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Ulrich C. Luft oral history collection

Identifier: HHC1131

Scope and Content

The interview, conducted by Dr. Jake Spidle in October, 1985, summarizes the life and career of Dr. Ulrich C. Luft (1910-1991), a medical doctor and scientist at the Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The bulk of the interview concerns Dr. Luft's career at Lovelace as head of its Physiology Department, his research interests, and his view of the Lovelace Foundation, its beginnings and development over his twenty-five years of service.


  • 1985
  • Majority of material found in Placeholder Unit Date Text


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of print materials allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Biography / History

Ulrich Cameron Luft (1910-1991) was born in Berlin, Germany on April 25, 1910 to a Scottish mother and a German father. As a child he spent considerable time in Scotland including one extended visit in 1914 which lasted six years due to World War I. Luft graduated from the University of Berlin medical school in 1935. After an internship in Berlin, he spent two years in pathology and completed a doctoral thesis on the morphological changes in tissues in heart muscles and the brain on exposure to hypoxia stimulated by low pressure in a small lo-pressure chamber.

Combining interests in mountaineering and medicine, Luft participated in the 1937 and 1938 German expeditions to Nanga Parbat in the Himalayas as a research physiologist and team physician. His observations of the Sherpa guides at high altitudes led him to collect data on the climbers, noting an increased tolerance to altitude over time that persisted after descent. This effect was applicable to the unpressurized aircraft of the time and to aero-medicine during World War II.

Dr. Luft became the head of the altitude physiology laboratory at the Aero-Medical Research Institute in Berlin after returning from the Himalayas. In 1939 he was drafted into military service, spent three months in training, and then returned to civilian life as a researcher. In 1941, he was elected to the faculty at the University of Berlin where he focused his research on problems in aviation medicine. He was also a consultant to the German military on thermal stress and nutrition.

At the end the war, Dr. Luft opened a private practice and returned as faculty to the University of Berlin. In 1947, he was given a research appointment at the Air Force School of Aviation Medicine in Texas as part of “Operation Paperclip,” an effort to bring German scientists to the United States. In 1954, Luft was hired by William Randolph Lovelace II to head the Physiology Department at the Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There he continued his research efforts in the effect of oxygen deficiency on body tissues. This research impacted the fields of pulmonary disease, exercise tolerance, oxygen equipment design and led to his participation in the physical testing of the original Mercury astronauts at Lovelace.

Dr. Luft retired from Lovelace in 1980 and died at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on November 23, 1991.


1 folder, 3 audio tapes


The oral history summarizes the life and career of Dr. Ulrich C. Luft (1910-1991), a research scientist in aviation medicine at the Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This interview surveys his entire life and career, but focuses on his years at Lovelace and includes detailed discussion of the major research efforts in which he was involved; the growth of facilities and staff at Lovelace, and the major individuals involved in its operations.

Separated Material

Original audio recordings are stored in the Special Collections Annex.

Processing Information

The materials were organized and cataloged by Janet Johnson and reorganized by Peggy McBride in 2009.
Inventory of the Ulrich C. Luft Oral History, 1985
Edited Full Draft
Prepared by Peggy McBride.
© 2009
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center Repository

MSC 09 5100
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque New Mexico 87131 United States