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Section III, Chapter IV






The following account of the organization of the National Research Council and of its war activities in so far as they concerned the Medical Department of the United States Army was formulated from printed reports issued by the council.


In April, 1916, immediately after the attack on the Sussex, March 24,1916, the National Academy of Sciences voted to offer to the President of the United States its services in organizing the scientific resources of the country. This offer was accepted and the academy was requested to secure the cooperation of all agencies, governmental, educational, and industrial, in which research facilities were available. Accordingly, the National Research Council was organized by the academy, with the active cooperation of the leading national scientific and engineering societies. It comprised the chiefs of the technical bureaus of the Army and Navy, the heads of Government bureaus engaged in scientific research, a group of investigators representing educational institutions and research foundations, and another group including representatives of industrial and engineering research. Representatives of the Government were designated by the President. Approval of the plan of organization was expressed by the President in the following letter to the president of the National Academy of Sciences:

WASHINGTON, D. C., July 24, 1916.

President of the National Academy of Sciences, Baltimore, Md.

MY DEAR DR. WELCH: I want to tell you with what gratification I have received the preliminary report of the National Research Council, which was formed at my request under the National Academy of Sciences. The outline of work there set forth and the evidence of remarkable progress toward the accomplishment of the object of the council are indeed gratifying. May I not take this occasion to say that the departments of the Government are ready to cooperate in every way that may be required, and that the heads of the departments most immediately concerned are now, at my request, actively engaged in considering the best methods of cooperation.

Representatives of Government bureaus will be appointed as members of the Research Council as the council desires.

Cordially and sincerely yours,

When its organization was undertaken the National Research Council was essentially without funds. The Engineering Foundation saw and appreciated the advantage of creating a body for the federation of research agencies, governmental, educational, separately endowed, and industrial. It accordingly placed its entire resources at the disposal of the Research Council, gave it the services of its secretary and provided an office for the council in the Engineering Societies Building in New York City. Special contributions from


members of the Engineering Foundation enlarged the income available for this purpose, and thus the work of the National Research Council was inaugurated.

On February 28, 1917, the Council of National. Defense passed a resolution expressing its recognition of the fact that the National Research Council, at the request of the President, had organized the scientific resources of the country in the interest of national defense and national welfare, and requesting the Research Council to cooperate with it in matters pertaining to scientific research for national defense. As a result of this action the chairman of the National Research Council opened offices in the Munsey Building, in the city of Washington, in March, 1917, and entered into active cooperation with the Council of National Defense, which was then established in the same building. Soon afterwards the Research Council was requested to act as the Department of Science and Research of the Council of National Defense. It acted also as the Science and Research Division of the United States Signal Corps. During the war it received a considerable part of its support from the Government. These relations continued until May 11, 1918, when the President issued the following Executive order requesting the National Academy of Sciences to perpetuate the National Research Council, defining its duties, and providing for the cooperation of the Government in its work:


The National Research Council was organized in 1916 at the request of the President by the National Academy of Sciences, under its Congressional charter, as a measure of national preparedness. The work accomplished by the council in organizing research and in securing cooperation of military and civilian agencies in the solution of military problems demonstrates its capacity for larger service. The National Academy of Sciences is therefore requested to perpetuate the National Research Council, the duties of which shall be as follows:

1. In general, to stimulate research in the mathematical, physical and biological sciences, and in the application of these sciences to engineering, agriculture, medicine and other useful arts, with the object of increasing knowledge, of strengthening the national defense, and of contributing in other ways to the public welfare.

2. To survey the larger possibilities of science, to formulate comprehensive projects of research, and to develop effective means of utilizing the scientific and technical resources of the country for dealing with these projects.

3. To promote cooperation in research, at home and abroad, in order to secure concentration of efforts, minimize duplication, and stimulate progress; but in all cooperative undertakings to give encouragement to individual initiative, as fundamentally important to the advancement of science.

4. To serve as a means of bringing American and foreign investigators into active cooperation with the scientific and technical services of the War and Navy Departments and with those of the civil branches of the Government.

5. To direct the attention of scientific and technical investigators to the present importance of military and industrial problems in connection with the war, and to aid in the solution of these problems by organizing specific researches.

6. To gather and collate scientific and technical information at home and abroad, in cooperation with governmental and other agencies and to render such information available to duly accredited persons.

Effective prosecution of the council's work requires the cordial collaboration of the scientific and technical branches of the Government, both military and civil. To this end representatives of the Government, upon the nomination of the National Academy of Sciences, will be designated by the President as members of the council, as heretofore, and the heads of the departments immediately concerned will continue to cooperate in every way that may be required.

(Signed)     WOODROW WILSON.

THE WHITE HOUSE, May 11, 1918.


Prior to February, 1918, the medical sciences were represented in the National Research Council by several distinct committees, representing sciences concerned with problems dealing with the cause, prevention, and treatment of disease among the military and war-industry forces, as well as those representing sciences concerned with the mental and physical fitness of individuals for military service. These committees formed the nucleus from which was organized the Division of Medicine and Related Sciences. The original committees became part of the new organization and the researches begun by them were continued under their direction.

On September 4, 1918, the chairman of the Division of Medicine was commissioned as major in the Medical Corps. There was thus established an intimate connection between the Division of Medicine of the council and the Surgeon General’s Office. The original committee on Medicine and Hygiene, which was responsible for most of the early work begun by the council, ceased to function as such after February, 1918.

At the time of the organization of the division an application for funds was made to the Rockefeller Foundation. This was granted and thus the sum of $50,000 became available for work during 1918. Other gifts were received during the year. In July, 1918, the executive board of the council set aside $1,500 of its general fund for the use of the anthropological committee, to be applied to work not falling under the head of medicine or the related sciences. The total sum available for the work of the Division of Medicine for 1918 was $51,983.96.

In the development of the Division of Medicine a constant effort was made to recognize those applied sciences upon which medical problems are so fundamentally dependent that they are an actual necessity for thoroughness in medical investigation, and to include these in its organization. Investigators in these sciences were enrolled to serve on committees or subcommittees.

In the main, the purpose of the division from the beginning was to mobilize the civilian medical and related scientific workers and institutions, with their laboratories, in the United States, thus organizing a united scientific medical service for aiding in the solution of problems bearing upon and promoting the efficiency of national defense. This was accomplished by close cooperative contact with the Surgeon General of the Army, with the Surgeon General of the Navy, and with hearty support and cooperation from the many scientific investigators throughout the country.

The general plan was to follow the advice of representatives of the War, Navy, and Labor Departments in determining urgent problems, and then to find the proper workers to investigate them. The committee plan was adhered to as far as it was possible; but in many instances individuals working independently of committees gave their entire time and laboratory facilities to the work on war problems.

A brief discussion of some of the problems taken up by the different committees or by individuals working in connection with the divisions follows:

1. Much was accomplished as a result of investigations undertaken to study traumatic shock. Although these investigations by no means entirely explained the phenomenon, they gave illumination to certain clinical aspects of the problems.


2. Investigations concerned with the control of lice and their eggs, and preventive measures against infestation, resulted in the development of effective insecticides and methods of delousing.
3. A method was found for the prevention of postoperative neuromata in amputation stumps.
4. Much attention was devoted to the cultivation and collection for pharmacological study of native medicinal plants. As a result all of the digitalis required for use in the Army was gown and tested by scientists at the University of Minnesota.
5. Acetone, a necessary solvent for airplane varnishes, was almost unobtainable in the early months of the war. A simple method was worked out for its production and put into practical operation by the Government.
6. The work of the committee on industrial poisonings brought to light facts of great importance, which resulted in steps being taken to protect the health of munitions-plant workers.
7. Investigations concerning the cause and prevention of the epidemic disease "influenza" were encouraged and supported to the fullest extent.

The following list gives by title the complete roster of researches undertaken, some of which were completed before war activities ceased:

(A) Under direction of the executive committee of the division:
1. The development of protectors for the ear against effects of high explosives.a
2. New methods for the production of acetone.
3. General testing of new antiseptics and special study of application of same (two stations).
4. Studies of anaerobic bacteria of importance in war wounds (three stations).
5. The cultivation, collection, and pharmacological study of native medicinal plants three stations).
6. Determination of substitutes for ambrine.
7. A study of gases as disinfectants of wounds and their use to render disease carriers innocuous.
8. Sterilization of drinking water for large bodies of troops.
9. A critical study of methods of smallpox vaccination on a large scale.
10. The value of the agglutination test after vaccinating against typhoid fever.
11. A study of rare and unusual sugars in the different strains of pneumococcus, streptococcus, and meningococcus.
12. A study of hemostatic preparation.
13. Studies of peripheral nerve injury and repair, with special reference to the prevention of amputation neuromata.
14. Studies of streptococcus infection, with special reference to empyema.
15. A study of possible substitutes for the Petri dish.
16. War (?) edema among infants.
17. Chemotherapeutic studies of experimental pneumococcus infection.
18. Tests to devise a gauze mask effective in the prevention of droplet infection.
19. A study of the cause of the so-called Spanish influenza and its possible prevention by vaccination.
20. Tests of the influence of slow intravenous injections of foreign serum in the prevention of anaphylactic shock with special reference to the Army use of antitoxic sera.
21. Chloralose as a general anesthetic in cases of shock.
22. Skin grafting as conditioned by the blood group of donor and recipient.
23. The use of "immunized" skin grafts in infected wounds.
24. Gentian violet as an antiseptic for "preserved blood" used in transfusions.
25. Methods to increase the yield of serum-antibodies in immunized animals.
26. A simplified and improved apparatus for transfusions.
27. A study of the importance of antiagglutinins for transfusion.
28. A test to disclose oxygen lack in the air of submarines and mines.

(B) Committee on industrial poisonings:
1. An experimental study of toxic effects of substances entering into the manufacture and handling of explosives (one station, seven workers).
    a  Research conducted under the direction of the Committee on Medicine and Hygiene as constituted in the original organization of the council (Col. Victor C. Vaughan, chairman).


2. A study of early signs of intoxications among munitions workers (eight field workers in six munitions plants).
3. A study of airplane "dopes."
4. The development of protective varnishes or other skin coverings.

(C) Committee on toxicity of preserved foods:
1. Studies of canning and other methods of preserving foods.b
2. The related problems of botulism.

(D) Committee on neurology and psychiatry:
1. An analysis of 13,000 records of soldiers discharged from service on account of nervous and mental disturbances.
2. The early histological lesions of meningoencephalitis. (From material of the Army Medical Museum.)

(E) Committee on the study of the physiology of shock:
1. Twenty-nine studies in 10 stations.

(F) Committee on control of hemorrhage (three stations).

(G) Committee on fatigue in industrial pursuits:
1. An investigation of hygienic conditions in industrial establishments.
2. Studies of industrial efficiency.
3. Physiological studies of fatigue.

(H) Committee on biochemistry:
1. Studies of varieties of velvet bean and of its utilization as a food.
2. Substitutes for cane sugar.
3. The minimum vitamin requirement.
4. Substitutes for acetone in extracting and drying.

(I) Anthropology committee:
1. A study of central European races in New York City.
2. Race in relation to physical conditions and fitness for employment.
3. Anthropometric study of drafted men.

(J) Psychology committee:
1. Twenty studies by 12 different observers (or groups of observers) of military problems to  which the methods of psychology are applicable.

(K) Medical zoology:
1. Studies of Giardia Microti.
2. The treatment of experimental Giardiasis.
3. An improved method of detecting ova of parasites in stools.
4. Hookworm investigations.
5. Louse investigations b (three stations, numerous studies).

In addition to the more specific activities enumerated above, the division rendered many miscellaneous services. Medical and premedical schools were canvassed, and their cooperation solicited in making certain changes in their curriculum to meet the necessities of war medicine and surgery and the Army laboratory service. Letters were sent to all colleges and universities, recommending the character of work best suited for their departments of bacteriology and biology to fit students for training in the Army laboratory school in the event of such students being inducted into the Army laboratory service.

Pathologists and bacteriologists were procured for the Medical Corps of the Army.

Conferences between civilian investigators, representatives of the Surgeon General's Office, and the National Research Council were arranged and the traveling expenses paid in instances where no provision was made by the Government to meet such expense. Bibliographies on medical themes were prepared and distributed to military hospitals and individuals carrying on
    b Researches conducted under the direction of the committee on Medicine and Hygiene as constituted in the original organization of the council.


war investigations. Through the cooperation of the Surgeon General’s Library, it was possible to furnish photostatic reprints of articles from German journals published during the war and in this way to disseminate valuable information on many subjects of importance. Breeding stations for white mice were organized in different parts of the United States, so that the hospital laboratories would not be hampered in pneumonia diagnosis by a lack of these animals.

Because of the relative independence in the division of the committee on psychology and the committee on anthropology, the activities of these committees are given consideration.


The committee on psychology of the council was appointed in April, 1917, and functioned as an independent committee until March, 1918, when it was constituted a part of the Division of Medicine and Related Sciences. The committee worked chiefly through subcommittees and military-appointees in the Army and Navy. The success of its efforts was clearly shown by the increase in demands for psychological service and the rapid extension of the several lines of psychological work which were organized in the military departments.

One of the most interesting facts concerning the work of this committee during the war was the great preponderence of service over research. The  services of this section of the council touched and more or less modified almost every aspect of military personnel work. The committee on classification of personnel in the Army was indirectly a result of the organization of the psychological military service by the American Psychological Association and the National Research Council.

For the Division of Military Aeronautics the committee prepared tests of mental alertness for enlisted men, providing for the measurement of characteristics of mind and behavoir which are important in the aviation service. The contributions of psychologists to the study of qualifications for flying, the fitness of fliers, and the psychological effects of high altitudes were conspicuously important.

The committee aided the Division of Psychology of the Surgeon General’s Office in the administration of mental tests to enlisted men and commissioned officers in accordance with plans perfected in 1917. This work entailed the establishment of a special school for training in military psychology at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., in which more than 400 men were trained. The rating of soldiers according to mental alertness or degree of intelligence facilitated the early and prompt elimination of men who were mentally unfit for service and the proper utilization of various grades of intelligence. Approximately 1,700,000 individuals were examined.

The establishment by the War Department of the Morale Branch of the General Staff was greatly facilitated, if not primarily due to the interest and efforts of members of the committee on psychology.

It was demonstrated that psychological methods could be devised and adapted to assist in selecting and training observers and scouts, and to this


end a series of tests of mental alertness was prepared for the Division of Military Intelligence of the General Staff.

A special subcommittee was organized to assist the committee on education and special training of the War Department to adapt instruction in psychology to the needs of the special activity training camp. Mental tests for the rating of students were prepared. Important psychological problems in military training were attacked by the committee. A study of disciplinary problems for the assistance of the Medical Department and the Morale Branch of the General Staff was undertaken, and much practical work in the interest of mental reeducation was carried on.


Shortly after the organization of the Division of Medicine it was recommended by the members of the original committee on anthropology that this committee as then constituted be abolished and that the anthropological work be divided into sections dealing with anthropometry in the Army, and race in relation to disease, military and civilian. It was planned to conduct investigations aimed at perfecting methods of selecting men for and arranging men in military service. A plan of procedure was formulated for making investigations to obtain information that might serve as a basis for further developments in this work. Many of the larger projects in the plan were not realized on account of unexpected and untimely adverse circumstances. However, investigations planned to be carried on by individual members of the committee were accomplished, and as a result important recommendations were made to the War Department.

The chairman of the committee on anthropometry in the Army was commissioned in the sanitary corps of the Army and placed in charge of the subsection of anthropology, section of medical records, Division of Sanitation, of the Surgeon General’s Office. The subsection was organized along lines suggested by him. (See Vol. XV, Part I, Army Anthropology.)


The sudden collapse of the Central Powers, and the consequent swift transition from peace conditions, did not take the National Research Council wholly unawares.

From the time of its initiation in 1916, the council always recognized that its chief service could be best performed in times of peace, and the definition of its functions contained in the Executive order issued by President Wilson on May 11, 1918, relates particularly to this possibility. Moreover, throughout the period of the war, when all of the divisions of the council were organizing and promoting research to meet military and naval needs and to solve industrial problems of an emergency nature, the question of future activities and the provision of an organization adequate to deal with them were constantly in view. Following the signing of the armistice the council devoted itself chiefly to the utilization of the various preliminary studies made during the war period for the formulation of a definitive scheme of organization and a plan of work in keeping with the heavy demands entailed by existing conditions.



(1) National Research Council divisions and committees, war organization, established in April, 1916, at the request of the President of the United States, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, acting as the Department of Science and Research of the Council of National Defense, Washington, 1918; (2) War Activities of the National Research Council by George Ellery Hale, the Engineering Foundation in the Engineering Societies Building, New York, May 28, 1918; (3) Third annual report of the National Research Council, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1919; (4) Division of Medicine and Related Sciences, by Col. F. F. Russell, M. C., acting chairman, and Maj. R. G. Hussey, M. C., vice chairman, in annual report, National Academy of Sciences, 1918, 88; (5) special report, The War Activities of the Medical Division of the National Research Council for the Period Ending December 31, 1918, by Peyton Rous, vice chairman. Copies of above on file, Historical Division, S. G. O.