Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 365–390 | Cite as

Alliances in Human Biology: The Harvard Committee on Industrial Physiology, 1929–1939

  • Jason OakesEmail author


In 1929 the newly-reorganized Rockefeller Foundation funded the work of a cross-disciplinary group at Harvard University called the Committee on Industrial Physiology (CIP). The committee’s research and pedagogical work was oriented towards different things for different members of the alliance. The CIP program included a research component in the Harvard Fatigue Laboratory and Elton May’s interpretation of the Hawthorne Studies; a pedagogical aspect as part of Wallace Donham’s curriculum for Harvard Business School; and Lawrence Henderson’s work with the Harvard Pareto Circle, his course Sociology 23, and the Harvard Society of Fellows. The key actors within the CIP alliance shared a concern with training men for elite careers in government service, business leadership, and academic prominence. But the first communications between the CIP and the Rockefeller Foundation did not emphasize training in human biology. Instead, the CIP presented itself as a coordinating body that would be able to organize all the varied work going on at Harvard that did not fit easily into one department, and it was on this basis that the CIP became legible to the President of Harvard, A. Lawrence Lowell, and to Rockefeller’s Division of Social Sciences. The members of the CIP alliance used the term human biology for this project of research, training and institutional coordination.


Lawrence Henderson Elton Mayo Wallace Donham A. Lawrence Lowell Harvard University Rockefeller Foundation Human biology Equilibrium System Organizational revolution 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, DavisDavisUSA

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