se Produire dans les Milieux Troublés," Bull. Soc. Chimique de France. , 1931
208 Miscellaneous articles: "Cultures des Tissus," Revue de Paris. , September 1931
209 Miscellaneous articles: "La Bacteriologie Nouvelle," Correspondant. , September 1931
2010 Miscellaneous articles: "The Biological Problem," Memorial Libman. , 1932
2011 Miscellaneous articles: "Response du Comité des Forjes," New Outlook. , 1933
2012 Miscellaneous articles: "Necessité de la Recherche Scientifique," La France Vivant. , 1934
2013 Miscellaneous articles: "La science et la Vie." , February 1935
2014 Miscellaneous articles: "Lettre à Mr. Harris," Article sur Pasteur. , February 21, 1936
2015 Miscellaneous articles: "Filtration," (chapter for book on Ultra-Viruses by Lepine and Levaditi). , 1936
2016 Miscellaneous articles: "Geistige Arbeit." , July 1936
2017 Miscellaneous articles: "L'Organisation du Laboratoire de Recherche." , 1936
2018 Miscellaneous articles: "Biophysique Moleculaire et Immunologie." , 1937
2019 Miscellaneous articles: "Le Mystere des Colloides," (préface pur la conférence à Mr. Allee). , 1937
2020 Miscellaneous articles: "La Biophysique Moleculaire," Revue D'Actinologie. , 1938
2021 Miscellaneous articles: "Consideration on the Study of General Biology in the Light of Modern Science." , 1938
211 Miscellaneous articles: Extrait de "L'Homme Devant la Science," Revue Universelle. , March 15, 1939
212 Miscellaneous articles: Résponse au Questionnaire de "Volontés." , 1939
213 Miscellaneous articles: "La Position de la Culture Japonaise dans le Monde," Concours Japonais. , 1940
214 Miscellaneous articles: "Recherche Scientifique en Temps de Guerre," Courrier Royal. , 1940
215 Paris letter. , May 30, 1940
216 Miscellaneous articles: Résponse au Questionnaire de Mr. LoDuca. , June 2, 1940
217 Miscellaneous articles: L'Institut de Recherches de Demain. , 1941
218 Miscellaneous articles: Préface pour Livre de Ch. E. Gliye. , 1941
219 Miscellaneous articles: "Qu'entend-on par l'Avenir de la Science?" , 1942
2110 Miscellaneous articles: "Evolution et Religion," Bulletin Des Etudes Française. , February 1944
2111 Miscellaneous articles: L'Américan Moyen nous tend la Main. , April 1945
2112 Miscellaneous articles: "Science and Religion; the Point of View of a Scientist," (for YMCA pamphlet). , April 1945
2113 Miscellaneous articles: "A la Recherche du Tempe Vécu..." Revue de L'F.A.L.. , June 30, 1945
2114 Miscellaneous articles: "Concerning the Rate of Evaporation of Water Through Orientated Monolayers of Water," Science. , October 1945
2115 Miscellaneous articles: Preface à "L'Homme Libre, ce Prisioner," de André Lang. , may 1946
2116 Miscellaneous articles: "La Problème de la Vie."
2117 Miscellaneous articles: "Cours de Technique de Laboratoire."
2118 Miscellaneous articles: "Les Problèmes Fondamentaux de la Matière Vivante et l'Organisation de la Recherche Pure."
2119 Miscellaneous articles: "Aspects Mathématiques de Certaines Courbes de Température."
2120 Miscellaneous articles: Notes pour articles.
2121 Miscellaneous articles: "L'Evolution des Sciences de la Vie," Revue de Paris. , January 15, 1929
2122 Miscellaneous articles: "Le Viellissement," Revue de Paris. , August 1933
2123 Miscellaneous articles: "Le Laboratoire et la Recherche Scientifique," Revue de Paris. , June 15, 1935
2124 Miscellaneous articles: "Les Mirages de la Science," Revue de Paris. , March 1, 1936
22 Printed Articles, arranged and bound by Pierre Lecomte du Noüy. , 1916-1936
23 Printed articles, arranged and bound by Pierre Lecomte du Noüy. , 1929-1941
24 Miscellaneous printed articles, includes articles by Pierre Lecomte Noüy and works dedicated to him. , 1926-1946
Series VII: Scrapbooks and manuscripts, 1920-1972
25 Scrapbook, includes clippings about his scientific research. , 1920-1939
26 Scrapbook, clippings concerning Pierre Lecomte du Noüy's and the Pasteur Institute's participation in the Chicago International Exposition. , 1933
271 Manuscripts: Surface Equilibria or Colloidal Solutions, includes manuscript, typescript, and figures. , 1926
272 Manuscripts: Equilibres Supercificieles de Solutions Colloidales, manuscript only. , 1929
273 Manuscripts: Methodes Physiques en Biologie et en Médecine, includes manuscript, galley proofs, and letters of acknowledgment. , 1933
281-5 Manuscripts: La Température Critique du Serum, includes manuscript, typescript, figures, and letters of acknowledgment. , 1936-1945
286-7 Manuscripts: Le Temps et la Vie ( Biological Time), includes typescript, figures, and letters of acknowledgment. , 1936
291-3 Manuscripts: Exposé des Travaux, includes manuscript, printed work, and letters of acknowledgment. , 1937
301-3 Manuscripts: L'Homme Devant La Science, includes manuscript, galley proofs, and letters of acknowledgment. , 1936-1940
304-5 Manuscripts: Road to Reason, includes galley proofs and general correspondence. , 1947-1949
31 Scrapbook, clippings concerning L'Homme Devant la Science. , 1939
32 Scrapbook, clippings concerning Road to Reason. , 1948-1949
33 Manuscripts: L'Avenir de L'Esprit, includes galley proofs, manuscript, typescript, notes to the Preface of the American edition, letters of acknowledgment to the French and American editions, and scrapbook of clippings concerning L'Avenir de L'Esprit and La Dignité Humaine. , 1941-1950
34 Manuscripts: La Dignité Humaine, includes manuscript, galley proofs, introduction and first chapter of English translation, and correspondence relating to the American edition. , 1943-1950
351 Manuscripts: Human Destiny, manuscript. , 1945
352-3 Manuscripts: Human Destiny, typescript. , 1947
354 Manuscripts: Human Destiny, correspondence with Longmans, Green (Isabel Paterson, editor). , 1946
355 Manuscripts: Human Destiny, correspondence. , January-March 1947
361-6 Manuscripts: Human Destiny, correspondence. , April-December 1947
371-7 Manuscripts: Human Destiny, correspondence. , January 1948-1952
38 Scrapbook: Human Destiny. , 1947
39 Scrapbook: Human Destiny. , 1947-1950
40 Scrapbook: Human Destiny. , 1948-1949
41 Scrapbook: Human Destiny. , 1949-1950
42 Scrapbook: Human Destiny. , 1950-1951
43 Scrapbook: Human Destiny. , 1951-1952
44 Scrapbook: Human Destiny. , 1953-1958
45 Scrapbook: Human Destiny. , 1959-1969
46 Scrapbook: The Road to Human Destiny. , 1955-1960
471-5 Scrapbook: articles about Piere Lecomte de Noüy. , 1931-1970
48 Scrapbook: Entre Savoir et Croire. , 1964-1965
49 Scrapbook, clippings concerning the life and career of Pierre Lecomte de Noüy. , 1965-1972
50 Scrapbook: Lecomte de Noüy Prize, clippings concerning the Pierre Lecomte du Noüy Prize: an international award for a philosophical scientific or biographical work written, or translated into French or English, which must give evidence of particular interest in the spiritual life of our time and in upholding the dignity of man. Awarded annually. , 1953-1957
Series VIII: Oversize material, 1894-1945
51 Oversize material, includes diplomas, awards, certificates, photographs, family memorabilia and autograph book.
52 Oversize material, includes art work, scientific drawings, and articles about Pierre Lecomte de Noüy. , 1894-1945