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The Role of the Rockefeller Foundation in Malaria Vaccine Research, 1970s-1980s

May 28, 2024

Over the 1970s, scientists finally began to make significant headway in the creation of a malaria vaccine. New developments such as hybridoma technology, recombinant DNA, and the ability to cultivate continuous cultures of malaria parasites in vivo spurred enthusiasm among scientists that they could finally create the first vaccine against a parasitic disease. A new influx of funding into parasitic disease research during this decade accelerated scientific discoveries related to malaria vaccines. The Rockefeller Foundation's Health Sciences Division, led by Dr. Kenneth Warren from 1977 to 1988, contributed significantly to this acceleration by sponsoring cutting edge research on malaria immunology and biology as part of a new "Great Neglected Diseases of Mankind" program. This report examines the role of the Rockefeller Foundation in stimulating research around malaria vaccines and related areas of malaria immunology and molecular biology, and the effects its funding had on scientists, scientific institutions, and populations in malaria endemic regions. While an effective malaria vaccine did not materialize as quickly as the scientific community had hoped, the Rockefeller Foundation nonetheless played a substantial role in raising the profile of malaria vaccines and vaccine research.

The Pedagogy of Race: The Peking Union Medical College and Its Effects on Chinese Socio-Medical Scientific Discourse, 1912-1949

May 15, 2024

In 1906, the Peking Union Medical College was established in Republican China. Together with the Rockefeller Foundation's China Medical Board and the China Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture, the Republican Chinese government promoted the expansion of all areas of research and education. Between the 1920s and 1940s, Chinese biologists, eugenicists, among others began to make serious contributions not just to Chinese science but also to global science. Led by imported eugenicists like Edmund Cowdry and Alex Hrdlicka, many PUMC projects were preoccupated with analyzing China's "racial problems," especially the pressing question whether miscegenation ought to be encouraged or discouraged. The most ambitious of these projects, the Collection of Chinese Embryos, was an undertaking dedicated to sustained analysis of Chinese biological data. Using cutting-edge research from racial embryology, PUMC anatomists measured the biodata of donated Chinese embryonic specimens and attempted to draw conclusions about the "Mongoloid" typology as well as whether Chinese-white mixes displayed "hybrid vigor" or "enfeeblement" – the scientific terms for the conditions of mixed-race offspring at the time. Although the project ultimately failed – in part due to the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, and partly due to the poor medical infrastructure across Republican China – it reflected a successful effort at tying Chinese medical development with the wider (specifically North American) scientific project of race research. Archival materials in the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), including correspondence, annual reports, personnel biographic information, and oral history materials, reveal an overall picture of the Peking Union Medical College's efforts in disseminating racial and eugenic knowledge in China in the early twentieth century. This research report, consisting of part of my PhD research on the emergence of miscegenation discourse in twentieth-century China, underscores the process through which the Peking Union Medical College transformed the intellectual landscape of Republican China.

Wheat and Meat: The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chilean Agricultural Program

May 6, 2024

This paper offers a preliminary examination of the Rockefeller Foundation's agricultural improvement work in Chile, as I read through the Rockefeller Foundation's own archival collections at the Rockefeller Archive Center. Following the model set by earlier agricultural development projects in Mexico and Colombia, the foundation's Chilean Agricultural Program (ChAP) sought to improve methods for agrarian production in the South American country, starting in the mid-1950s and continuing through the mid-1960s. The program's ultimate goal, I argue, was to help make Chile more food secure, and to do so, foundation experts worked closely with Chilean agricultural scientists employed by Chile's growing agricultural state. Early collaboration centered around how to improve common varieties of spring and winter wheat—the raw input for widely-consumed bread products. However, over time, the Rockefeller Foundation's focus turned increasingly toward forage crops, with the hope that more nutrient-rich grasslands would form the foundation of a more modern and productive domestic beef economy. I suggest that an examination of this important example of inter-American agricultural cooperation raises important questions about both the social motivations and environmental consequences of mid-twentieth century agricultural modernization efforts.

Graciela Olivarez: From Mexican American Civil Rights and Antipoverty Activism to the Presidential Commission on Population Growth and the American Future

April 16, 2024

This report details my research trip to the Rockefeller Archive Center in August 2023. My research agenda was to analyze the work of Graciela Olivarez on the President's Commission on Population Growth and the American Future. Olivarez became one of the first Latinas to head a federal agency when President Jimmy Carter chose her in 1977 to lead the Community Services Administration (CSA).  Olivarez was an active leader in the Mexican American civil rights movement in the 1950s and early 1960s, before becoming a leader in antipoverty efforts.  John D. Rockefeller, 3rd was the chair and Olivarez the vice-chair of the President's Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, established in 1970. The Rockefeller Archive Center houses a number of boxes of records related to the formation and actions of that commission.  This Commission appointment was a crucial step in Olivarez's career and was an important factor in her later appointment by President Carter to head the Community Services Administration. I was looking to delve into Olivarez's role on the Commission, her positions on particular issues – including contraception, abortion, economic issues, environmental impact – the Commission addressed, and others' perceptions of her role on the Commission. I also was interested to see the ways in which her experience as an antipoverty activist and administrator influenced her perspective on the topic of population growth and the ways in which her experience on the Commission influenced her later work administering the War on Poverty.

Frederick Gates and Philanthropic Timeliness

April 8, 2024

An embrace of perpetuity is often assumed to be one of the founding principles of modern American philanthropy. Yet while some of the pioneering figures in the field, such as Andrew Carnegie, explicitly and unreservedly championed the cause of perpetuity, the views of many others toward time-based considerations in philanthropy were more fluid and complex. This was certainly the case with Frederick Gates, the Baptist minister who served as John D. Rockefeller's chief philanthropic advisor, holding leadership positions in many of the Rockefeller foundations in their early, formative years. He can arguably claim to be more responsible than any other individual for crafting the animating theories that came to define 20th century American philanthropy.

The Rockefeller Foundation’s Rural Health Program and the Oil Nationalization Crisis in Iran, 1949-1951

March 26, 2024

This research report examines the efforts of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) to build a rural health initiative in Iran from 1949 through 1951. It details the RF's progress in contributing toward improving Iranian public health during this period, and it analyzes the impact of the Iranian oil nationalization crisis that began in early 1951 on the Rockefeller Foundation's activities. Ultimately, this report argues that the oil nationalization crisis forced the RF to end its Iranian initiative in late summer 1951 without completing its work there, but these rural health initiatives nevertheless helped lay a foundation for Iran's later public health efforts and contributed to positive American-Iranian relations prior to the 1953 coup.

The Institute of International Education: From Prima Donna Idealism to Parastatal Behemoth and Neoliberal Broker (1919–2003)

March 14, 2024

The Institute of International Education (IIE) administers the most prestigious awards for international education such as the Fulbright awards. IIE has dominated international education from 1919 to the present as an intermediary between states and private organizations. The Institute's combination of private administration and capital with the brand of the US government has characterized the shift from massive public spending and bold liberal internationalism in the postwar era to the neoliberalism of the late-twentieth century. In my dissertation, I argue that Americans came to rely on international students as proxies to end global conflicts, fortify the United States' geopolitical standing, advance capitalist economic development in the Global South, and keep US colleges financially afloat. The Carnegie Endowment and Rockefeller Foundation sponsored IIE to be the vanguard of international educational exchanges in the early twentieth century. After World War II, with the federal government and the Ford Foundation as new IIE partners, Carnegie and Rockefeller became wary of how this unchecked growth and IIE's administrative weakness would threaten the core missions of international liberalism. The internal documents available at the Rockefeller Archive Center from IIE, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund, and the Ford Foundation bely the optimism of IIE's published materials. The reports of students also depict the United States as a country aspiring to lead the postwar world but struggling with racial discrimination and a shifting national identity. 

Listening to Each Other? – Opportunities and Challenges in Music Exchanges between the United States and the People’s Republic of China in the Late Twentieth Century

March 4, 2024

Cultural exchanges between the United States and the People's Republic of China were formalized in the 1970s. With the ever-increasing interest in understanding each other's culture, American and Chinese governments and cultural institutions organized exchange trips in different fields. Music was among the first professions that was used to establish rapport. This essay introduces some of the early efforts to facilitate the musical exchanges, including by the Asian Cultural Program of the JDR 3rd Fund and the Center for United-States Arts Exchange founded by Chou Wen-Chung. It highlights how the American non-profit sector shaped the cultural dialogue through grantmaking from the 1970s to the 1990s. Despite the legacy of fostering interests in learning the cultural differences between the two countries, archival materials show a Euro-American-centric sentiment by expecting Chinese visitors to bring American knowledge back to their home, and that Americans have the expertise and knowledge to assist Asians to better understand their own cultural heritage. With mostly white Americans in control of the visitors they could bring in, who tended to be talented performers and artists of ancient or traditional art forms, they avoided more politicized contemporary works and discourses. Chinese immigrants in America were also limited in terms of their ability to participate in these cultural exchanges. Such a narrow approach to cultural exchange also limited Americans' understanding of China (and Asia, at-large) in the contemporary context.

The Unusable Zoning Override Threat: Analyzing the State Urban Development Corporation’s Westchester Plans

February 15, 2024

This research report aims to explicate the tactics underpinning the State Urban Development Corporation's ill-fated efforts, between February 18, 1970 and 1973, to construct affordable housing in generally affluent, suburban Westchester County.  Designed to cut through federal and local municipal red tape that disincentivized private industry from entering the affordable housing field, Governor Nelson Rockefeller hoped that the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) could play a pivotal role in solving the state's housing crisis.  The UDC bore the unique power to override local zoning codes. It thus became immediately controversial, inducing the corporation's first president, the (in)famous Bostonian urban planner Edward Logue, to emphasize the UDC's ability to work with local municipal officials to construct much-needed housing, often through a locally-managed subsidiary corporation.  When the UDC entered Westchester County on February 18, 1970, hoping to expand its operations to the state's suburbs, these tactics proved ineffective in the face of the county's traditionally decentralized politics, municipal and county officials' long history of support for restrictive zoning and single-family residential construction, and the weakening political position of the county's once-powerful Republican Party.  Additionally, widespread protests against state-led public works projects in the late 1960s sapped local support for Governor Rockefeller's administration just before the UDC entered the county.  Combined, these factors conspired to enable affluent, white Westchester residents and officials to stall out the UDC until they could form a coalition of state legislators to pass a bill eliminating the UDC's zoning override powers, effectively ending state-level efforts to construct affordable housing.

Private Funders and Private Wildlife Conservancies in Neoliberal Kenya (1980-2010)

February 7, 2024

This report examines the rise of nongovernmental organizations and private game reserves in Kenya's conservation and tourist sector in the last two decades of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century. Because these institutions are private and not required to be transparent, it can be difficult to study their histories. The archival holdings of funders, such as the Ford Foundation, or individual philanthropists, such as Laurance S. Rockefeller, can thus provide insights into the histories of these organizations. These records provide particular information on two private conservancies started in the 1980s in Laikipia, Kenya: the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Ol Ari Nyiro (at times referred to as Laikipia Ranching). Attention to these conservancies demonstrates a shift in the practice of conservation during the late twentieth century, as the Kenyan state saw its role diminished, and private funders, NGOs, and private conservancies became more central to the project of protecting Kenya's wildlife, while also benefitting from the tourists which followed.

Patronage of Video Art: The Relationship of the Rockefeller Foundation and Nam June Paik

January 18, 2024

On October 4, 1965, Korean-born artist Nam June Paik bought his first Sony Portapak with a JDR 3rd Fund grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Introduced earlier that same year by the Sony Corporation in Japan, this device was the first portable video recorder with a dedicated camera. Paik's Portapak was among the first in the United States, which enabled him to play a central role in establishing video as a credible medium for artistic expression. By analyzing grants Paik received from the Rockefeller Foundation, this essay examines a three-decade-long relationship between the artist and the Rockefeller Foundation that enabled Paik to create groundbreaking works of art. This project will analyze how the social and financial capital of the Rockefeller Foundation equipped Paik with the knowledge and equipment to pursue his transnational projects linking South Korea, Japan, Germany, and the United States, among other countries, through his video, television, and satellite projects. The relationship Paik cultivated with Howard Klein, director of arts at the Rockefeller Foundation, reveals a complex dynamic of power, institutional interests, and global reach of works that Paik could not realize without the support of the Rockefeller Foundation. In this way, this essay will examine a series of correspondences, interviews, and proposals that reveal the commitment the Rockefeller Foundation officers, specifically Howard Klein, had in making Paik the pioneer of video art.

“Among a people such like their own”: Thai Nursing Students in the Philippines, 1920-1931

January 5, 2024

In the early twentieth century, the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) worked to expand the nursing profession in the Philippines and in Thailand. Using the close geographic proximity and the well-established circulation of health professionals between the two countries, the RF helped sponsor six Thai nursing students to study abroad in Manila. Due to the status of the Philippines as a colony of the US, while Thailand was not within the US's official purview, the encounter between the colonized nursing instructors and the Thai nursing students learning within a colonial system created contradictory positions of power. Depending on who perceived this crossing, it could reflect the expanding influence for different parties invested in nursing education, either the Foundation, Filipino medical workers, Thai elites, or both Thai and Filipino women. This report examines these crossings and the approximate relationships of domination that supported and confounded the US empire. For example, rather than American colonizers' relationships with Filipinos, I examine the roles of Filipino women, Filipino men, and Thai women who participated in uneasy and shifting tensions of domination. These relationships of power were contested and circulated in complicated forms, not just unilaterally, but within expansive spheres attached to US ambitions within Asia, as well as the Philippines and Thailand's own ambitions for sovereignty and modernity. Lastly, this report examines Filipino women's fraught relationship to power vis-a-vis science and medicine, which also represented (even if incompletely, temporarily, and immemorably) both the domination and the collaboration of Thai women.