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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Scope and Content
  • Biography
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights
  • Digital Content
  • Acquisition Information

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Sylvester M. Lambert Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0682
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
    Languages: English
    Physical Description: 6.0 Linear feet (9 archives boxes, 5 card file boxes, 7 oversize folders, 1 map case folder)
    Date (inclusive): 1883-1959 (bulk 1918-1947)
    Abstract: The papers of American physician Sylvester Maxwell Lambert (1882-1947) relate primarily to his public health work for the International Health Board of the Rockefeller Foundation. He worked in this capacity in Oceania between 1918 and 1939, documenting the prevalence of hookworm and working to eradicate ankylostomiasis (hookworm disease). The bulk of the collection is Lambert's research materials, which comprise first-hand accounts written by both Lambert and his aides, and were used as references for Lambert's memoir A Yankee Doctor in Paradise, co-written by Wallace Irwin. Other significant series are correspondence, Lambert's medical and personal writings, and photographs and lantern slides documenting primarily Pacific Islanders and village scenes.
    Creator: Lambert, Sylvester Maxwell, 1882-1947

    Scope and Content

    The papers of American physician Sylvester Maxwell Lambert (1882-1947) relate primarily to his public health work for the International Health Board of the Rockefeller Foundation. He worked in this capacity in Oceania between 1918 and 1939, documenting the prevalence of hookworm and working to eradicate ankylostomiasis (hookworm disease). The bulk of the collection is Lambert's research materials, which comprise first-hand accounts written by both Lambert and his aides, and were used as references for Lambert's memoir A Yankee Doctor in Paradise, co-written by Wallace Irwin. Irwin's notes can be found throughout the collection, particularly in the Research Materials and Diaries series. Other significant series are correspondence, Lambert's medical and personal writings, and photographs and lantern slides documenting primarily Pacific Islanders and village scenes.
    Arranged in ten series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) RESEARCH MATERIALS AND DIARIES, 3) WRITINGS BY LAMBERT, 4) WRITINGS BY OTHERS, 5) MAPS, 6) NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS, 7) MISCELLANEOUS, 8) CAPTIONED ENVELOPES AND LISTS, 9) PHOTOGRAPHS, and 10) LANTERN SLIDES.

    Biography

    Born in New York on December 28, 1882, Sylvester M. Lambert graduated from Hamilton College in 1903 and from Syracuse University in medicine in 1908. During the summer of 1907, Lambert took a position as a medical nurse with the Southern Pacific Railroad in Mexico where he met Eloisa Tays, whom he married in 1912. After practicing medicine in Mexico until 1916, Lambert joined the United Fruit Company Medical Service in Costa Rica for two years. Twice during this time Lambert was rejected for commission in the Medical Service of the United States Government because of his poor eyesight, so he opted instead to join the Rockefeller Foundation in July of 1918.
    Sylvester Lambert spent two decades in the Pacific working as a public health doctor for the Rockefeller Foundation's International Health Board (which in 1927 became the International Health Commission). Lambert's primary objective was the eradication of hookworm. In addition to administering hookworm treatments, Lambert and his team worked to reform sanitation systems and conducted health surveys encompassing malaria, leprosy, elephantiasis, yaws, and other medical conditions they encountered.
    Lambert's initial work for the International Health Board was in Queensland in 1918-1919, where he served as acting director for Australasia. He spent 1920 in Papua (what is now southern Papua New Guinea) and the following year in New Guinea Territory and the Solomon Islands. Fiji became the headquarters from which he would work for the next seventeen years, but he continued to work throughout the Pacific, including Samoa, American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and return visits to the Solomon Islands, including Rennell and Bellona. His first visit to Rennell was made in 1930 with the Whitney South Seas Expedition. His second trip in 1933 was with Templeton Crocker, aboard Crocker's yacht, the Zaca.
    Recognizing the advantages of training native medical practitioners, Lambert procured funding from the Rockefeller Foundation for the expansion of the Suva Medical School, making it possible to enlarge its student body and allow for more students from outside Fiji. In 1928 the school reopened in new facilities under the name Central Medical School, now the Fiji School of Medicine.
    Lambert retired from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1939 and, with Wallace Irwin as his co-author, published in 1941 A Yankee Doctor in Paradise, his memoirs of his 20 years in Oceania. After his retirement, Lambert remained in Fiji for another two years before the political climate and fear for his safety forced him to return to the United States. Back in the U.S., the continued success of his book led to lecture tours throughout the country. He and his family settled in California, where Lambert died in 1947.

    Preferred Citation

    Sylvester M. Lambert Papers. MSS 682. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Digital Content

    Selected materials from the collection have been digitized and can be viewed through links in the container list, or by clicking the link below.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 2007.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Lambert, Sylvester Maxwell, 1882-1947 -- Archives
    Fiji
    Oceania
    Papua New Guinea -- Health aspects