The Academic Health Center History Project documents and preserves the institutional memory and historical events that chronicle the development of health sciences education and research at the University of Minnesota.

A home for Dr. Robert Meyer

In the February 13, 1939 issue of Time Magazine, an article described the plight of Jewish physicians in Germany. The Nazi government revoked their licenses and asked many to leave the country all together. The response in the United States included a fear by some that emigrating physicians would compete with U.S. doctors while others created support networks to find homes for their European counterparts.

During the spring of 1939, Dr. John L. McKelvey received notice from Germany that his colleague and mentor, Dr. Robert O. Meyer, would soon become one of the displaced. Dr. McKelvey, who became the first full-time department head for obstetrics and gynecology the previous year, set out to secure Dr. Meyer a position at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Meyer, a world renowned pathologist, had a full career in Germany. In 1935, at the age of seventy-one, the Nazi government relieved him of his position at his university. With support of his colleagues he remained unofficially on staff and continued to conduct research and collect consultation fees. In December of 1938 the Nazi Ministry of the Interior informed him he would no longer be able to remain in Germany.

By the end of May 1939, Dr. McKelvey secured approval from Dean Diehl and President Ford as well as the Board of Regents to send an official letter of offer to Dr. Meyer. Funding for the position came from a variety of sources. The primary source was the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Medical Scientists (New York) who provided $1,500 per year for two years. The American Gynecological Society and its members provided $1,309. The Manhattan Research Foundation provided $500. Various friends and associates raised $648. Additional funds raised from lectureship fees added to the overall amount needed to fund his research position. The total of this revenue established the Robert Meyer Clinical Associate Professorship Fund in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Minnesota.

On September 1, 1939, Dr. Meyer, then seventy-five years old, and his wife planned to fly out of Berlin but could not due to the Nazi invasion of Poland. Instead, they took a train to the Netherlands to meet their ship to the U.S. After a brief stay in New York, they arrived in Minneapolis on September 21.

From 1939 until 1947 Dr. Meyer actively participated in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology as a researcher. He also worked with the Minnesota State Board of Health as a part-time obstetrics pathologist with their home deliver training.

Dr. Meyer passed away at the age of eighty-three in 1947 after having retired from the University of Minnesota in June. Before he died he wrote the Autobiography of Dr. Robert Meyer: A Short Abstract of a Long Life serialized in the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences.

Several documents related to the establishment of the Robert Meyer Fund and Dr. McKelvey’s letter offering Dr. Meyer the position at the University of Minnesota are available below.


Dear Patient _________:

img0061.jpgThe University of Minnesota Hospitals was established for the welfare of the state – and thus for your welfare.

So begins the introductory remarks of the patient pocket guidebook “For Your Health” given to each one of the estimated 13,000 annual patients treated at the University Hospitals in the late 1950s. The pocket guide gives information on hospital meal times and local area restaurants, visiting hours, billing and insurance, and what to expect when discharged.

The guide also explains the roles of individual staff members including doctors, medical students, nurses, dietitians, medical technologists, occupational and physical therapists, and social workers as well as what services to expect during a stay ranging from TV rentals to appointments with a visiting barber.

The language and illustrations of the pocket guide differ from today’s approach to educate visitors about the hospitals and clinics. Even the media has changed to online virtual tours to educate patients and families about what to expect.

Browse through the pocket guide “For Your Health” below.


Frequently asked questions

What happens to the stuff I send to the archives?

Part III. Accessioning and Description

After materials arrive at the archives (Part I. Sending Materials to the Archives) and undergo a physical arrangement process (Part II. Initial Processing and Physical Arrangement) the collection is accessioned into the archives and a description of the materials is written to aid collection management and researcher access.

Accessioning is a formal process of taking physical custody of the materials and recording the date the materials arrived, contact information for the donor, the size of the collection upon arrival, a brief description of the materials, and any special considerations or needs that the collection will require during processing.

The description process is primarily the creation of a finding aid for the collection. Finding aids are an archival tool that attempts to facilitate access and explain the materials in their historical context. In its most basic form, finding aids provide easily readable summarized information about the collection. More detailed finding aids act as an outline for the collection and allow researchers and archivists to learn more information about the materials before looking in the boxes.

Older finding aids (pre 1990s) are often typed sheets of paper. After the introduction of the desktop computer and the WWW to the archival work flow, finding aids were written in popular desktop publishing programs and made available online using html markup or PDFs. By the late 1990s, archivists developed an encoding mechanism using SGML and later XML to create a standardized structure for electronic delivery. The standard, known as Encoded Archival Description (EAD), is commonly accepted as the preferred professional description format and allows finding aids to be discovered using popular search engines (Google) and library catalogs.

Snippet of EAD encoding

The material collected and described through the AHC History Project will follow these professional standards and will be available for users through either the University Archives web site or the University Libraries’ online database for University of Minnesota finding aids. Paper copies of all finding aids are also available at the University Archives for in-person use.

At this point, after accessioning and description, the materials will be physically stored in the caverns beneath Andersen Library. When a person identifies materials through the use of a finding aid or through a conversation with staff members at the archives, the boxes will be pulled and brought to a secure reading room for use.