The Albert B. Sabin Digitization Project: More on the AFEB

Portion of letter from John R. Paul to Albert B. Sabin, May 1969

As I continued to look through the administrative materials from the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board that are in the Sabin collection, I found a letter (seen to the right) from Dr. John R. Paul to Dr. Sabin that referred to the the appointment of an archivist for the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board to “immortalize some of the things (the data) which [they] have heretofore treasured only as unwritten memories.”[1] Naturally, as an archivist, I was intrigued by this appointment, especially because the members of the AFEB recognized that it was important to record their history for future generations.

The man appointed as the AFEB archivist was Theodore E. Woodward, MD. Dr. Woodward was a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine for many years, and was also involved in the Typhus Commission and the U.S. Armed Forces Epidemiological Board. He edited two books about the AFEB:

Dr. Woodward wrote of the volume Its First Fifty Years, “The purpose of this memoir is to provide our military and civilian readers with a factual account of the relevant military research that culminated in a series of objective and carefully formulated recommendations. These actions and events will help document the rich heritage of our medical services and help elucidate how civilian consultants, through their contributions to the AFEB and its Commissions, interacted with the military.”[2]

Of course, Dr. Sabin makes an appearance in the AFEB historical record. With regard to Dr. Sabin’s involvement in the AFEB and the commissions on viral diseases and immunizations, Dr. Woodward wrote, “Not one to sit passively, he entered all discussions of the AFEB and its Commissions with vigor, never failing to assert objective or critical remarks.”[3] I found his description of Dr. Sabin to be very accurate, and the letters in our collection support this description.

To learn more about Dr. Theodore E. Woodward, you can check out the Woodward Historical Collection at the University of Maryland Health Sciences and Human Services Library.

[1] Letter from John R. Paul to Albert B. Sabin, dated 29 May 1969. Found in Series Military Service, Sub-Series Armed Forces Epidemiological Board, Box 10, Folder 9 — General, 1969.
[2] Theodore E. Woodward, The Armed Forces Epidemiological Board: Its First Fifty Years (Falls Church, VA: Office of the Surgeon General, Department of the Army, 1990): xiii.
[3] Ibid., 84.

In 2010, the University of Cincinnati Libraries received a $314,258 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to digitize the correspondence and photographs of Dr. Albert B. Sabin. This digitization project has been designated a NEH “We the People” project, an initiative to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture through the support of projects that explore significant events and themes in our nation’s history and culture and that advance knowledge of the principles that define America. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.