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Harper-Hart Correspondence collection

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MS-26

Scope and Contents

The collection contains 53 letters exchanged by Dr. Andrew Hart of UVa Hospital and Dr. Richard Harper in Devon, England from 1956 to 1975. In addition to the letters between Dr. Hart and Dr. Harper, the collection includes three journal articles, a letter to the journal editor, preface to Harper's book, Evolutionary Origins of Disease, summary of an unknown book, box list, glossary, and letters between Andrew Hart and Peter Harper, son of Richard Harper.


  • Creation: 1956 - 1975

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to research.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restrictions.

Biographical / Historical

The Harper-Hart collection is composed of letters between two doctors who shared a belief in the use of the theory of evolution in the treatment of disease. The collection starts with a letter of Dr. Andrew Hart at UVa Hospital to Dr. Richard Harper in England on September 11, 1956. In the letter, Hart expressed his deep interest in Harper's paper,"Allergy and Other Stress-Condition Illness" that had been published in 1953. This letter as a beginning, they started to exchange their ideas as well as books and articles across the Atlantic for twenty years.

Realizing the persistence of the evolutionary origins in all diseases, Dr. Hart and Dr. Harper believed that "evolution" should be used by the physicians as it is backed up by people outside medicine. They thought that the physicians should apply the theory of evolutionary genetics to the established disciplines of the management of disease to find out the cause of disease and cure the patients.

Dr. Andrew Hart and Dr. Richard Harper were influenced by the evolutionist thinkers in this period such as George Crile, Lang Stevenson, George Gaylord Simpson, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Loren Eisley, and Ernst Mayr. Dr. Hart and Dr. Harper have inherited the ideas of these famous thinkers by exchanging their books and articles. With the inspiration from the thinkers as well as the encouragement and advice from Hart, Richard Harper published Evolution and Illness in 1961 and Evolutionary Origins of Disease in 1975. The preface to Harper? book, Evolutionary Origins of Disease well summarizes the belief shared by Hart and Harper: "I express my hope that colleagues, each in his own field, will use the theory of evolution to clarify our all too scanty knowledge of the origins of disease, to the better understanding of why our patients become ill, and to the more speedy relief of human suffering."

In addition to scholarly exchange, the two shared friendship: Dr. and Mrs. Hart visited Dr. Harper in England in 1961, and when Peter Harper, son of Richard Harper was working for the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Harp took care of him.

Dr. Andrew Hart, whose widow donated the collection, was Professor of Clinical Medicine and Director of the Student Health Service at UVa. He organized and developed the student health department at the University of Virginia in 1938 and served as head until 1973. He is also remembered as a pioneer in studying psychosomatic medicine.


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Files are arranged by chronological order.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Mrs. Hart donated the collection

Physical Description

One Hollinger Box of processed materials1 arbitrary_unit


Processed by:
Jiyoun Lee, Historical Collections Staff
A Guide to the Harper-Hart Correspondence
Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
July 15, 2005
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
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Repository Details

Part of the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library Repository

Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
1300 Jefferson Park Avenue
P.O. Box 800722
Charlottesville Virginia 22908-0722 United States