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Bernice K. Watt papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0271

Scope and Content

The collection (1910-1984) contains documents from Watt’s career as a food nutritionist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She spent her entire professional life working for the USDA and published over seventy journal articles that evaluate the nutritional context of over 3,000 foods. The data from her research are used as a standard of reference in not only the United States, but many areas of the world. Watt’s dedication to science is proven by the number of the field’s top awards she received during her career. Although Watt spent a considerable amount of time assisting her community and raising a family of five, this collection, for the most part, deals with her professional career.


  • Creation: 1910-1984

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


Bernice Lydia Kunerth was born on June 10, 1910, in Ames, Iowa, where her father, William Kunerth, served as a physics professor at Iowa State College (precursor to Iowa State University). She had one younger sister named Ruth. In 1932, she graduated with a combined major in foods, nutrition, and chemistry from Iowa State College. The following year, she earned her Master of Science degree at Kansas State University. Until 1938, Kunerth remained in Manhattan, Kansas, where she served as a food/nutrition research technician and instructor. She then went to New York and acquired a Ph.D. in Nutrition Chemistry from Columbia University in 1940. After a brief stint as an assistant professor, Kunerth underwent a few changes that would prove lasting. She moved to Washington, D.C. to begin a career working for the United States Department of Agriculture in 1941 and married Raymond Dewey Watt, a 1922 graduate of Iowa State College, in 1942.

Her career with the USDA entailed nutritional research. She retired in 1974 as Leader of the Nutrient Data Research Center. Under her leadership, the information available has grown from two tables containing data on 13 nutrients in 275 foods to 20 tables consisting of values for 50 nutrients and 3,000 foods. For her efforts, Watt has received some impressive honors: in 1969, the Distinguished Achievement Citation from Iowa State; in 1972, the Borden Award for fundamental nutrition and experimental foods; in 1974, the Distinguished Service Award from the USDA; and in 1980, the Elvehjem Award for Public Service in Nutrition. All of these scientific accomplishments coincided with her duties as a mother of three and volunteer work she performed in Fairfax, Virginia. She died on March 8, 1984.


1.26 Linear Feet (4 document boxes)


The Bernice K. Watt Papers are divided into four series:

Series 1: Biographical Documents, 1918-1987

Series 2: Correspondence, 1933-1982

Series 3: Scientist, 1933-1974

Series 4: Photographs, 1928-1983

Processing Information

Released on 2018-11-01.

MS-0271. Bernice K. Watt papers, 1910-1984
June 15, 2020
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