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Spine and Orthopedic Historical Collections

University of Kansas Medical Center Archives and Clendening History of Medicine Library
Department of History and Philosophy of Medicine
2nd floor Robinson Hall

The Spine and Orthopedic Collections at the University of Kansas Medical Center contain a number of significant collections suitable for study by students and scholars interested in the history of orthopedic surgery in the United States.  The collections include:  The Scoliosis Research Society (SRS) Archives, The Paul R. Harrington, MD, Archives, The Leonard F. Peltier, MD, Archives, The Walter P. Blount, MD, Archives, and the Rex L. Diveley, MD, Archives.  Under separate housing in the Clendening History of Medicine Library are many books that arrived with and are complementary to these collections.

The above collections are now open and available for use by qualified researchers.  For further information or access to the collections contact Alex Welborn, Head Archivist, at 913-588-7243 or  The Eugene W. J. and Lunetta Pearce Fellowship is also available to provide some financial aid to qualified researchers interested in KUMC’s Spine and Orthopedic Historical Collections.  For further information on the Pearce Fellowship click here.

Paul Randall Harrington, MD Archives

Located separately on the second floor of Robinson Hall, this room preserves and maintains the professional papers of renowned orthopedist Paul R. Harrington, MD., 1911-1980.  Born on September 27, 1911, in Kansas City, Kansas, Harrington was proud of his Kansas public school education, culminating in graduation from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 1938.  He followed two years of surgical training with two years of orthopedic residency with Drs. Frank D. Dickson and Rex L. Diveley.  From 1942 to 1945 Harrington was chief of orthopedic surgery at the 77th Evacuation Hospital, serving in North Africa, Sicily and Europe.  Following WWII he and his family moved to Houston, Texas, to set up private practice.  As a result of spiraling numbers of patients due to the post-World War II polio epidemics, Harrington became immersed in the problem of post-polio scoliosis.  He worked with the Baylor College of Medicine and the National Infantile Paralysis Foundation to establish, in 1950, the Southwestern Respiratory Care Center.  This respiratory center was the first of its kind and would serve as a model for future centers in other parts of the country.

In the decade from 1950-1960, Dr. Harrington conceived and designed the spinal implant instruments that bear his name.  His was the first successful spinal instrumentation system, and, with few modifications, remained the most widely used system for about 25 years.  Over the years, Harrington became internationally recognized as an authority on scoliosis.  A founding member of the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS), he served as its president from 1972-1973.

Paul R. Harrington, MD, died on November 29, 1980, in Houston, Texas, where he had worked throughout his remarkable career.  Before his death, he requested that his professional papers be permanently preserved at his alma mater.

The Harrington Archives

The first contribution to the Spine and Orthopedic Historical Collections under the auspices of the University of Kansas Medical Center Archives, History and Philosophy of Medicine Department, was the Paul R. Harrington collection. Housed in a small, attractive archives room in the History and Philosophy of Medicine Department, the Harrington Archives contains professional papers, photographs, publications, manuscripts, blueprints, drawings, biographical information, presentations, professional and personal correspondence, movies, videotapes, and numerous examples of the spinal instrumentation that he developed.

For more information regarding the Harrington Archives please contact:

Alex Welborn, Head Archivist 

For an appointment or tour contact:

Douglas C. Burton, M.D.

Last modified: Mar 13, 2020