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Anna Akeley papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 496

Scope and Contents

The Anna Akeley papers (ca1890-2003; 0.95 cubic feet) document the life and career of Anna Akeley, a physics professor at Purdue University.  With the inclusion of Akeley’s recorded memoirs and personal photographs, the collection provides an accurate reflection of Akeley’s life from childhood to her later years.  Other materials demonstrate Akeley’s impact at Purdue.  The papers would be useful to researchers interested in women in science and higher education, changing roles of women in the twentieth century, material culture of the twentieth century, and immigration as a result of WWII.  Types of materials include: printed material, certificates, and photographs.


  • circa 1890-2003
  • Other: Date acquired: 03/10/2005


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

All copy rights belong to Purdue University.

Biographical Information

Akeley was born in Vienna, Austria in 1904. Akeley chose to focus on comparative religion at college, but also studied physics (specifically x-rays) at the request of her parents. Forced to leave college early for personal reasons, Akeley began working as an editor for a Viennese printing firm. As the Nazis gained more political power, Akeley's Jewish employer was forced to flee Austria. In his absence, she was in charge of liquidating the company's assets. During this time, Edward Akeley, a Purdue physics graduate student, came to Austria and met Anna. Upon his second visit to Austria, they decided to get married, and she came back to the United States with him, arriving in Lafayette in 1942. Shortly after coming to Purdue, Anna learned that she would be teaching physics due to the wartime personnel shortage. Although she was very excited, Anna had been away from the formal study of physics for nearly twenty years and had never been taught physics in English. Despite these initial setbacks, Anna went on to teach numerous courses throughout her 29 years in the Purdue Physics Department. She was elected by her students to receive a Best Instructor Award in 1966, "In Recognition of Outstanding Works Being Done in the Classroom." Always referring to herself as a "simple physics teacher," Anna retired with tenure in 1971. She was the only member of the Physics Department without a physics degree.


0.95 Cubic Feet (1 manuscript box, 1 flat box)

Language of Materials



The collection contains photographs, awards, and a bound copy of Akeley’s memoirs. The materials document her life and career as a physics instructor at Purdue University

Arrangement Note

The collection is divided into three series: 1.  Personal Papers, ca 1890-2000 (0.1 cubic feet).  The series includes photographs of Akeley and her family, as well as a bound copy of her memoirs.  It documents her life and career. 2.  Awards, 1966-2000 (0.75 cubic feet).  The series contains four certificates awarded to Akeley in honor of her teaching career at Purdue. 3.  Miscellaneous, 1967-2003 (0.1 cubic feet)  The series contains miscellaneous other materials relating to Akeley, including magazines in which she is mentioned, and invitation, and a collection of haikus.

Source of Acquisition

Anna M. Akeley via Judy Schumaker

Method of Acquisition


Existence and Location of Originals

multi-part note content

Related Publications

Kleine-Ahlbrandt, William.  2001.  Bitter Prerequisites: A Faculty For Survival From Nazi Terror.  West Lafayette: Purdue University Press.
Anna Akeley papers
In Progress
Virginia Pleasant
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States