Catalogue of the papers of TORKEL WEIS-FOGH (1922 - 1975) Zoologist
|Title:||Catalogue of the papers of TORKEL WEIS-FOGH (1922 - 1975) Zoologist|
However, the collection still comprises a very full range of working papers, photographs and data and some unpublished material. Weis-Fogh kept some correspondence with the papers to which it related, and this has been left in place; general scientific correspondence is presented in alphabetical order in Section G and an index of correspondents will be found on pp. 108-120.
Titles and descriptions in inverted commas are those which appear on the documents. Danish titles are usually translated or summarised for the benefit of the English reader.
|Held by:||Cambridge University Library: Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, not available at The National Archives|
A. BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL: A.1 - A.30
B. EARLY WORK AND RESEARCH ON LOCUST FLIGHT, 1941-58 B.1 - B.143
B.1 - B.49 Early research and work in August Krogh's laboratory
B.50 - B.66 Work on locust flight muscle
B.67 - B.143 Material relating to the 'Biology and Physics of Locust Flight'
C. RESEARCH IN COPENHAGEN, 1957-66 C.1 - C.103
C.1 - C.11 Early work on resilin
C.12 - C.30 Other research (mainly on insect physiology)
C.31 - C.103 Research on the properties of resilin and elastomers in insects
D. RESEARCH IN CAMBRIDGE, 1966-75 D.1 - D.62
D.1 - D.34 Research on resilin and elastin
D.35 Material relating to the Biological Microprobe Laboratory
D.36 - D.39 Research on 'Intracellular and extracellular matrix proteins'
D.40 - D.57 Research on animal flight
D.58 - D.62 Project for research on 'Fluid dynamics in biology'
E. LECTURES, ADDRESSES, PUBLICATIONS, 1948-76 E.1 - E.75
F. CONFERENCES, VISITS, LECTURE TOURS, 1955-75 F.1 - F.76
G. CORRESPONDENCE G.1 - G.197
List of publications
Index of correspondents
Weis-Fogh's papers were received from the Department of Zoology, by courtesy of Dr. D.A. Parry, Head of the Department, in instalments during 1978 after the removal of departmental material or that related to continuing research projects. This meant that Weis-Fogh's ordering, especially of the later correspondence, had been broken and there are some omissions (see especially Section D).
Torkel Weis-Fogh was born in Aarhus, Denmark, in 1922, the son of a banker and accountant. In 1940 he became a student at Copenhagen University and his earliest researches were in soil microbiology. However, in 1947 he started work as research assistant to the distinguished Danish physiologist and Nobel prizewinner August Krogh, and the study of the desert locust Schistocerca Gregaria, begun in Krogh's laboratory, was to occupy Weis-Fogh for much of his life.
After Krogh's death in 1949, Weis-Fogh continued as head of the laboratory until 1953, amassing a wealth of data relating to the flight mechanics of the desert locust (see Section B). A year at the Copenhagen Institute of Neurophysiology was followed by four years at Cambridge with a Rockefeller Fellowship followed by a Balfour Studentship. At the end of this period Weis-Fogh wrote to Sir James Gray: 'Hanne [Weis-Fogh's first wife] and I know very well how much we have to thank you and Lady Gray for. Cambridge just reshaped us and in such a pleasant way that we did not protest in the process. It was an immensely valuable time for us and one we shall never forget and often remember'. (See CSAC.65.3.79/G.47.)
During his last year at Cambridge, in the course of his research into the workings of insect flight muscle, Weis-Fogh isolated a new type of rubber-like protein in insect cuticle. The discovery was announced at the XVth International Congress of Zoology, July 1958 (see CSAC.65.3.79/B.136), and the protein was later named 'resilin' (from the Latin resilire - to spring back). Both the work surrounding the discovery of resilin and subsequent research into its physical and chemical properties are well documented in this collection. See especially Section C.
The years 1958-66 were spent in Copenhagen as Professor of Zoophysiology (a chair specially created for Weis-Fogh), and most of his research during that time was concentrated on analysing the new protein. In 1966 he returned to Cambridge as Professor of Zoology and Head of the Department of Zoology, and this position enabled him to pursue several related research interests simultaneously (see introduction to Section D). An investigation into the mode of formation of insect cuticle, mainly carried out during 1967 - 69, led to a study of the molecular basis of resilin and elastin, and the discovery of a new contractile mechanism in the spasmonemes of protozoa. In connection with these studies Weis-Fogh was also instrumental in the setting up of the Biological Microprobe Laboratory, Department of Zoology, Cambridge, to develop techniques of electron-probe X-ray microanalysis on frozen-hydrated soft biological material. These projects are not so well documented as Weis-Fogh's earlier work, since much of the research was continued after his death.
Weis-Fogh never lost his early interest in the problems of insect flight and he returned to them with renewed vigour during this period. In 1973 he published a paper containing a mathematical explanation for the flight of very small insects which orthodox aerodynamic theory had been unable to account for. For background material to this paper see CSAC.65.3.79/D.48 - CSAC.65.3.79/D.53. This discovery was named by Sir James Lighthill 'the Weis-Fogh mechanism of lift generation'. Weis-Fogh was to have collaborated with Lighthill in a major project to study biological fluid dynamics, but plans for this were interrupted by his death. For material relating to this see CSAC.65.3.79/D.58 - CSAC.65.3.79/D.62.
Unhappily, in 1971 Weis-Fogh's wife was killed in a car accident in which he himself was badly injured. Although he returned to his laboratory after only a few months and was committed to extensive research projects, it seems unlikely that he ever recovered from the shock and bereavement, or indeed from the physical damage which he sustained. The correspondence for 1972-75 documents several relapses of health during this period (see especially CSAC.65.3.79/F.45, CSAC.65.3.79/F.61, CSAC.65.3.79/F.65), and the obituary of Weis-Fogh by E. Bredsdorff (see CSAC.65.3.79/A.1) mentions bouts of depression that at times 'could be so deep that we feared for his life'. Sadly these fears turned out to be only too well-founded, and Weis-Fogh committed suicide in Cambridge on 13 November 1975.
To the end of his life Weis-Fogh retained strong links with Denmark. He remained a Danish citizen (see CSAC.65.3.79/A.9) and maintained a cottage at Tibirke to which he returned whenever he could. He was bilingual and when thinking on paper would transfer at random from English to Danish and back again. Much of the material in the collection is in Danish and this has normally been indicated in the catalogue. He also maintained close links with colleagues in the United States. In 1961 he was invited to give the Prather Lectures in Biology at Harvard
University, and his subsequent tour of universities and laboratories in the US provided many valuable contacts with whom he continued to maintained close ties through correspondence and through meetings at conferences and symposia (see Sections F and G).
|Immediate Source Of Acquisition:||
Compiled by: Jeannine Alton and Julia Latham-Jackson
The help of Mr. George Mewis and Mr. Barry Fuller in identifying photographs and documents, and of Dr. P.C.H.Wernberg-Moller in advising on some of the Danish material is gratefully acknowledged."
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