Walter Kempner Papers and Records, circa 1930-2016

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Kempner, Walter
Contains professional records pertaining to Walter Kempner's (1903-1997) Rice Diet and related work for Duke University. Kempner began working at Duke's School of Medicine in the Department of Medicine in 1934 and was interested in the effect of diet on various diseases including hypertension and diabetes, which developed into the Rice Diet. The collection also contains business records from the Walter Kemper Foundation. Types of materials include medical records, newsletters, correspondence, clippings, budgets, logbooks, membership materials, and minutes. Major subjects include reducing diets, cell physiology, obesity, and Duke University Medical Center. Materials range in date from circa 1930 to 2016.
450.6 Linear Feet (284 cartons, 1 manuscript box, 4 lantern slide boxes, 25 card boxes, 10 flat boxes, 7 map folders) and 2 artifacts
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Contains the professional papers of Kemper, professor in Duke University's School of Medicine and founder of the Rice Diet. Types of materials include correspondence; Kempner Foundation Records; daily reminder and appointment books; patient lists, files, and index cards, American Medical Association exhibition materials; photographs, slides, and negatives, including images of patients eyes and full body photographs; research, charts, clippings, reprints, articles, x-rays and other materials collected by Kempner, Kempner's colleagues and staff, as well as materials from former Rice Dieters. Materials in the collection date from circa 1930 to 2016.

Biographical / historical:

Walter Kempner was born in 1903 to Dr. Lydia Rabinowitsch Kempner (1871-1935) and Dr. Walter Kempner (1864-1920) in Germany. Both of his parents were prominent researchers in the field of bacteriology. Rabinowitsch's research focused on tuberculosis and public health and Kempner Sr. helped develop the first antitoxin for botulism.
Kempner graduated from the University of Heidelberg Medical School in 1926. From 1926 to 1927, Kempner interned at the Heidelberg Medical Clinic under Dr. Krehl. Following his internship, Kempner moved to Berlin to work for Otto Warburg at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Cellular Physiology. From 1928 to 1933, Kempnner served as an assistant to Gustav von Bergmann at the Charite Hospital in Berlin. In 1933, Kempner briefly returned to work at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Cellular Physiology following his dismissal from the Charite Hospital due to the Nazi's "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service."
Kempner immigrated to the United States in 1934 to become a member of the Department of Medicine at Duke University. Kempner was interested in the effect of diet on various diseases including hypertension and diabetes. Observing that those diseases were relatively rare where rice was a staple food, Kempner came up with a formula of rice, fruit, juices, and vitamins that became the basis of the Rice Diet. Kempner tracked the effectiveness of the Rice Diet through eye-ground tests. These scans of the vessels of the retina revealed overall health, including hypertension. Since the 1930s, Kempner and his associates used the Rice Diet to treat more than 18,000 patients from all around the world.
Kempner retired from Duke University in 1974 and from the Rice Diet program in 1994. In 2002, the Rice Diet center became independent of Duke University. In 2013, the Rice Diet center closed, and later that year John Aycoth opened the Rice House Healthcare Program to carry on the legacy of Kempner's Rice Diet.
Kempner died in 1997 at the age of 93.

Acquisition information:
Accession A2003.013 (gift, May 2003); Accession A2003.014 (gift, April 2003); Accession A2007.044 (gift, April 2007); Accession A2007.103 (gift, December 2007); Accession A2008.029 (transferred, May 2008); Accession A2010.038 (gift, July 2010); Accession A2010.065 (gift, November 2010); Accession A2011.077 (transferred, October 2011); Accession A2016.039 (gift of Susan Roberts, August 2010) Not all accession information was recorded from 1977 to 2002.
Processing information:

Processed by Archives staff: 1997; encoded by Emily Glenn: September 2004; updated by Lucy Waldrop: August 2016

Organized into the following series and accessions: Early Correspondence, 1930-1950; Later Correspondence, 1950-1980; Kempner Foundation Membership, undated; Kempner Financial Papers (1), 1951-1991; Kempner Financial Papers (2), 1949-1991; Daily Reminder Books, 1948-1992; Medical Tests, undated; Patient Lists, 1970-1981; Miscellaneous, undated; Patient Files, Older (Yellow Charts), undated, Patient Files, Newer (Yellow Charts), undated; Deceased Patients, Newer (Yellow Files), undated; Publications, 1940-2002; Patient Index Cards, undated; Exhibit: American Medical Association and Other Materials,1940-1968; Accession A2008.029: Additions of May 2008, undated; Accession A2010.038: Additions of July 2010, undated; Barbara Newborg Research, undated; Accession A2016.039: Additions of August 2016, 1974-2016. Material within this collection has been organized by accession reflecting the fact that the collection has been acquired in increments over time. Researchers should note that material within each accession overlaps with/or relates to material found in other accessions. In order to locate all relevant material within this collection, researchers will need to consult each accession described in the Series Scope and Contents section. Researchers should also note that similar material can be arranged differently in each accession, depending on how the material was organized when it was received by the DUMCA.
Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:


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This collection may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals or IRB approval may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which Duke University assumes no responsibility.
Contains Medical Center Administrative records. These include records of the officers of the University, as defined in the Bylaws, the deans of schools and colleges, and departments, institutes, and other offices as designated by the President. For a period of twenty-five years from the origin of the material, permission in writing from the director of the office of record and the Medical Center Archivist is required for use. After twenty-five years, records that have been processed may be consulted with the permission of the Medical Center Archivist. (Issued by the Office of the Chancellor, December 1, 1975).
Collection must be screened for sensitive or confidential materials before it can be accessed. For further information consult with the Medical Center Archivist.

Terms of access:

Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Walter Kempner Papers and Records, Duke University Medical Center Archives.