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Henry Borsook Papers

Identifier: 10101-MS

Scope and Content

The Henry Borsook papers consist of correspondence, manuscripts, and notes from his time as professor of biochemistry.


  • Creation: 1958-1983


Language of Materials



Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.


Henry Borsook, 1897-1984, was a Professor of Biochemistry at Caltech from 1929 to 1968. His major contributions were in the areas of protein synthesis and nutrition. At Caltech, Borsook was twice chairman of the faculty, chaired the student health committee for many years, and sponsored the Anaximandrian Society at his home. Borsook's interest in proteins led him, in the early 1930s, to a new theory about their metabolism. At that time, scientists believed the proteins were probably very stable; Borsook demonstrated there was a continual interchange of proteins. His 1940 book, Vitamins: What They Are and What They Will Do for You, was among the first to present contemporary nutritional ideas to a popular audience. Borsook showed that a good diet consisted not of "food" but of certain amounts of specific nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, calories, and the like. During World War II he served on the Food and Nutrition Board, and helped to draw up the table of Recommended Daily Allowances. At this time he also developed multipurpose food (MPF), an enriched meal based on soybeans. The Meals for Millions Foundation, of which Borsook was a co-founder and long-time trustee, distributed MPF first to post-war Europe and later to underdeveloped areas. Throughout his lifetime, Borsook championed the idea that a good diet was not tied to eating specific foods, but could be scientifically manufactured. After retiring from Caltech in 1968, Henry Borsook moved his laboratory to U. C. Berkeley where he continued working until the late 1970s.


2.5 linear feet (5 boxes)


The Henry Borsook Papers cover the years 1958 to 1983, but significant gaps are present. Section 1 is incoming and outgoing correspondence primarily covering the years 1960 to 1965. It illustrates several facets of Borsook's career, including his relationships with colleagues, graduate students, and the food and vitamin industry, most notably with the American Institute of Baking and Miles Laboratories. Section 2 provides manuscripts and notes, including notes for talks given in the 1970s on food and international development. It shows the breadth of Borsook's interests and contains his book reviews and writings on medical history and on art history. Section 3 contains papers from the late 1970s and early 1980s related to the Meals for Millions Foundation. At the end of the collection is a small amount of biographical material, some reprints, slides, and several books on food and nutrition with annotations made by Borsook.

This collection came to the Archives in two parts. The correspondence files from the 1960s were found on campus by Professor Ray Owen and deposited in 1989. The manuscripts, Meals for Millions Foundation materials, books, slides and later materials were a gift from Eve Borsook made in 1990.

For further information related to Borsook's life see his oral history and the Papers of the Anaximandrian Society.

Books of Henry Borsook

Some of the books that were given to Caltech in the Borsook collection have been merged with the Archives' landmark book collection.

  1. Borsook, Henry. Der Hungrige kann nicht warten. Berlin: Deutsche Buch-Gemeinschaft, 1968. (signed Henry Borsook)
  2. Borsook, Henry. Vitaminas. Qué son y cómo pueden beneficiarlo a Usted. Buenos Aires: Libreia Hachette, 1942. (signed Henry Borsook)
  3. Borsook, Henry. Vitamins. What They Are and How They Can Benefit You. New York: Viking Press, 1941. (signed Henry Borsook)
  4. Fisher, James W., ed. Erythropoietin. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 149, pp. 1-583. New York: The New York Academy of Sciences, 1968. (notes and underlined passages by Borsook)
  5. Frankel, Francine R. India's Green Revolution. Economic Gains and Political Costs. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1971. (signed H. Borsook)
Guide to the Henry Borsook Papers, 1958-1983
Processed by Jennifer K. Stine; machine-readable finding aid created by Brooke Dykman Dockter
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Repository Details

Part of the California Institute of Technology Archives and Special Collections Repository

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MC B215-74
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