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Alfred C. Redfield papers

 Record Group
Identifier: MC-29

Scope and Content Note

The Alfred C. Redfield papers consist of 36 boxes of documents, 5 oversized boxes, maps, and photographs, from 1930-1980 (bulk 1950-1975) (23 linear feet). The files contain memorandum, letters, notes, charts, graphs, plots, calculations, computer analysis, newspaper and magazine clippings, reports, maps, data, photographs, draft manuscripts, field books, and lectures.


  • 1930-1980

Language of Materials

The records are in



Open: materials are available for research.


Copyright: Permission to publish material from the collection must be authorized by the Institution Archivist.

Biographical Information

Dr. Alfred C. Redfield (1890 - 1983) was born in Philadelphia into a distinguished family. His great-grandfather, William C. Redfield, a meteorologist and geologist as well as the first president of the American Association of the Advancement of Science, discovered the whirlwind character of hurricanes. John Howard Redfield, Alfred Redfield's grandfather, was a botanist, while his father, Robert Stuart Redfield was one of the earliest photographers of birds to capture his subjects in natural settings with natural attitudes. Dr. Redfield received his Ph. D. in Zoology from Harvard University in 1917, and joined the faculty of Harvard as Assistant Professor of Physiology in 1921. He retired from the University as Professor Emeritus in 1956, but remained scientifically active through the 1970s.

Dr. Redfield was one of the eight original appointees to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientific staff in 1930. While Redfield's early work had been spent on the chemistry of blood circulation, including studies of blood physiology comparing mammalian hemoglobin with hemocyanin (the "blue blood" of horseshoe crabs), his later studies at WHOI were more broadly based. He studied circulation in the Gulf of Maine; tidal phenomena in narrow embayments and the circulation and flushing of harbors; the use of deuterium as a tracer in fresh and salt water; and the biology, chemistry, and physics of salt marshes. In 1942, he was a primary contributor to the U. S. Navy's investigations into the prevention of marine fouling of ship bottoms.

Alfred Redfield was the recipient of the Agassiz Medal in 1956 and the Walker Prize in Natural History in 1973. He was awarded honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Oslo (1956), Lehigh University (1956), the University of Alaska (1965), and Memorial University of Newfoundland (1968).

Redfield held memberships in numerous professional associations, including the American Physiological Society, American Society of Limnology and Oceanography (president in 1956), and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He served as an Associate Director and Trustee of WHOI, and as a Trustee for the Marine Biological Laboratory, the Bermuda Biological Station for Research (also serving as president from 1962 - 1965) and the Marine Biological Associations of the United Kingdom and of India.

Dr. Redfield was very involved with issues concerning Cape Cod. He spoke against the storage of radioactive waste at Otis Air Force Base and for the preservation of local salt marshes. Redfield assisted in the establishment of the Town Forest in Falmouth, and served on the Board of the Woods Hole Library.


41 boxes (26 lin. ft.)


The Alfred C. Redfield papers span the years 1930-1980, and contain memoranda, letters, notes, charts, graphs, plots, calculations, computer analysis, newspaper and magazine clippings, reports, maps, data, photographs, draft manuscripts, field books, and lectures.


Dr. Redfield collected data for years or even decades on a particular subject, producing various papers, articles, and manuscripts based on these data. In some cases, data were appended with additional observations and were re-evaluated over time, with the result being multiple papers and articles that were produced from essentially the same data set. In other cases, papers, articles, and manuscripts were based on a discrete set of data. This distinction between discrete sets of data and data used over a period of time to produce multiple papers guided the arrangement of each series.

The papers were divided into fifteen series:

Custodial History

The Redfield family donated the Alfred C. Redfield papers to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Data Library and Archives (DLA).

Acquisitions Information

In December 1980, Dr. Redfield's wife, Martha Redfield, donated photographs, maps, charts, some data, architectural plans, and records of sale of property to WHOI. Elizabeth (Redfield) Marsh, Redfield's daughter, arranged for the donation of the remainder of the papers, which were received in the DLA in July 1983.

Related Material

The Data Library and Archives holds copies of oral history interviews with Redfield by: Elizabeth Marsh, his daughter, 1973; Elsa Keil Sichel and John Roslansky, Woods Hole Historical Collection, 8/8/1974; Connie Martina, Woods Hole Historical Collection Conversations series, 8/8/1974; and Robert Calvert, Texas A&M University, 8/18/1977. Additional material may be found in the Records of the Office of the Director (AC 9), including correspondence which gives details on Redfield's advice to Henry Bigelow on the founding of an oceanographic institution and on Redfield's decision to come to the Institution, as well as administrative and scientific points that they discussed while working together (Bigelow, Box 2). Other material in the Records of the Office of the Director may be found in Smith (Boxes 16 and 20) and Fye (Boxes 24 and 28).

The DLA's general collections contain Redfield materials, as noted above.

Dr. Redfield's son, Dr. Alfred G. Redfield, donated the Alfred C. Redfield papers, c. 1910 - 1973, (approximately 5 linear feet, not including manuscript material) to the Harvard University Archives.

Separated Material

Much of the material that was donated in 1980 was integrated immediately into the general Archives collections. This included, but is not limited to, aerial photographs of Cape Cod; topographic maps of New England, Washington state, and California; nautical charts of Cape Cod; and architectural plans of Dr. and Mrs. Redfield's house, which they sold to the Institution. A complete list may be found in the DLA's donor files regarding the Alfred C. Redfield papers.

The 1983 donation included copies of more than 80 scientific publications by Dr. Redfield. This material was integrated into the Library's printed material. An undetermined number of lantern slides accompanied the 1983 donation as well, and apparently were integrated into the collection immediately.

In 1983, the Archivist gave 36 folders of material to three local institutions. The Woods Hole Historical Society received a folder on the Woods Hole School and a folder on the Woods Hole Library. The Falmouth Historical Society received the following folders: Falmouth Sewers, 1927-1948; Selectmen - Manager Government Papers, Steering Committee, 1956-1961; Massachusetts Audubon Society - Deeds to land given by people around Falmouth, 1961-1963; Falmouth Historical Society; Salt Pond Area Bird Sanctuaries, Inc., Correspondence, 1958-1978; Falmouth Hospital, General, 1961-1965; and Falmouth Hospital Association Bylaws, 1959-1963. Finally, the Falmouth Conservation Commission received 14 folders of Meeting Minutes, 1961-1976, as well as 13 other folders of material relating to the Falmouth Conservation Commission, including several maps of Sippewissett Marsh Acquisitions. A complete list may be found in the DLA's donor files regarding the Alfred C. Redfield papers.

Processing Information

Processed in 2001 by Stuart Culy. The papers were put into acid-free folders and boxes and labeled. Acidic and fragile papers were photocopied. Glue and other adhesives affected many materials. Metal clips and staples were removed. Oversized items, photographs, and data were segregated from the collection. Data obtained from WHOI vessels was placed with other cruise information in the DLA, either arranged by ship and cruise number or by project. Photographs were placed with the image collection in the archives vault. Maps, charts, and plots were placed with manuscript collection maps, arranged by scientist. Other oversized materials were placed at the end of the collection. Original order of the collection could not be determined. Original folder titles were kept when known.

Every draft of "The evolution of Pilgrim Lake" was kept, contrary to usual archival weeding practices, because each draft is dated, many drafts have documenting correspondence, and these drafts are an extraordinary example showing the creation of a manuscript over the course of many years.

A Guide to the the Alfred C. Redfield papers, 1930-1980
Stuart Culy
July 2001
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written inEnglish

Repository Details

Part of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Data Library and Archives Repository