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Paul R. Harrington papers

Identifier: KUMC-MSS-11

Scope and Contents

The Paul Randall Harrington papers were the first contribution to the Spine and Orthopedic Historical Collections under the auspices of the University of Kansas Medical Center Archives, History and Philosophy of Medicine Department. The collection contains professional papers, photographs, publications, manuscripts, blueprints, drawings, biographical information, presentations, professional and personal correspondence, videos, and numerous examples of the spinal instrumentation that he developed.


  • 1911 - 1980


Conditions Governing Access

Some folders are restricted because of their sensitive nature or because they contain personal or confidential information. These records are protected by federal laws such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Examples of restricted records are personnel files, medical records, financial records, and any materials containing personal information such as addresses and social security numbers. Restricted materials are identified at the box and/or folder level within the finding aid. Questions about these materials may be directed to the Archivist. Access may be allowed on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the KUMC Archives and only after a proposal has been reviewed and approved by the University of Kansas Human Subjects Committee. All requests are subject to review by the Archives staff to determine accessibility.

Conditions Governing Use

Archives staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of materials. The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of libel, privacy, and copyright which may be involved in the use of this collection.

Biographical / Historical

Paul Randall Harrington, MD, was born on September 27, 1911, in Kansas City, Kansas. Harrington was proud of his Kanas public school education, culminating in graduation from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 1938. He followed two years of surgical training with two years of orthopedic residency with Drs. Frank D. Dickson and Rex L. Diveley. From 1942 to 1945, Harrington was chief of orthopedic surgery at the 77th Evacuation Hospital, serving in North Africa, Sicily, and Europe. Following WWII, he and his family moved to Houston, Texas, to set up private practice.

As a result of rapidly increasing numbers of patients due to the post-World War II polio epidemics, Harrington became immersed in the problem of post-polio scoliosis. He worked with the Baylor College of Medicine and the National Infantile Paralysis Foundation to establish the Southwestern Respiratory Care Center in 1950. This respiratory center was the first of its kind and would serve as a model for future centers in other parts of the country.

From 1950 to 1960, Harrington conceived and designed the spinal implant instruments that bear his name. His was the first successful spinal instrumentation system, and, with few modifications, remained the most widely used system for nearly 25 years. Over the years, Harrington became internationally recognized as an authority on scoliosis. A founding member of the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS), he served as its president from 1972-1973.

Paul R. Harrington, MD, died on November 29, 1980, in Houston, Texas, where he had worked throughout his remarkable career. Before his death, he requested that his professional papers be permanently preserved at his alma mater.


61.4 Cubic Feet (107 archives boxes)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Mary Harrington and Dr. Jesse H. Dickson donated the collection to the Department of History and Philosophy of Medicine in 1981. The collection was transferred to the University of Kansas Medical Center Archives in the late 1980s.

Preliminary Guide to the Paul R. Harrington Collection
Paul R. Harrington papers
Finding aid prepared by CAW. Finding aid encoded by CAW.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the KUMC Archives Repository

University of Kansas Medical Center
2017 Robinson, Mail Stop 1025
3901 Rainbow Boulevard
Kansas City KS 66160 United States