Scope and Content of Collection
Luft, U. C. -- (Ulrich C.)
Title: Ulrich Cameron Luft Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1907-1991
19.80 linear feet
(38 archives boxes, 11 card files, 1 record carton, 4 oversize folders, and 1 art bin item.)
Abstract: Papers of Ulrich Cameron Luft, 1910-1991. A research physiologist and physician, Luft was an authority in the fields of lung
physiology and acclimatization to high altitude. He took part in the 1937 and 1938 German expeditions to Nanga Parbat in
the western Himalayas and was chief of the Department of Aviation Physiology at the Aero-Medical Research Institute in Berlin
during World War II. He came to the United States in 1947 under the "Operation Paperclip" recruitment program and was the
head of the Department of Physiology at the Air Force School of Aviation Medicine, Randolph Field, Texas, and the Lovelace
Medical Foundation in New Mexico. He was also active as a project consultant, teacher and clinician. The collection contains
material documenting his years in Germany and participation in the Nanga Parbat expeditions, but most of the items date from
his arrival in the United States in 1947. Material includes correspondence, much of it related to his research interests;
published and unpublished writings by Luft and others from the 1930s through the 1980s; Luft's experimental and reference
files containing notes, calculations, graphs and illustrations; photographs of Luft, his colleagues and family; photographs
and slides of equipment and people in research settings; and, medical instruments. The papers are arranged in nine series:
1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS BY ULRICH LUFT, 4) EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH MATERIAL, 5) TEACHING MATERIAL,
6) HIGH ALTITUDE EXPEDITIONS, 7) WRITINGS OF OTHERS, 8) MEDICAL APPARATUS, and 9) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
La Jolla, California 92093-0175
Collection number: MSS 0475
Language of Material:
Collection materials in English
Collection is open for research.
Ulrich Cameron Luft Papers, MSS 0475. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
The son of a Scottish mother and German father, Ulrich Cameron Luft was born in Berlin on April 25, 1910. He studied medicine
at the universities of Freiburg, Munich and Berlin, 1929-1935. After a year as an intern, he was licensed as a physician
and in 1937 completed a doctoral thesis on the physiological effects of oxygen deprivation.
Luft took part in the 1937 and 1938 German mountaineering expeditions to Nanga Parbat in the western Himalayas as research
physiologist and team physician. Impressed with the stamina of the Sherpa guides, he realized there were adaptive mechanisms
that could be studied. He collected data on the climbers, noting that tolerance to altitude increased over time and that
this acquired tolerance persisted after descent. This effect was important in the unpressurized aircraft of the time and
would become of vital importance during World War II.
Returning to Germany, Luft joined the Luftfahrtmedizinische Forschungsinstitut (Aero-Medical Research Institute) in Berlin
as head of its altitude physiology laboratory. He was drafted for military service in 1939 and spent three months in training,
then returned to civilian status as a researcher. In 1941 he married a colleague, Alice Hentzelt, and the following year
he was elected to the faculty at the University of Berlin. The requirements of military aviation focused Luft's research
on rapid decompression, diffusing capacity of the lungs and duration of consciousness at altitude. He was also a consultant
to the German military on thermal stress and nutrition.
The university and institute were closed when the war ended, and Luft started a private medical practice. When the university
reopened he was asked to become Acting Director of the Physiology Department. In April, 1947, Col. Harry Armstrong of the
U.S. Air Force offered Luft a research appointment at the Air Force School of Aviation Medicine at Randolph Field, Texas.
The offer was made under "Operation Paperclip," a program to bring German scientists to the United States.
Luft was a researcher at the School until 1954, when he was asked by Randolph Lovelace to head the Department of Physiology
at the Lovelace Clinic for Medical Education and Research in New Mexico. His research interests continued to center around
the effect of oxygen deficiency on body tissues, leading to his contributions in a variety of fields: pulmonary disease, exercise
tolerance, oxygen equipment design, and the testing and selection of the first Project Mercury astronauts in the early days
of the NASA space program.
A productive researcher and teacher with an extensive publication list and enduring ties with his former students, Luft received
many awards and was honored with a symposium after his retirement in 1980.
Ulrich Luft died on November 23, 1991, at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Scope and Content of Collection
The papers (1907-1991) of Ulrich Cameron Luft contain personal documents, correspondence, writings, reprints, subject files,
films, photographs, and small medical instruments. The bulk of the collection documents Ulrich Luft's professional life after
his arrival in the United States in 1947. The papers span the years 1907-1991, occupy 19.8 linear feet, and are arranged
in nine series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS BY ULRICH LUFT, 4) EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH MATERIAL,
5) TEACHING MATERIAL, 6) HIGH ALTITUDE EXPEDITIONS, 7) WRITINGS OF OTHERS, 8) MEDICAL APPARATUS, and 9) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION
Four series contain material reflecting Luft's personal and professional life in Germany. The BIOGRAPHICAL series includes
family and personal documents issued in pre-war, wartime and post-war Germany; Luft's WRITINGS series contains copies of most
of his own work, published and unpublished, in the period 1936-1944; the WRITINGS OF OTHERS includes published and unpublished
work of colleagues from these same years and earlier. The core of the HIGH ALTITUDE EXPEDITION series is formed by his Nanga
Parbat files. Many of the items in these four series are in German.
The material dated after his arrival in the United States in 1947 reflects his career as researcher, teacher and consultant.
The extensive Series EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH MATERIAL series includes Luft's notes and data on his own research, subject files
containing his annotated reprints of work done by others and illustrative material in several formats. This material characterizes
his research methods but has few connections with specific projects. The small series of TEACHING MATERIAL documents courses
in repiratory physiology for the period 1964-1980. Luft's teaching and consulting work is often referred to in the CORRESPONDENCE.
There is little documentation for his administrative responsibilities at the School of Aviation Medicine or the Lovelace Medical
SERIES 1: BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL
The BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL is arranged in three subseries: A) Germany, 1907-1947, B) United States, 1947-1989 and C) Family
Photographs and Slides.
A) Germany, 1907-1947, consists almost entirely of documents (originals or copies) related to Luft's family and his career.
B) United States, 1947-1989, contains a wider range of material, but largely parallels his employment history in the United
States. The travel requests and authorizations for the "Operation Paperclip" scientists indicate the security concerns of
C) Family Photographs and Slides contain formal and informal portraits of Ulrich Luft, snapshots of his family at their homes
in Texas and New Mexico, with other people, and during travel abroad.
SERIES 2: CORRESPONDENCE
The CORRESPONDENCE is arranged alphabetically, interfiling personal and business correspondents. Almost all letters date
from Luft's years in the United States, although he did retain those of two mountaineering groups, the Akademischer Alpenverein
Munchen and the Deutsche Himalaja Stiftung, as well as copies of his letters of farewell to colleagues in Berlin, "Abschied
von Berlin." He corresponded with friends and colleagues who had remained in Germany or had come to the United States (e.g.,
Bruno Balke, Erich Opitz, Hermann Rahn, Hubertus Strughold) and with an international group of colleagues and former students
(e.g., Per-Olaf Astrand, David Cardus-Pascual, Alberto Hurtado, Carlos Monge-Medrano, among others).
SERIES 3: WRITINGS BY ULRICH LUFT
Luft's WRITINGS are arranged in two subseries: A) Journal Articles and Papers, and B) NASA Research Reports.
A) Journal Articles and Papers are arranged alphabetically by title. Luft maintained numbered lists of his publications,
giving English translations for his German language works from the period 1936-1944. These lists begin the subseries, which
contains reprints of almost all of Luft's research publications, many accompanied by notes, graphs and drafts. Luft sometimes
kept related correspondence and reprints of work by others with his own publications, and this material has been kept with
Luft wrote reminiscences and memorial tributes to friends and former colleagues, including Bruno Balke, Hans Hartmann, William
R. Lovelace, and Erich Opitz, which were published or delivered as part of memorial services. These are interfiled by title,
as is his account of his time at the Aero-Medical Research Institute in Berlin, entitled "Luftfahrtmedizinische Forschungsinstitut,
Berlin, Erinnerungen, 1937-1945."
B) NASA Research Reports are in chronological order, 1967-1980, when Luft's laboratory was under contract to conduct specialized
physiological studies in support of manned space flight. He worked with Jack A. Loeppky, among others, and the reports were
prepared under Luft's supervision.
Luft's writings related to the Nanga Parbat expeditions are located in Series 6.
SERIES 4: EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH MATERIAL
The EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH MATERIAL series is arranged in six subseries according to type of material, following Luft's own
categorizations by format type and use: A) Notes and Data, B) Index Cards and Graphs, C) Pulmonary Function and Exercise
Data on U. Luft, D) Subject Files, E) Prints, Slides and Films, and F) Lantern Slides.
The first two subseries contain notes and data on his own experimental research and notes he made during his study of the
work of others.
A) Notes and Data are arranged alphabetically using Luft's own titles for his areas of research. Items in the folders are
varied and include handwritten and typescript notes, graphs, tables, charts, formulae, and calculations.
B) Index Cards and Graphs also use Luft's original titles for the notes and citations he made on cards and data recorded on
C) Pulmonary Function and Exercise Data on U. Luft is arranged chronologically. Luft often used himself as a subject, and
this subseries tracks his results for the years 1954-1980.
D) Subject Files primarily consist of copies and reprints of articles by other researchers with annotations by Luft. They
are arranged alphabetically using Luft's titles and occasionally contain correspondence and notes.
E) Prints, Slides and Films are arranged alphabetically, mostly under Luft's titles. They show research data, equipment,
people, and procedures.
F) Lantern Slides. These are arranged alphabetically using Luft's titles and also contain research related subject matter.
SERIES 5: TEACHING MATERIAL
The TEACHING MATERIAL is arranged alphabetically by course and contains lecture outlines and notes, reading lists, assignments,
graphs, and reprints. While Luft also had teaching and academic administration responsibilities early in his career, this
series documents the courses, mainly in respiratory physiology, for the years 1964-1980.
SERIES 6: HIGH ALTITUDE EXPEDITIONS
The HIGH ALTITUDE EXPEDITIONS are arranged alphabetically in four subseries, following the course of Luft's expedition experience
and lifelong interest: A) Nanga Parbat, 1937, B) Nanga Parbat, 1938, C) Nanga Parbat, 1942-1989, and D) Miscellaneous.
A) The Nanga Parbat, 1937, subseries consists of Luft's expedition notebooks and his written accounts of events on Nanga Parbat.
A typed transcription of the diary of Luft's close friend and colleague, Hans Hartmann, is in this subseries, along with newspaper
B) The Nanga Parbat, 1938, subseries contains Luft's expedition notebooks and descriptive accounts, weather data and the published
and unpublished accounts of others. Of particular interest is the 16 mm film, a documentary record of the return expedition.
C) The Nanga Parbat, 1942-1989, subseries contains Luft's later writings on the expeditions, including the 1988 article, "Medical
Research on Nanga Parbat, 1938," written at the invitation of the editor of the ANNALS OF SPORTS MEDICINE.
D) The Miscellaneous subseries contains an ice axe and photographs of a German high altitude research station in the Alps.
SERIES 7: WRITINGS OF OTHERS
Luft's original files of the WRITINGS OF OTHERS form the core of Series 7, which consists mainly of pre-1950 reprints published
in Germany, galley proofs of articles that remained unpublished because of the close of World War II, and unpublished research
reports. Most of these writings are in German. They are arranged alphabetically by author, with anonymous items interfiled
SERIES 8: MEDICAL APPARATUS
This series contains a variety of small medical instruments and measuring devices that belonged to Luft, many of German or
SERIES 9: ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES
The ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES series contains the originals of brittle or high acid content documents that have
MSS 444 John B. West Papers
MSS 445 Ulrich C. Luft Oral history [videorecording], between 1990-1991.
MSS 446 Deutsche Himalaja Expeditionen [videorecording], 1938.
MSS 451 Michael P. Ward Papers.
MSS 455 James S. Milledge Papers.
MSS 568 Bruno Balke Papers.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Luft, U. C. -- (Ulrich C.) -- Archives
USAF School of Aerospace Medicine. -- Dept. of Physiology
Altitude, Influence of
Mountaineering -- Pakistan -- Nanga Parbat
Mountaineering expeditions -- Himalaya Mountains
Physiology -- History
Physiologists -- Biography
Nanga Parbat (Pakistan)
Balke, Bruno, -- correspondent
Opitz, Erich, -- correspondent
Rahn, Hermann, 1912- -- correspondent
Åstrand, Per-Olof, -- correspondent
Hurtado, Alberto, 1901-1983, -- correspondent
Monge M., Carlos, -- (Monge Medrano), 1884- -- correspondent
West, John B. -- (John Burnard), -- correspondent
Houston, Charles S., -- correspondent
Dill, David Bruce, 1891- -- correspondent
NASA Advisory Council. -- Aerospace Medicine Advisory Committee, -- correspondent