I was a graduate student at Princeton starting in 1950. My studies were done in the biology department in the laboratory of Professor Wilbur W. Swingle, located on the basement level of Guyot Hall. Professor Swingle was one of the world’s leading authorities on the adrenal cortex, an endocrine gland, the secretions of which are crucial not only to our well-being but to life itself.
Langford Bolling was a black man who worked in Dr. Swingle’s laboratory. Langford was not only Dr. Swingle’s most trusted assistant and confidant, he also taught graduate students all the experimental techniques that were used in that laboratory — particularly in the Vivarium, then located just to the south of Guyot Hall. Langford ran the Vivarium and cared for all the experimental animals (rats, cats, dogs, mice) housed there, which sometimes numbered in the hundreds.
Much of the experimental effort centered on the secretions of the adrenal cortex and the identification of the hormone(s) secreted by that endocrine gland. This required the use of dogs whose adrenal glands had been removed. The difficult surgery was, I believe, developed by Dr. Swingle, and he would never operate without Langford’s assessment of the dog’s health and unless Langford was present as the anesthesiologist. Langford also was the most trusted postoperative caretaker of the dogs, and he taught students the proper, humane care and assessment of both pre- and post-experimental animals. But there was so much more interaction between Langford and the white graduate students. For example, he helped me and my new wife find our first automobile (a used green 1950 Chevrolet).
Possibly Langford’s employment record still exists wherever those records are kept. I know of no picture of Langford, and I wish I had one. It is so sad that a man so important in mainline research at a great university remains unknown.
Your article on Joseph Henry and his black assistant, Sam Parker, inspired me. And now we know of two black men who worked in the shadows at Princeton.
Photo of Langford Bolling courtesy Romus Broadway