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Hermann Rahn papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 19-F-1134

Scope and Contents

Papers document Hermann Rahn's distinguished career in physiology, as a teacher, lecturer, and researcher. Rahn's research interest included high-pressure breathing (both underwater and high-altitudes), ama (the diving women of Korea and Japan), and egg respiration.

Includes Rahn's bibliography and curriculum vita, field observation notebook with color illustrations from Rahn's undergraduate years at Cornell University, teaching files, correspondence with many national and international scientists (many files include manuscripts and curriculum vita), research files, subject files, manuscripts and reprints, phonograph of Respiration-Suite composed by Jurriaan Audriessen for Wallace Fenn, premiered at the XXII International Congress of the International Union of Physiological Sciences, and extensive files on professional organizations and affiliated symposia.

Photographs of scientists are scattered throughout, but most are filed with correspondence. Occasional doodles, wine labels, stamps, and postcards from exotic locations appear throughout the papers.

Several notes within the records and folders indicate that Rahn maintained a storage area with files and films. These files do not appear to have been transferred to the University Archives.

See also 19/F/1137, Suk Ki Hong Papers, 1953-1997, for additional materials on ama originally belonging to Hermann Rahn.


  • 1855, 1928-1990
  • Majority of material found within 1961-1990


Language of Materials

Collection material in English, German, and French.

Terms of Access

The Hermann Rahn Papers, 1855, 1928-1990, are open for research. Correspondence files containing curriculum vita may be restricted due to past practice of including Social Security Numbers. Please see archivist for access.


Copyright is held by the State University of New York at Buffalo, University Archives. Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Biographical Note

Hermann Rahn was born in East Lansing, Michigan in 1912, though he spent most of his primary years in Kiel, Germany. His father Otto, a professor of bacteriology, fostered in Rahn a scientific interest in the world around him and Rahn become a keen naturalist. In 1929, Rahn graduated from high school in Ithaca, New York. He earned his bachelor's degree in zoology from Cornell University in 1933 and a PhD from the University of Rochester in 1938.

After a fellowship at Harvard University, Rahn worked as an instructor in physiology at the University of Wyoming, Laramie. In 1941, he returned to the University of Rochester to teach physiology. Although Rahn's training was in zoology, World War II caused him to shift focus to human respiration. It was during his tenure at Rochester that Rahn partnered with friend and mentor Wallace O. Fenn to publish A Graphical Analysis of the Respiratory Gas Exchange in 1955. This paper included the landmark O2-CO2 diagram, which formed the basis for much of Rahn's future work. Rahn's research into applications of this diagram lead to the development of aerospace medicine and advancements in hyperbaric breathing and high-altitude respiration.

In 1956, Rahn joined the University at Buffalo (UB) as the Lawrence D. Bell Professor and Chairman of the Department of Physiology. During his early years as Chairman, Rahn built a strong faculty that could grow the department. With this faculty's support he garnered several grants on the effects of altitude, diving, temperature, and gravity on human performance. Due to his efforts and leadership, the Department become an internationally known research center.

While at UB, Rahn's research interests included ama (the diving women of Korea and Japan who are able to deep-dive without machine assistance) and the gas exchange of avian eggs. In 1973, Rahn was named State University of New York Distinguished Professor of Physiology and stepped down from the chairmanship to pursue more research. Although he spent much time in the lab, Rahn was a dedicated teacher who deeply cared about his students.

Throughout his career, Rahn published frequently and edited several publications, including the American Journal of Physiology and the Journal of Applied Physiology. He served as president of the American Physiological Society and vice president of the International Union of Physiological Sciences. Rahn was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and it's Institute of Medicine.

Rahn was a regular presenter at symposia and conferences and guest lectured often. He was a visiting professor at San Marcos University, Dartmouth Medical School, Laboratoire de Physiologie Respiratoire, and the Max-Planck Institut fur experimentalle Medizin. Rahn was awarded honorary degrees from the University of Paris, University of Yonsei, University of Rochester, University of Lima, and the University of Bern.

Rahn's wife Katherine F. was a landscape architect who was distinguished in her field as well. Together they had two children: Robert F. and Katharine B.

Hermann Rahn died of pancreatic cancer on 23 June 1990. He worked in the laboratory until his cancer prevented it. Always the committed scientist, Rahn was working on a manuscript in bed until the end.

Please see Hermann Rahn's biographical file for more detailed biographies.


  1. "36th APS President (1963-1964) Hermann Rahn (1912-1990)".Bethesda, MD, 2008. APS Presidents. American Physiological Society. 10 August 2009.
  2. "Lab Is Named for Aerospace Pioneer." Source Spring (1986): 27-28. Print.
  3. Pappenheimer, John. "Hermann Rahn (July 5, 1912 - June 23,1990)." Biographical Memoirs. National Academy of Sciences, 1995. 242-67. Print.
  4. Pierre Dejours, Leon Farhi. "Hermann Rahn, 1912-1990." News in Physiological Sciences 7 August (1992): 185-86. Print.


22.5 linear feet (18 cartons)


Papers document distinguished career of physiologist Hermann Rahn. Includes correspondence with international scientists, research files, symposia files, manuscripts and abstracts of Rahn's work and others, and curriculum vita of many international scientists.


This collection is arranged in six series:

  1. Personal
  2. Teaching
  3. Correspondence
  4. Research and Subject Files
  5. Publications and Manuscripts
  6. Professional Activities

When possible, original order and folder titling were maintained.

Physical Location

Please note: This collection is stored off-site. Access to collection requires 3 business days’ notice. Contact to schedule an appointment.

Acquisition Information

The Hermann Rahn papers were donated to the University Archives by his wife, Katherine F. Rahn, in May 1991.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Related Resources

  1. 19/F/967, Leon E. Farhi Papers, 1964-2003
  2. 19/F/1135, Donald M. Rennie Papers, 1918, 1942-1979
  3. 19/F/1137, Suk-Ki Hong Papers, 1953-1997
  4. 19/F/1138, Department of Physiology Records, 1955, 1961-1965, 1971-1979, undated
  5. 19/F/1139, Department of Physiology and Biophysics Miscellaneous Records, 1940, 1989, 1992-1998

Separated Materials

Monographs received with the Hermann Rahn Papers were added to the University Libraries collections.

Processing Information

Processed by Nathan Tallman, August 2009.


Finding Aid for the Hermann Rahn papers
Finding aid prepared by Nathan Tallman.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
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