Henrik Holt Bendixen papers

Henrik H. (Henrik Holt) Bendixen, 1923-2004
Date [inclusive]
1943-1998 (bulk 1957-1994)
English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian.
Physical Description
6.25 cubic feet (18 boxes, 1 oversize box, 1 folder, 2 rolled items)

Because the papers include Confidential Health Information (CHI) as defined by Columbia University policies governing data security and privacy, access is allowed only under the terms of Archives and Special Collections’ Access Policy to Records Containing Confidential Health Information.

Records in Series II (Columbia University) are closed to outside researchers for 25 years from the date of creation.

The collection is stored off-site. Researchers will need to request this material from Archives & Special Collections at least two business days in advance to use the collection in our reading room. Generally, Archives & Special Collections will not recall more than 12 boxes at a time.


The Bendixen papers largely document his career as a biomedical scientist. There is no family correspondence and there are relatively few official Columbia University records. The papers include correspondence with leading academic anesthesiologists in North America and Western Europe; Bendixen's scientific presentations and medical school lectures; a set of reprints of his publications; correspondence with publishers and professional organizations; photographs; and artifacts, largely awards and medals.

Cite as
Henrik H. Bendixen Papers, Archives & Special Collections, Columbia University Health Sciences Library.
Historical/Biographical Note

Henrik Holt Bendixen, anesthesiologist and medical educator, was born December 2, 1923 in Fredriksberg, Denmark, the son of Carl Julius and Borghild Holt Bendixen. He was educated at the University of Copenhagen where he received his medical degree with honors in 1951. After internships at various hospitals in Denmark and Sweden and a brief tour of duty on the Danish hospital ship "Jutlandia" during the Korean War, he accepted a residency in anesthesiology at the Massachusetts General Hospital in 1954.

Bendixen rose to become Anesthetist at the MGH and Assistant Clinical Professor of Anesthesiology at the Harvard Medical School. With other well-known members of the Harvard anesthesiology department including John Hedley-Whyte, Myron "Mike" Laver and Henning Pontoppidan, Bendixen conducted pathbreaking research in cardio-pulmonary pathophysiology related to anesthesia and critical illnesses. In addition, he was director of Harvard's NIH Center for Research and Training in Anesthesiology, ca. 1961-1969, and played an important role in establishing the first respiratory intensive care unit at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

In 1969, Bendixen became Professor of Anesthesiology and Chief of Department at the medical school and hospital of the University of California, San Diego. At UCSD he was responsible for founding the department of anesthesiology, including starting residency training and establishing a research program. In addition, he served as Medical Director of the University Hospital, 1971-1972.

Bendixen moved to the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York in 1973 to accept the positions of Professor and Chair of Anesthesiology at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) and Director of the Anesthesiology Service at Presbyterian Hospital.

At Columbia, Bendixen was named Alumni Professor (1984) and then E.M. Papper Professor (1985) of Anesthesiology. He served as the University's Acting Provost and Vice President for Health Sciences in 1980-1981. Columbia again turned to Bendixen in 1985 when he was named Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. As such, he was not only Dean of the College of Physicians and Surgeons but also had oversight of the University's Schools of Dental and Oral Surgery, Nursing, and Public Health.

Bendixen's relatively brief tenure (1985-1989) as Vice President and Dean included many important initiatives. He strongly supported creation of a modern computer infrastructure that would eventually reshape virtually every aspect of teaching and administration on campus; he played an active role in saving the School of Nursing, which the University wished to close; and in collaboration with Presbyterian Hospital he established the Office of Clinical Trials, one of the first of its kind and destined to be greatly imitated throughout the world.

Bendixen stepped down as Vice President and Dean in February 1989. He remained at Columbia as Senior Associate Vice President for Health Sciences and Senior Associate Dean of the Faculty of Medicine until his retirement in June 1994. He was then named an Emeritus Professor.

Bendixen was a member of numerous scientific societies including the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the Society of Critical Care Medicine (founding member), the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the Association of University Anesthetists, and the American Physiological Society. He received honorary degrees from the University of Copenhagen and the Jagiellonian University of Krakow, Poland. At Columbia, he had two professorships named in his honor - the Bendixen Professorship in Research in Anesthesia at P&S and the Bendixen Professorship in International Nursing at the School of Nursing. He received the P&S Distinguished Service Medal in 1995.

Bendixen married Karen Skakke in 1947; they had two children before her death in 1984. He married Liselotte (Lilo) Aeschlimann Laver, the widow of his colleague Myron "Mike" Laver, in 1985. Henrik H. Bendixen died on April 4, 2004 in Rancho Mirage, California, survived by his wife and children.


Organized in eight series:

I. Correspondence
II. Columbia University
III. Lectures, Speeches, and Reprints
IV. Universities, Societies, and Publishers
V. Books and Reports
VI. Photographs
VII. Artifacts
VIII. Oversize.

Scope and Content

The Bendixen Papers largely document his career as a biomedical scientist. There is no family correspondence (though he sometimes mentions personal matters in his letters to colleagues) and there are relatively few official Columbia University records.

Series I: Correspondence

The correspondence consists of both incoming letters and copies of Bendixen's responses. It is largely professional in nature and bulks between 1957 and 1994. Bendixen had a wide acquaintance with the leading academic anesthesiologists in North America and Western Europe and was friends with many. The content of the letters, while generally scientific and professional, often contains personal and biographical information about Bendixen that can be found nowhere else in his papers.

Correspondents include John J. Bonica, John P. Bunker, Werner and Joan Flacke, Joachim S. Gravenstein, William K. Hamilton, John Hedley-Whyte, Thomas F. Hornbein, Sophus Johansen, Richard J. Kitz, John F. Nunn, Henning Pontoppidan, Ole Secher, Fritz Stern, Kunio Suwa, Marek Sych, and Peter Winter.

The correspondence with his Harvard department chair, Henry K. Beecher, is particularly warm and shows the high regard each held for the other. There are several letters from Bendixen related to Beecher's work on the ethics of human experimentation that led to Beecher's 1966 landmark article, "The Ethics of Clinical Research," in the New England Journal of Medicine. These include a six-page letter of March 25, 1965 with Bendixen's comments on the subject and his November 15, 1965 memo to Beecher entitled "Guidelines in Human Study."

Bendixen corresponded throughout his career with many Scandinavian colleagues and these letters are often in Danish, Swedish, or Norwegian.

Series II. Columbia University

Records of Bendixen's work as an administrator at Columbia, largely from his time as Senior Associate Vice President for Health Sciences (1989-1994). In contrast, there is very little in these papers documenting his tenure as chair of the department of anesthesiology. Bendixen's records as Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine can be found in the Central Files of the Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences which were only partially processed at the time this finding aid was written (2004).

The bulk of the series documents his work with the Integrated Academic Information Management System (IAIMS), part of an effort to foster a wider computer infrastructure at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. Included are lectures and presentations he gave on IAIMS, as well as reports and reviews.

As official University records, these files are closed for 25 years from the date of creation, as mandated in the Archives and Special Collections' Access Policy. Personal notes and other non-official correspondence with University officers can be found in Series I.

Series III. Lectures, Speeches, and Reprints

Drafts and final versions of numerous lectures and scientific presentations given by Bendixen, 1956-1993. While most of these are focused on Bendixen's scientific interests - especially critical and intensive care; respiratory failure and resuscitation; hypoxia; and catecholamines - some are of more general medical interest, especially during his tenure as Vice President at Columbia in the 1980s.

Many of these lectures became the basis for published scientific articles that can be found in the reprints. However, there are also many talks, never formally published, that Bendixen gave to medical students and residents at Harvard and Columbia from the mid-1950s to the 1980s.

Series IV. Universities, Societies, and Publishers

Correspondence with a wide variety of academic institutions, scholarly organizations, and publishers. The university correspondence often concerns efforts to recruit Bendixen. Much of this is routine and not very extensive, with the exception of the University of Iowa correspondence which shows that Bendixen seriously considered accepting the chairmanship of anesthesiology there.

In the publishers' correspondence, the Edward Arnold, Ltd. records include a contract for Bendixen's contribution to Epidemiology and Anesthesia, edited by John F. Nunn and published in 1986.

Series V. Books and Reports

Includes three published reports from the Forum on Blood Safety and Blood Availability, a task force of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences which was chaired by Bendixen; this is the only documentation in the papers of his role in this work.

Series VI. Photographs

These are almost entirely professional in nature and largely date to his time as Vice President for Health Sciences. There are, however, portrait photographs from throughout his adult life.

Series VII. Artifacts

Medals and other three-dimensional awards received by Bendixen.

Series VIII. Oversize

Large-format items including medical licenses, diplomas, and awards.


Gift of Henrik H. Bendixen, 1999 (accession #99.07.26).

Processing Notes

Papers processed and finding aid written by Stephen E. Novak, 2004.