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John C. Greene Papers

Identifier: 1996-0008

Scope and Content

The collection documents the professional activities and interests of John C. Greene, a noted historian of science. The papers cover the years between 1952, when Greene was thirty-five years old and finishing his Ph.D., until 1999, when he moved to California after thirty-one years in Storrs, Connecticut. The materials include correspondence to and from Greene on the professional study and practice of the history of science, subject files on both the discipline and personages involved therein, and a selection of Greene's published articles, reviews and delivered lectures. Also in the collection are reviews of Greene's work by others and unpublished manuscripts, both of which are found in Series III. Collectively, the papers illustrate the evolution of the professional history of science as an academic discipline in the second half of the twentieth century from the perspective of Greene, regarded as one of the foremost practitioners thereof. Highlighted are subjects that stem from Greene's own interests. These areas include: Greene's investigation of the development of evolutionary ideas in Western thought, his examination of early American science, and his consideration of the historical relations of science, religion, and world view. The collection also provides a detailed account of Green's own career as a scholar, offering a record of the evolution of his own ideas, interests, and professional contacts in the study of history. Particularly helpful are Greene's subject correspondence in Series II with the evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, the founder of the “modern” synthesis in his field, and the evolutionists Theodosius Dobzhansky and Walter Bock. Also of note is an extensive correspondence with Dr. James R. Moore, editor of History, Humanity, and Evolution: Essays for John C. Greene (1989).


  • undated, 1952-2005


The collection is open and available for research.

Restrictions on Use

Permission to publish from these Papers must be obtained in writing from both the University of Connecticut Libraries and the owner(s) of the copyright.


Born on 5 March 1917 in Indianapolis, Indiana, John Colton Greene grew up in Vermillion, South Dakota where he graduated from the local public school system in 1934. A year after completing a B. A. at the University of South Dakota in 1938, he took an M.A. in American History from Harvard University and then began work on his doctorate. Greene served in the U. S. Army during World War II. His wartime career lasted almost three years (September 1942-April 1946) and took him around the world via San Francisco, Tasmania, India, Iran, Palestine, and Italy. While stationed in Iran, Greene met Ellen Wiemann, a Red Cross nurse from Larchmont, New York. The two were married in Cairo in November 1945 and ultimately had three children, Ruth, Ned, and John.

After the war, Greene returned to Harvard to complete his Ph.D., which he finished in 1952. In 1948, he began teaching, first at the University of Chicago (1948-1952), and then at the University of Wisconsin (1952-1956), Iowa State University (1956-1962), the University of California at Berkeley (1962-1963), and at the University of Kansas (1963-1967). He came to the University of Connecticut in 1967 and remained there until his retirement twenty years later. After his wife's 1998 death from cancer, Greene moved from Storrs in 1999 to California where he currently resides.

Greene's research and writing focused on early American science, the rise and development of evolutionary ideas in Western thought, and the historical relations of science, religion, and world view. He published numerous essays, journal articles and reviews in addition to such monographs as The Death of Adam: Evolution and Its Impact on Western Thought(1959), Science, Ideology and World View: Essays in the History of evolutionary Ideas (1981), and American Science in the Age of Jefferson (1984). Greene was honored as a Fellow of the Society of Fellows, Harvard University (1941-1942); a Guggenheim Fellow (1966-1967); a Visiting Scholar at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University (1974); and Visiting Historian, National Museum of History and Technology, Smithsonian Institution (1978). He was President of the History of Science Society from 1975 to 1977 and in 1985 received an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of South Dakota.


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Language of Materials



John Colton Greene (b. 1917) was a Professor of History at the University of Connecticut from 1967 until his retirement twenty years later. His research interests included history of evolutionary ideas in Western thought, early American science, and the historical relations of science, religion, and world view.


Series I: Chronological Correspondence (1959-1999). Contains correspondence that Greene did not separate by subject but collected chronologically.

Series II: Subject Correspondence (1954-2005). Consists of communications that Greene grouped by subject.: Subject files, however, should not be viewed as comprehensive of Greene's correspondence with a given individual or about a specific topic under an assigned heading. Materials from a particular subject frequently are included not only in Series II, but in Series I as well. For instance, Greene maintained a subject file on his correspondence with the evolutionist Ernst Mayr. However, he also left examples of his letters with Mayr in what is now Series I. No attempt was made to rectify such discrepancies in the effort to follow Greene's own organization of his papers as closely as possible.

Series III: Writings and Lectures (undated, 1952-1998). Comprises a selection of Greene's published articles, reviews, and elegies from 1954 to 1996, together with unpublished materials and occasional lectures delivered by the historian from 1953 to 1998. These materials are not exhaustive of the body of such work created by Greene, but include those examples that he chose to include in his papers. The organization of this series again follows Greene's original groupings, which are reflected in the subseries contained herein. However, certain changes have been made. Journal articles are organized here by chronology, in which order Greene did not necessarily keep them. Reviews use an alphabetical order by author, as Greene maintained them. However, they are prefixed by a small set of reviews dated between 1954 and 1996, which were found elsewhere among Greene's papers. Unpublished manuscripts—which are undated—were likewise found elsewhere in the collection. Occasional lectures follow Greene's original chronological filing, but have been separated into two categories: “general” and “Darwin.” This division has been made to draw focus upon Greene's work with Darwin and the theory of evolution, with which the historian is well-associated.

An additional aspect of Series III is the inclusion of reviews by other authors of five published books by Greene. These critiques, which directly follow Greene's own reviews, include both published materials and personal communications to Greene as he collected them under by the title of each book reviewed. The reviewed books in this subseries are American Science in the Age of Jefferson (1984), Darwin and the Modern World View (1961), Death of Adam (1959), Science, Ideology, and World View (1981), and The Science of Minerals in the Age of Jefferson (1979), which he co-wrote with John G. Burke.

Acquisition Information

John C. Greene donated the papers to the University of Connecticut in 1998 and 1999 in fulfillment of an agreement reached with University Archives in April 1991.

Related Material

Archives & Special Collections has a substantial collection of materials pertaining to the University, its history, administration, faculty, staff and students. For detailed information on these collections please contact the curator or ask at the Reading Room desk.

John C. Greene Papers
Archives & Special Collections staff
1999 December
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Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US