Skip to main content

Alan W. Bernheimer Sr. Collection

Identifier: AWB

Scope and Content

The Dr. Alan Bernheimer Sr. Collection, 1897-1996, is composed of materials accrued by Dr. Bernheimer while employed at the Biological Laboratory at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. This collection includes reprints, inventories, pamphlets, announcements, topographical maps, and annual reports of the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum (1943-1949).

The collection is organized into five series:

  1. Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum, 1930-1946
  2. Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences Biological Laboratory, 1898-1919
  3. Cold Spring Harbor Natural History, 1903-1939
  4. Topographical Charts & Maps, 1897-1910
  5. Reprints, 1936-1979


  • Creation: 1897 - 1996


Access Restrictions

Some restrictions apply, see Archivist for details. Access is given only by appointment, 8:00a.m. to 4:45p.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.


Alan W. Bernheimer received his B.S. and A.M. from Temple University and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1942. In 1941, Bernheimer joined the Department of Microbiology at the New York University School of Medicine as an instructor in bacteriology. Bernheimer he remained at NYU until his death in 2006, as Emeritus Professor. He served as chair of Basic Medical Sciences, 1969-74. .

Bernheimer's contributions to the field of bacterial pathogenesis were wide ranging, and included the development of a vaccine for gas gangrene during World War II. By purifying and characterizing cytotoxins from dozens of common and rare bacterial pathogens, Bernheimer's work defines an important theme of tissue damage during infections. He was a meticulous and patient researcher, and remained at the bench throughout his career. A naturalist from childhood, he compared toxins across phylogenetic barriers. He studied toxins from insects, snakes, and sea anemones, and showed mechanistic and serological relatedness with bacterial agents. The demonstration of a phospholipase D in the venom of the brown recluse spider that was closely related to the corynebacterial enzyme was reported in Science in 1985.

Bernheimer was honored by ASM, then the American Society of Bacteriology, in 1948 by the Eli Lilly Award. He was funded by NIH throughout his career, including a career fellowship (1962-84), and was a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. He was a trustee of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1963-8) and served as consultant to the Surgeon General of the U.S, 1957-60. Bernheimer was a summer investigator in the Marine Biological Lab in Woods Hole, Mass. He published more than 150 papers, and edited several books.

The Biological Laboratory of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences

In 1889, John D. Jones gave former land and buildings of the Cold Spring Whaling Company, located on the southwestern shore of Cold Spring Harbor, to the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (BIAS). BIAS used the gift to establish a Biological Laboratory (Bio Lab) for training high school teachers and college professors in marine biology. Contemporary biologists and naturalists often established their laboratories on shorelines, where there was an abundance of plants and animals to study.

In 1917, the Bio Lab officially become one of four departments at BIAS, along with the Brooklyn Art Museum, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and the Brooklyn Zoo. An endowment fund was raised from contributions from its Cold Spring Harbor neighbors.

In 1924, BIAS turned over Bio Lab ownership and administration to the Cold Spring Harbor community, where it was incorporated as part of the Long Island Biological Association (LIBA).

The Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum

The Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum opened its doors to the public in 1942 and is the only year-round facility in New York that focuses primarily on whaling—one of Long Island’s earliest major industries—and local maritime history. One of the founding members of the museum, Dr. Charles Davenport, was also Director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory from 1898-1934. Dr. Davenport died from pneumonia after spending two days boiling the head of a whale for the museum in 1936.

The museum’s 6,000 artifacts document the whaling and maritime history of both Cold Spring Harbor and Long Island. Highlights of the collection include New York State’s only fully-equipped 19th century whaleboat with original gear and a large scrimshaw collection. Additional objects include whaling implements, ship’s gear, navigational aids, ship models, and maritime art.

The library and archive contain 2,800 primary and secondary volumes as well as manuscript materials from the Cold Spring whaling fleet, such as ship’s logs, journals and business correspondence of the Cold Spring Whaling Company, family documents dealing with maritime commerce, records of the Long Island coastwise trade under sail, and records from the Cold Spring Harbor Custom House.


2 Boxes

Language of Materials



The Dr. Alan Bernheimer Sr. Collection contains reports, topographical maps, announcements, surveys, and publications relevant to the development and natural history of the town of Cold Spring Harbor, New York, including materials regarding Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum. The Collection also contains reprints, printed materials, and correspondence.

Arrangement Note

Material from the first accession was received in three envelopes and was inventoried as such. The arrangement was related to the topics of information that each envelope contained. Original order was maintained with the exception of maps and topographic charts. Maps and charts were separated, placed in a unique series, and stored in an oversized box. The second accession was received in a box from Alan Bernheimer Jr. in June 2013 and added to the original collection as the final two series.


This collection was donated by Alan Bernheimer Jr., in March 2006 from his father’s personal collection of information relevant to Cold Spring Harbor. Accession number 2006-001. It was processed in August 2012.

Alan W. Bernheimer Sr. Collection
Finding Aid Prepared by Clare Clark, 2012. Finding Aid Updated by Em Longan, May 2022.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 13 May 2022: Added Series V and Series VI. Finding aid title, Abstract, Historical Notes, Scope and Content, Preferred Citation notes updated. Subjects added.

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