Forbes, William H., 1902-1995.

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William H. Forbes (1902-1995), Ph.D., 1931, Cambridge University, England; MD, 1952, Johns Hopkins University, was a researcher specializing in environmental physiology, including respiration and metabolism, and a Harvard School of Public Health educator. Between 1930 and 1947, Forbes worked for the Harvard Fatigue Laboratory, a laboratory of human physiology at the Harvard Business School, Boston, Massachusetts.

William Hathaway Forbes was born in Milton, Massachusetts in 1902 and attended Milton Academy and Harvard College. Forbes joined the staff of the Harvard Fatigue Laboratory (the "Lab”) in 1930 and in 1935 served as a member of the Lab’s International High Altitude Expedition to Aucanquilcha in the Chilean Andes, an expedition staffed by David Bruce Dill (then the “unofficial” director of the Lab) and Ancel Keyes (the expedition leader). This expedition was undertaken to study blood chemistry, the effects of exercise on respiration and circulation, and mental impairments at high altitudes. Forbes was later appointed the Assistant, and then Acting, Director of the Harvard Fatigue Laboratory from 1940 to 1947, with responsibility for the Lab’s research and financing. The Lab was contracted by the United States War Department to make recommendations on living conditions for military personnel operating in extreme hot and cold environments, including those related to clothing, nutrition, and survival gear. Despite efforts to relocate the Lab to the Harvard School of Public Health after the war, Forbes oversaw its disbanding in 1947.

After the Lab closed, Forbes moved to the Harvard School of Public Health, where he served as physiology lecturer, Assistant to the Dean, and faculty advisor to foreign students. From 1949 to 1951, Forbes worked for the Ludlow Jute Company in Calcutta, India, studying working conditions, and later served as scientific attaché to the United States Embassy in Paris. He was a visiting professor at the Pahlavi School of Medicine in Shiraz, Iran from 1967 to 1969.

Forbes was married to Anne Pappenheimer Forbes, a noted endocrinology researcher at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. They had five children: Andrea, Elise, Beatrice, Peter, and Anthony. Forbes died in 1995 at age 92.

From the guide to the Papers, 1941-1978 (inclusive), 1948-1957 (bulk)., (Center for the History of Medicine. Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf William H. Forbes papers, 1941-1978 (inclusive), 1948-1957 (bulk) Harvard University, Medical School, Countway Library
creatorOf Papers, 1941-1978 (inclusive), 1948-1957 (bulk). Center for the History of Medicine. Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.
referencedIn Harvard Fatigue Laboratory. Harvard Fatigue Laboratory records, 1916-1952 (inclusive), 1941-1947 (bulk). Harvard University, Medical School, Countway Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Anawon Pulp and Lumber Company corporateBody
associatedWith Council on Foreign Relations, Group on Climate and Economic Development in the Tropics. corporateBody
associatedWith Dill, David Bruce, 1891- person
associatedWith Harvard Fatigue Laboratory. corporateBody
associatedWith Harvard School of Public Health. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Council on Foreign Relations
Forests and forestry
Harvard School of Public Health


Birth 1902

Death 1995

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SNAC ID: 73231303