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James Allen Olson papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RS 13/35/14

Scope and Content

The collection (1943-2000) contains biographical information, photos and notes from various conferences, course materials, research, and publications by Dr. James Olson. The course materials contained are from BB 405 biochemistry and BB 221 structure and reactions in biochemical processes. The research is primarily on Vitamin A and consists note books, folders, and chromatograms.


  • 1943-2000

Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


James Allen Olson was born on Oct. 10, 1924 in Minneapolis Minnesota. He went to Gustavus Adolphus College where he graduated Summa cum laude with a B.S. in chemistry and physics (1946).

He then became a Harvard scholar and predoctoral fellow and then in received his Ph. D. from Harvard University (1952). He went on to the International Center for Chemical Microbiology in Rome, Italy and became a postdoctoral fellow of the National Foundation from 1952 to 1954. He then went back to Harvard to be a research associate in the chemistry department from 1954 to 1956. From there he went to the University of Florida college of Medicine in Gainesville, FL where he was an assistant professor from 1956 to 1959, an associate professor from 1959 to 1963, and a professor of biochemistry from 1963 to 1966. While at Gainesville he was also the acting head of the department of biochemistry from 1965 to 1966. In 1965, he went to Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan to be a visiting professor of biochemistry and research fellow in the department of medical chemistry. From 1966 to 1972 he became a staff member of the Rockefeller Foundation and was a visiting professor of biochemistry and acting chairman of the department of biochemistry, faculty of sciences at Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand. During that time he was a visiting professor of biology at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School in London England from 1970 to 1971. And then from 1972 to 1973 he was at Mahidol University as a visiting professor of biochemistry and graduate research professor of biochemistry and nutrition. From 1974 to 1975 he was a staff member of the Rockefeller Foundation once again and a professor of biomedical sciences at the Federal University of Bahia in Salvador, Brazil. He then came to Iowa State University in 1975 and was a professor and the chairman of the department of biochemistry and biophysics. Then from 1985 to 1986 he was a Fogarty senior international fellow at the London school of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, UK and at the National Institute of Nutrition in Rome, Italy. Then in 1991 until 1992 he was a visiting scientist at the National Institute of Medical Research in Mill Hill London, UK.

Dr. Olson has had hundreds of articles and papers published During his career, including being a co-author of a textbook. His publications have been primarily on the topic of Vitamin A and are considered key advances in the field.

He was an active member in many professional organizations including: American Society of Biological Chemists and Molecular Biologists, American Institute of Nutrition, European Retinoid Research Group, International Vitamin A Consultative Group, and the Society for International Nutrition Research.

As an instructor and researcher a few of his achievements were that he became a Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State University (1985), he received the Borden award from the American Institute of Nutrition (1989), the Iowa State University Teaching Excellence Award (1991), and he was named an Honorary Doctorate in Science in Biochemistry from Mahidol University (1999).


19.4 Linear Feet (15 records center cartons)

Language of Materials



The collection is organized Chronologically.

Items in related collections

RS 13/35. Iowa State University. Roy J. Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology records, 1954-2012

Processing Information

Released on 2018-11-01.

RS 13/35/14. James Allen Olson papers, 1943-2000
April 9, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives Repository

403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University
Ames Iowa 50011-2102 United States
(515) 294-6672