Guide to the George C. Wheeler Correspondence, Scrapbook, and Biology Lecture and Laboratory Notes, 1915-1957
George Carlos Wheeler (1897-1991) went to Texas Christian University in 1914 with the intention of becoming a high school language teacher. His long-time interest in biology, however, dominated his spare time and upon transferring to the Rice Institute in 1915, Wheeler began to enroll in biology classes. His first teacher and academic advisor was Julian Huxley, who strongly influenced Wheeler to become a professional biologist. When Wheeler completed his undergraduate work at the Rice Institute in 1918, he enlisted in the army and was sent to the Yale Army Laboratory School. After Armistice, he carried out his military service at Base Hospital in Camp Dodge, Iowa. In 1919, he started his graduate work in entomology at Harvard's Bussey Institute. After he received his PhD, Wheeler went on to teach at Syracuse University, the University of North Dakota and the Desert Research Institute (University of Nevada).
Biographical sketches of the correspondents:
Julian Huxley (1887-1975) was a prolific writer on numerous topics such as cancer research, religious philosophy, zoology and poetry and was best known as a popularizer of science. He was born in London, England and educated at Eton and Oxford University. Huxley taught biology at the Rice Institute from 1914 to 1916 when he went back to England to participate in the war effort. Huxley later taught at King's College at Oxford and from 1946 to 1948 he was the first Director-General of UNESCO (the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization). In 1958, Huxley was knighted by the Queen of England.
Joseph I. Davies (1896-1966) was an Englishman who became Julian Huxley's assistant and followed him to the Rice Institute in 1914. At Rice, Davies earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology. Opposite of Huxley, Davies remained at Rice for his entire professional career. He served many years as Chairman of the Biology Department. In 1966, Davies died in the laboratory ten days from retirement.
Hermann J. Muller (1890-1967) was educated at Columbia University and came to the Rice Institute in 1915 to teach biology. His tenure at Rice was brief and he later went on to teach at Columbia, the University of Texas in Dallas and Indiana University. In 1946, Muller won the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for his work with mutations and X-rays.
The Wheeler materials include biology lecture and laboratory notes, correspondence, an autobiography and a scrapbook. The bulk of this collection are two bound copies of the notes from the biology classes that George Wheeler took as a student at the Rice Institute through the years 1915 to 1918. His professors from these classes are the ones that make up all the correspondence in this manuscript collection. While at Rice, Wheeler enrolled in the following courses, which include both lectures and laboratory work: Elementary Biology (lecture: J. Huxley, lab: H. Muller and J. Davies), Cellular Biology (lecturer and lab: H. Muller), Heredity and Evolution (lecturers: H. Muller and E. Altenburg, lab: H. Muller) and Morphology of Animals (lecturer and lab: H. Muller). Please note, on the inside cover of the lecture notes, Wheeler pasted a postcard sent to him by Julian Huxley.
Wheeler kept in touch with three of his undergraduate professors from the Rice Institute - Huxley, Muller and Davies - during and well after his graduation. In the letters from Huxley, Wheeler received continuing advice, career counseling and encouragement from his former academic advisor. Huxley left the Rice Institute in 1916 to fight in the First World War and was stationed on the Italian front where he wrote several letters to Wheeler expressing his nostalgic feelings for Rice which persists in his later correspondence. The letters from Muller and Davies equally express fond memories of Wheeler and Rice Institute and provide Wheeler with motivation for his career and gossip on affairs at Rice.
In 1986, Wheeler authored a brief autobiography of his early career in biology entitled My Association with William Morton Wheeler. In this work, he describes vividly the reasons why he became a biologist, his studies and experiences at Rice Institute and his work at Harvard's Bussey Institute.
Also included with George Wheeler's records is the memory book that he maintained during his stay at Rice Institute. In this scrapbook, Wheeler kept photographs of the biology staff, field trips and the campus, as well as newspaper and magazine clippings and memorabilia from social events.
PERMISSION TO PUBLISH
Permission to publish material from George C. Wheeler - Correspondence, Scrapbook, and Biology Lecture and Laboratory Notes must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.
George C. Wheeler - Correspondence, Scrapbook, and Biology Lecture and Laboratory Notes, 1915-1957, MS 1, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University
All the materials in this collection were donated to the Woodson Research Center by George Wheeler. The correspondence and memory book arrived in September 1975, the bound lecture and laboratory notes in April 1976 and the autobiography in 1986.