Skip to main content

George Warren de Villafranca papers

Identifier: CA-MS-00389

Scope and Contents

The collection contains materials related to the professional life of George Warren de Villafranca at Smith College. Materials contained within the collection include: photographs of de Villafranca's lab and his teaching, correspondence to other researchers, news clippings about his achievements, and a volume titled Remembrances written by colleagues and friends. Some of the collection is dedicated to de Villafranca's research and publications. These boxes include his published articles, his research notebooks, graphs and charts of various research projects, grant applications to fund his lab and his work as a consultant for the National Science Foundation in India.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1922 - 1992
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1951 - 1992


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Smith College, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

George Warren de Villafranca was born in 1923 in Meriden, Connecticut. He entered Yale University as a student of Zoology in 1942. His studies were interrupted by the onset of World War II and he became a radio and control tower operator for the USA Air Force in 1943. He eventually finished his undergraduate studies (1948) and went on to receive his Ph.D. from Yale University in Zoology in 1953.

In 1951, de Villafranca left the Marine Biology Laboratories in Woods Hole to take up a position at Smith College. At Smith, de Villafranca continued his research on contractile proteins in muscle. By the 1950s Burton Hall was considered an outdated facility for research and so de Villafranca and his students built a lab in one of the closets of Burton Hall. During summer, he took his lab to Wood Hole where he enjoyed state-of-the-art facilities and good sailing.

For his outstanding research and teaching, de Villafranca steadily rose through the academic ranks. He was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1954, Associate Professor in 1959, full Professor in 1963, and Gates Professor in 1974. In 1961, he was appointed Assistant to the President and was tasked with building a new science facility. The Clark Science Center opened in 1967.

Outside of his duties at Smith College, de Villafranca was incredibly active. He wrote nearly fifty articles on muscular contraction and won several grants for his research including a NIH grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Disease. He travelled to Germany as a visiting professor and to India as a consultant for the National Science Foundation. In 1971, he became the first scientist to deliver the prestigious Katherine Asher Engel lecture titled "The Driving Force: Muscle". De Villafranca was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the American Society of Zoologists, the American Society of Biological Chemists, the Society of General Physiologists, Sigma Xi, the Biophysical Society, and the Marine Biological Laboratory Association. It is said that de Villafranca inspired so many of his students to enter the zoological field that many began to call meetings on the subject "de Villafranca Reunions".

De Villafranca passed away in 1977 after sustaining second heart attack. He was survived by his wife, Diana Fetter de Villafranca, Class of 1955, his children: Suzanne Stina Hans, Ruth Place de Villafranca and George de Villafranca Jr., and a former wife, Erica Pauli. His first wife, Suzanne Crane, died in 1960.


6.958 linear feet (9 containers)

Language of Materials



George Warren de Villafranca was born in 1923 and became a professor of Zoology at Smith College. The collection contains publications, research, grant applications, photographs, news clippings, and correspondence documenting his professional life, and graduate theses of his students.


The bulk of the collection contains research material. Correspondence and faculty materials are located in Box 1.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff or email to request the creation of and access to digital copies.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source unknown.

Processing Information

Madison White, Class of 2016; Elizabeth Carron, Archives Specialist

Processing Information

Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.

Finding aid to the George Warren de Villafranca papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Finding aid prepared by Madison White, Class of 2016; Elizabeth Carron, Archives Specialist; Ellice AMANNA
2015, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2018-12-12: Finding aid updated as part of the College Archives Survey
  • 2019-12-09: Added box, barcode, updated finding aid

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063