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Elof Carlson Collection

Identifier: EAC

Scope and Content

The Elof Carlson Collection is comprised of personal and professional material accrued by Dr. Carlson primarily during his professional academic career from 1958-2000. Professionally, Dr. Carlson was a professor, a geneticist, and a historian of genetics and the materials reflect these interests. The collection includes course notebooks, lecture notes and teaching files, scientific papers, correspondence, photographs, personal diaries, memorabilia, clippings, and material related to Dr. Carlson’s seminal biography Genes, Radiation and Society about his mentor, Dr. Hermann Muller. Hermann J. Muller (1890-1967) was a Nobel Prize winning geneticist who first showed that exposure to radiation would produce mutations in living organisms. Elof Carlson was his student at the University of Indiana and they became lifelong friends.

Record Group I: Personal Papers

  1. Biographical Material, 1918-1999
  2. Ephemera, 1930-2017
  3. Articles, 1966-2001
  4. Photographs, 1930-1999
  5. Subject Files, 1957-1997
  6. Manuscripts, 1965-1999
  7. Reprints, 1897-2013
  8. Diaries, 1955-2022
  9. Laboratory Notebooks, 1995-1985
  10. Correspondence, 1953-2013
  11. Conferences and Talks, 1993-2015
  12. Stony Brook University, 1966-2001
  13. Writings, 1952-2019
  14. Confidential, 1975-2016
  15. Audio Visual, 2003-2004

Record Group II: Muller Biography Materials

  1. Muller Research Files: Source Documents on Hermann J. Muller's Life and Muller Biography Materials, 1949, 1981-1982
  2. Muller Manuscript Drafts: Documents on the Writing of Muller Biography, 1981

Record Group III: 2020 Accession

  1. Diaries, 1950-2019
  2. Laboratory Notebooks, 1958-1986
  3. Correspondence, 1950-1982
  4. Hermann Muller, 1939-1987
  5. Writings, 1953-2015
  6. Reprints, 1866-2002
  7. Research, 1939-2007
  8. University of Indiana, 1953-1982
  9. Queens University, 1958-1961
  10. UCLA, 1960-1967
  11. Stony Brook, 1972-2013
  12. Biographical Materials, 1947-2009


  • Creation: 1866 - 2022


Access Restrictions

Some restrictions apply, see Archivist for details. Access is given only by appointment, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Use Restriction

Archival materials must remain in the archival reading area. Item duplication is to be done by archivists. Fees are applied to copies made. Digital photography is permitted by users. Due to the very fragile nature of some materials in this collection, some are available through photocopies; others must be used under the supervision of an archivist.


Elof Axel Carlson was born July 15, 1931 in Brooklyn, New York. He received his B.A. in 1953 from New York University and his Ph.D in Zoology in 1958 from Indiana University where he studied under Hermann J. Muller. He became a lecturer in the Biology Department at Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada from 1958-1960 and then both Assistant and Associate Professor in the Department of Zoology, University of California, Los Angeles (1960-1968). In 1968, he joined the Biology Department of the State University of New York at Stony Brook as full professor, later becoming Distinguished Teaching Professor in 1974. He retired from Stony Brook to become a full time writer in 2000.


81 Boxes

Language of Materials



The Elof Carlson Collection documents the professional career of Dr. Elof Axel Carlson as a university level professor through his retirement to become a writer. Professionally, Dr. Carlson is best known for his biography of Nobel prize winning scientist Dr. Hermann J. Muller. The breadth and scope of the collection range from scientific research and laboratory notebooks to humorous essays on modern society.

Arrangement Note

The material is organized into three record groups: The Elof Axel Carlson Papers, Muller Biography Material: Genes, Radiation and Society, and 2020 Accession. While the second record group is comprised solely of Dr. Carlson’s research relating to his book about Dr. Muller, it must be noted that Dr. Muller figures prominently in Dr. Carlson’s other works as a reference, a mentor, and a subject.

The material in the 2003 accession was received in an organized state with a general sense of arrangement. Like material was grouped together by the previous processing archivist on the related Hermann J. Muller Collection to assist researchers. The majority of folders arrived with titles and in good condition.

The material in the 2023 accession consisted mostly of labeled, organized folders and diaries and other books. The folders were rehoused and inserted in appropriate places in the first record group in order to maintain the order that was already there. New series were added to accomodate material that did not fit in the original arrangement.

The materials in the 2020 accessions were received in two shipments; the diaries were sent by Carlson's daughter Christina, and are kept in their original chronological order. The rest was sent by one of Carlson's PhD students and is arranged according to material type and institution, with some folders being rehoused and new series being created to better accomodate the materials.


The collection was donated by Elof Carlson. It was received in 2003, accessioned, and partially processed at CSHL Library and Archives in 2005 and 2008. A third processing was completed in November-December 2011. The finding aid was updated and completed by Em Longan, July 2021. A second accession was received in 2023 and processed in late 2023 and early 2024.

Related Collections

Related collections in the CSHL Library and Archives include the Hermann J. Muller Collections and the Elof Carlson Book Collection.

Related collections in other repositories include the Hermann Muller Personal Papers Collection, Lilly Library; Salvador E. Luria Papers, American Philosophical Society; the William B. Provine Collection of Evolutionary Biology Reprints, Rare Book and Manuscript Collections at Cornell University Library; and Reprints of scientific writings, Indiana University.

Elof Carlson Collection
Finding Aid Prepared by Amy Driscoll. Updated and completed in July 2021 by Em Longan. Updated with new material in January 2024 by Kate Pigliacelli. Record Group 3 added by Coleen Higgins in 2024.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 11 May 2022: Replaced harmful language subject heading with 'Intellectual disability.'

Repository Details

Part of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives Repository

Library & Archives
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
One Bungtown Rd
Cold Spring Harbor NY 11724 USA