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Carpenter, Russell LeGrand



  • Existence: 1901 -- 1991

Russell LeGrand Carpenter (1901-1991), A1924, H1977, was professor of zoology, an active alumnus, and curator of the P.T. Barnum Collection, housed in the Barnum Museum during the more than thirty years he spent at Tufts.

Russell LeGrand "Bud" Carpenter (1901-1991), A1924, H1977, was professor of zoology, an active alumnus, and curator of the P.T. Barnum Collection, housed in the Barnum Museum during the more than thirty years he spent at Tufts.

Born in Meriden, Connecticut, in 1901, Carpenter entered Tufts in 1920 intending to study English. He received twenty-five dollars in student aid from the college to help finance his education. After attending the lectures of Professors Herbert Neal and Fred Lambert in biology, Carpenter changed his major to biology. During his undergraduate years, he wrote a column for the Tufts Weekly, sang in the Glee Club, and also played the banjo in a small dance orchestra. He was also a member and, later, an adviser, of the Kappa chapter of the Zeta Psi fraternity on campus.

Following graduation from Tufts in 1924, he entered graduate school at Harvard University, and received a doctorate in zoology in 1928. That same year, he married Elsie Stuart Clark, with whom he later had two children, Russell and Cynthia, and he then started teaching at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University.

Carpenter returned to Tufts in 1938 as professor of zoology, undertaking both teaching and research activities that led to the establishment of the Radiobiology Research Laboratory, of which he served as director and principal investigator. He focused his research on the biological effects of microwave radiation, particularly on the eye, and published more than a dozen papers on the subject. Soon after his return to Medford, he and his family took up residence at 126 Packard Avenue, where they lived for the next eighteen years.

Carpenter was also a lecturer in ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School for more than twenty-five years and acted as a consultant on ophthalmic history for the Retina Foundation in Boston. He received many scientific honors, including election as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Beyond his teaching duties, Carpenter's involvement with Tufts as an alumnus was substantial. For almost seventy years, he served as secretary of the Class of 1924, organizing reunions and coordinating the exchange of information among class members. He was the first editor of the Tufts Alumni Review, the president of the New York Tufts Club, and, beginning in 1943, a member of the Tufts Alumni Council. He received the Tufts Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 1942 and also served on the committees in charge of redesigning the Tufts Seal and the Tufts Chair.

Carpenter undertook the responsibility of establishing the Tufts Barnum Collection, which included letters and personal mementos of P.T. Barnum. Acting as the collection's curator, Carpenter spread the story of Tufts and Jumbo through his notable, witty lectures and slide shows.

In March 1968, for the first time in his thirty years as a professor, Carpenter presented a lecture on the history of Jumbo and how he "happened to matriculate" to his Biology 2 classes at Tufts. President Hallowell was extended an invitation to attend the morning course. Carpenter's personal photographs of almost all of the objects in the collection became invaluable to the institution following a 1975 fire which destroyed Barnum Museum and all of its contents.

Carpenter retired from Tufts in 1969. The following year he was invited to establish and direct a program of microwave bio-effects research for the Bureau of Radiological Health of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In 1977, Tufts presented Carpenter with an honorary degree, recognizing his life-long dedication to his alma mater, both professionally and personally.

Carpenter died in Williamstown, Massachusetts, on July 28, 1991.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Russell Carpenter Papers

Call Number: MS041
Scope and Contents: This collection consists of the correspondence and collected papers of Russell Carpenter. Over the course of his almost seventy year association with Tufts, Carpenter created and collected photographs, scrapbooks, and memorabilia from his student days (1920-1924); correspondence, photographs, lantern and 35mm slides, and films of the Class of 1924 from their time at Tufts and eleven reunions (1924-1984); documents relating to his alumni activities outside of the Class of 1924; and any and...
Dates: bulk 1929 -- 1991, 1833 -- 2012