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Dr. Richard A. DeWall Papers (MS-584)

Identifier: MS-584

Scope and Contents

Series I, Articles and Publications, contains DeWall’s Curriculum Vitae, thesis, and articles and other publications he produced. It also contains article from other authors (several concerning Lillehei) that DeWall kept for his own use. Materials in this series date from 1948 to 2016.

Series II, Newspaper Clippings about DeWall, contains newspaper articles about Dr. DeWall and his accomplishments. Most notably, there are copies of a Dayton Daily News article discussing a meeting between Dr. DeWall and a young boy named Josh Hennessy who received surgery using methods pioneered by DeWall. Materials in this series date from 1957 to 2016.

Series III, Awards, contains awards and commendations bestowed upon Dr. DeWall by the American Medical Association and others for his contributions to the advancement of heart surgery. Materials in this series date from 1955 to 2005.

Series IV, Correspondence, includes letters sent to Dr. DeWall from friends, professional acquaintances, and former patients. Notably it contains a letter from one Josh Hennessy, with whom Dr. DeWall appeared in a Dayton Daily News article. Materials in this series date from 1955 to 2005.

Series V, Patents, contains copies of US and Canadian patents (and some related correspondence) for various medical devices developed by Dr. DeWall and others, Materials in this series date from 1956 to 1987.

Series VI, Photos and Slides, contains a collection of photos and slides (both glass and 35mm) showcasing Dr. DeWall and his oxygenator. There are several glass slides containing images of an unidentified individual undergoing surgery, Materials in this series date from 1958 to 1986.


  • Creation: 1948-2016
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1955-1989


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on accessing material in this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

Richard DeWall was born December 16th, 1916 in Appleton, Minnesota. He grew up in Morris, Minnesota, became an Eagle Scout, and joined the United States Navy. After he left the Navy in 1945, he attended the University of Minnesota, where he graduated in 1949 and earned his M.D. in 1953. He stayed at the University of Minnesota and worked with Dr. Owen Wangensteen and Dr. C. Walton Lillehei and began working on developing new methods to perform open heart surgery.

In 1955, Dr. DeWall invented the first portable and workable bubble oxygenator. This device, called the DeWall Bubble Oxygenator, made it easier for doctors to conduct open heart surgery and provide improved methods of care to countless patients. It quickly became the standard for heart surgery around the world. He worked as a research assistant at University of Minnesota until 1956, and return in 1959 to become an instructor in surgery. He departed the University of Minnesota in 1962 and moved to Chicago where he worked as a professor at the Chicago Medical School.

At the behest of Virginia Kettering, Dr. DeWall moved to Dayton in 1966 to establish an open-heart surgery program at the Kettering Hospital. He served as Chief of Surgery at the Cox Heart Institute and performed the first open heart surgery. Shortly after arriving in Dayton, Dr. DeWall determined the city needed its own medical school and endeavored to establish one. In 1970, after three years of work, he sent a proposal to the Ohio Board of Regents where he outlined the need and feasibility of creating a medical school. This proposal became the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University.

Dr. DeWall died at his home in Oakwood, Ohio, on August 15, 2016.


1.68 linear feet

Language of Materials



The Dr. Richard A. DeWall Papers contain material from Dr. DeWall’s lengthy career. Within the collection there are copies of publications, patent documentation, and presentation slides created by Dr. DeWall. The material mostly relates to Dr. DeWall’s invention of the bubble oxygenator. However, there are some materials from his efforts to create a medical school at Wright State University.


The collection is arranged in 6 series:

  1. Series I, Publications, 1948-2016
  2. Series II, Newspaper Clippings, 1957-2016
  3. Series III, Awards, 1955-2005
  4. Series IV, Correspondence, 1955-2005
  5. Series V, Patents, 1956-1987
  6. Series VI, Photos and Slides, 1951-2004

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

A lightbox will be helpful for viewing the 35mm slides, as well as the lantern slides, in the collection.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated to Special Collection and Archives, Wright State University Libraries, Donated by Diane DeWall on April 1, 2017

Related Materials

Interview with Richard DeWall, 1984 May 5, Wright State University, Boonshoft School of Medicine Oral History Project,

Interview with Richard DeWall, 1998 Oct. 28, Minnesota Historical Society, Pioneers of the Medical Industry in Minnesota,

Separated Materials

Local history materials created by Dr. DeWall’s wife Diane DeWall, and received with the collection, have been separated and will be processed separately.

Guide to the Dr. Richard A. DeWall Papers (MS-584)
Lisa Rickey
2021 May 5
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Wright State University Libraries
Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA