Skip to main content
To request boxes, please see the Reference Librarian to submit the collection and box number(s) via LocatorPlus.

American-Soviet Medical Society Records

 Collection
Identifier: MS C 470

Abstract

Correspondence, receipts, financial records, film descriptions, and journal publication editorial files documenting the activities of the American-Soviet Medical Society generated by Robert Leslie as the Society's business manager and an incomplete copy of the FBI's file on Leslie and the society.

Dates

  • 1941-1987 (bulk 1941-1951)

Extent

15.84 Linear Feet (15 boxes)

Creator

Abstract

Correspondence, receipts, financial records, film descriptions, and journal publication editorial files documenting the activities of the American-Soviet Medical Society generated by Robert Leslie as the Society's business manager and an incomplete copy of the FBI's file on Leslie and the society.

Physical Location

Materials stored onsite. History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access.

Copyright and Re-use Information

Donor's copyrights were transferred to the public domain. Archival collections often contain mixed copyrights; while NLM is the owner of the physical items, permission to examine collection materials is not an authorization to publish. These materials are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. It is the user's responsibility to research and understand any applicable copyright and re-publication rights not allowed by fair use. NLM does not grant permissions to publish.

Privacy Information

Archives and manuscript collections may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in any collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications for which the National Library of Medicine assumes no responsibility.

Historical Note

The American-Soviet Medical Society to Exchange Medical Information, known informally as the American-Soviet Medical Society, was founded in New York City in 1943. The society's major objective was to keep American physicians informed of Soviet medical advances, believing that these advances had not been adequately publicized in the United States. Local chapters also emerged in cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, Miami, and San Francisco. These local chapters performed similar functions as the New York office. In addition, like other national organizations (such as the National Council on Soviet-American Friendship to which many of the leaders of the society also belonged), the American-Soviet Medical Society sought to improve relations between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. As the original World War II alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union transformed itself into a cold war, however, membership plummeted and the Society ran out of funds; it was disbanded in 1949.

The American-Soviet Medical Society maintained an extensive collection of Soviet medical periodicals in its library and loaned its collection of Soviet medical films to groups and individuals around the country. It also published a journal, the American-Soviet Medical Review, in which the work of Soviet physicians was publicized and published in translation. Historian Henry E. Sigerist served as its chief editor. The Society also distributed and promoted some of Sigerist's publications; it held the copyright to his monograph Medicine and Health in the Soviet Union.

Prominent among the American-Soviet Medical Society's leaders was its business manager, Robert Lincoln Leslie. Most accounts of his life relate that Leslie was born in New York of a Lithuanian mother and a Scottish father in 1885 and that he earned a medical degree from Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1912 before going into business. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) records acquired by the National Library of Medicine in 1991 under the Freedom of Information Act, however, suggest that Leslie was born in 1891 of Lithuanian parents and that he never earned a medical degree. However, these FBI records are incomplete, encompassing only a few hundred pages of a seven-hundred-page file on Leslie.

As business manager, Leslie oversaw the American-Soviet Medical Society's finances, subscriptions to the Review, and the circulation of its films. A good friend of Sigerist's, Leslie also arranged to have the Society promote Sigerist's books. Like other Americans who held liberal or leftist political beliefs at that time, Leslie and the Society were investigated by the FBI throughout the 1940s for signs of overt Marxism and disloyalty. However, according to the Library's incomplete copy of Leslie's file, no evidence linking the society or Leslie to illegal acts was ever uncovered.

After the Society's demise, Leslie went on to start the Composing Room, a graphic-arts concern, and became a prominent businessman. Papers relating to his printing business are found in the New York City Technical College library. Leslie died in 1987.

Collection Summary

Correspondence, receipts, financial records, film descriptions, and journal publication editorial files document the activities of the American-Soviet Medical Society generated by Robert Leslie as the Society's business manager. The papers have been organized into five series: a biographical series (containing the FBI materials), a series for administrative files, a series for subject files, a series for the American Review of Soviet Medicine, and a series for film correspondence and transcripts. The material dates from the entire period of the Society's existence (1943-1949) and beyond, although there is more from the Society's later years than from its early years.

While the incomplete FBI files contained in the first series do not give a full characterization of Leslie or of the Society, they do provide the historian with a vivid and sometimes colorful account of the government's investigations of liberal and leftist groups during the Cold War's early years. In addition to the biographical information in this collection about Leslie, researchers may also wish to consult an oral history interview between Leslie and the National Park Service relating to Leslie's work with the Public Health Service on Ellis Island. A copy of the transcript of the interview is located with the oral history collections of the National Library of Medicine.

The administrative files in the second series give a comprehensive picture of the changes in the Society's financial health that occurred as the Soviet Union reverted back from U.S. ally to enemy. The business correspondence, arranged alphabetically by surname of correspondent, is mostly routine exchanges regarding subscriptions, though other segments are devoted to local Society chapters, annual meetings, and operation of the Society's library. The financial files would be useful to the researcher as an indicator of the Society's fiscal health through the years.

The subject files contain extensive and important correspondence between Leslie and Henry Sigerist, as well as some files regarding the Society's promotion of Sigerist's Medicine and Health in the Soviet Union, including a copy of this book, autographed by Sigerist especially for Society members. Embassy correspondence and exchanges of literature illustrate the Society's direct interactions with the U.S.S.R. Accounts of Leslie's trip to the Soviet Union are also located in this series, as well as Progressive Party and Congress of American Women materials belonging to Sarah Greenberg, M.D., Leslie's wife.

The American Review of Soviet Medicine series provides drafts, correspondence, clippings, abstracts, translations, and printed versions of complete journal issues and reprints generated by the Society. Some material identifying translators, authors, reprints, and exchange arrangements were recorded on index cards (a significant part of AMSOV's work was hiring locals with language skills to translate the Russian language articles). These index cards may be particularly valuable to researchers as they contain comprehensive information exceeding the actual journal editions present in the collection.

The files on the Society's collection of Soviet medical films (the collection does not contain any of the actual films themselves) contain mostly routine correspondence, arranged alphabetically by film title, and the typed transcripts of the films provide some insight into their contents.

Provenance

Gift, New York City Technical College, 1988/2003, Acc. #499/2003-020; Walter Lear, 1992, Acc. #714; Jeffrey Wollock, 2014, Acc. #2014-029.

Officials at the New York City Technical College library, home of other personal papers belonging to Robert Leslie, initially donated the materials on the American-Soviet Medical Society. Orders from individuals and from libraries for Sigerist's Medicine and Health in the Soviet Union were discarded, as was an incomplete collection of clippings on Soviet medicine and a set of card files on Russian translators. NLM acquired the FBI investigation files via a FOIA request in 1991 as part of the background research performed during the initial collection processing.

General

Processed by
Francesca C. Morgan, Peter B. Hirtle, Jim Labosier
Processing Completed
1991; January 2017
Encoded by
Dan Jenkins; Jim Labosier

Language of Materials

Collection materials primarily in English

Title
Finding Aid to the American-Soviet Medical Society Records, 1941-1987 (bulk 1941-1951)
Status
Unverified Partial Draft
Author
Francesca C. Morgan, Peter B. Hirtle, Jim Labosier
Date
1991; January 2017
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English
Edition statement
2.0

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Archives and Modern Manuscripts Collection Collecting Area

Contact:
8600 Rockville Pike
Bldg 38/1E-21, MSC 3819
Bethesda MD 20894 US
(301) 402-8878