Beverly Paigen Papers
Scope and Contents
This collection contains clippings, correspondence, scientific articles, health study data, reports, slides, photographs, publications, and other research materials. The bulk of the material dates from 1975-1994. The materials were produced as a result of Beverly Paigen’s work on the Love Canal environmental disaster and other environmental contamination sites in the United States, as well as other research into rodent caging density and atherosclerotic lesions.
The most significant part of this collection refers to the chemical contamination at the Love Canal site, which was an abandoned canal outside of Niagara Falls, New York. The canal became a chemical dumping ground between 1942-1953, before being filled in and sold as land for a school and residential housing in the late 1950s. In 1978, toxic chemicals were found to be leaking into the houses built on the land, exposing residents to dangerous levels of the substances. Paigen’s on-the-ground study of local residents exposed the severity of the chemical contamination and the high rate of birth defects and illness developing in households near the site. It also ignited a controversy over evacuation and culpability that would reach both the state and national levels. At first, only 200 residents were evacuated by the state government. It took Paigen’s continued advocacy, and the attention of President Jimmy Carter in 1980, for the entire neighborhood to be evacuated. The controversy between Paigen and both her employers at Roswell Park Memorial Institute, and the New York state government, is also represented in the collection in the form of correspondence and reports.
- Creation: 1963 -- 2019
- Paigen, Beverly (Person)
This collection contains some restricted material. Restrictions related to specific material are listed in the detailed contents list.
Conditions Governing Use
Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Please see “Reproductions and Use” on the Tufts Archival Research Center website for more information about reproductions and permission to publish. Any intellectual property rights that the donor possesses have been transferred to Tufts University.
Biographical / Historical
Beverly Joyce Paigen (1938-2020) was a scientist and pioneering environmental activist whose work on the Love Canal disaster site contributed to the founding of the Superfund program. Paigen was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 14, 1938, and died on June 26, 2020 at her home in Mt. Desert Island, Maine.
Paigen received her B.S. in zoology from Wheaton College in Illinois in 1960, and her Ph.D. in biology from the State University of New York, Buffalo in 1967. She held research positions at Roswell Park Memorial Institute in Buffalo between 1960-1982 and at Rachel Carson College at SUNY Buffalo from 1971-1974. Paigen then served as Senior Research Biochemist at the Bruce Lyon Laboratory, Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Oakland, California from 1982-1989, before taking a professorship at Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, which she held from 1989-2020. Beverly Paigen is best known, however, for her groundbreaking work on the Love Canal environmental disaster in New York in the late 1970s and 1980s. In 1978, Paigen developed a health questionnaire and worked with local residents to survey those that remained in the neighborhood after the first round of evacuations. This study indicated that the effects of the toxic chemical exposure were more widespread than authorities believed, and Paigen quickly became an advocate for the residents who remained. Paigen spoke up against both her superiors at Roswell Park Memorial Institute, as well as the New York state health officials, who claimed that the Love Canal neighborhood was safe for residents. She faced personal and professional consequences for doing this, including the loss of funding for other research projects, and a state tax audit – all attempts to dissuade her from continuing her campaign at Love Canal. Eventually, the catastrophe at Love Canal gained the attention of President Jimmy Carter, and a proposal was approved to evacuate the entire neighborhood in 1981 at the cost of $17 million. This work inspired the EPA’s Superfund program to assist with the mediation of other toxic waste disaster sites.
Paigen’s other contributions to the scientific community include pioneering research into heart disease and the use of mice in cardiovascular studies into atherosclerosis. In addition to receiving numerous professional awards, in March 2021, the Jackson Laboratory established a $1 million fund in honor of Beverly Paigen and her husband, Ken Paigen, both of whom held positions with JAX for several decades. The fund benefits the Laboratory’s postdoc program. Paigen and her husband had five children and twelve grandchildren. Paigen died in 2020, at the age of 81, in her home on Long Pond, in Mt. Desert Island, Maine.
11 Linear Feet (6 record cartons, 1 document box, and 3 oversized boxes.)
Language of Materials
This collection contains clippings, correspondence, scientific articles, health study data, reports, slides, photographs, publications, and other research materials, with the bulk of the material dating from 1975-1994. The materials were created by Dr. Beverly Paigen during her work on the Love Canal environmental disaster and other environmental contamination sites.
This collection is arranged in four series: Subject files; Love Canal health study data; Environmental disaster studies, caging density research, and atherosclerotic lesions research; and Printed materials.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of the Paigen Family, 2021, accession MS-2022-019.
17 published volumes were transferred to Tisch Library.
Processing was completed by student assistants, Charlie Ewald and Rachel Vresilovic, and Kate McNally, Records and Accessioning Archivist, in 2023. Materials were placed in archival boxes and folders where needed, and physical received order was maintained. Books that are commonly available, or that had no direct connection to Dr. Paigen, were transferred to Tisch Library. Series-level description and a file-level inventory were created, and a finding aid produced, at the time of processing.
- In Progress