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Mary Alice McWhinnie papers

Identifier: DPUA0044

Scope and Contents

The collection contains correspondence, photographs, press coverage, scientific papers and articles, and public presentations created by or about Mary Alice McWhinnie. The materials written by McWhinnie span much of her adult life, from 1954 until her death in 1980.


  • 1958-2003


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical / Historical

Mary Alice McWhinnie was born on August 10, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois. She received her Bachelor and Master degrees in Biology from DePaul University in 1944 and 1946. She joined the faculty of DePaul's Department of Biological Sciences in 1946 as a Graduate Assistant and in 1949 became an Instructor. In 1952, after receiving her Ph.D. in Zoology/Physiology from Northwestern University she was promoted to the rank of Assistant Professor. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 1957 and Professor in 1959. From 1964 to 1969 she served as the Chairman of the Biology Department. Dr. McWhinnie's research and scientific studies focused on krill, a shrimp-like crustacean which inhabits Antarctic waters, and their distribution, habits and food source potential. In 1962, she became the first woman to join the all male United States Antarctic Research Program working on board the National Science Foundation research vessel the Eltanin. From 1962 to 1978, Dr. McWhinnie made over ten research trips to Antarctica, most of them aboard the Eltanin or the RV Hero. In 1972, she earned the status of Chief Scientist on an Eltanin research cruise (Cruise 51); the ship's first venture through the pack ice into Ross Sea. In 1974, she and her colleague Sr. Mary Odile Cahoon were the first two women to over-winter on the Antarctic continent, at the McMurdo research station. Her work included collecting samples through holes drilled in the ice. This enabled her to follow the development and life-cycle of the krill and other species during the sunless winter which complemented her earlier summer projects conducted on board the research ships. Recognition for her scientific reputation was reflected in her membership on numerous committees, panels, consulting groups, and editorial boards. Her stature as one of the leading krill biologists resulted in her appointment as a member to the Krill Biology Working Party of the BIOMASS (Biological Investigations of Marine Antarctic Systems and Stocks) Program. Three years before she died she made an extended tour that took her to Norway, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan to discuss with biologists/food technologists various aspects of krill biology, harvesting and technology of processing them as food. In the process she compiled an impressive bibliography on krill with over one thousand entries. This compilation, "Euphausicacea Bibliography: A World Literature Study" by M. A. McWhinnie, C. J. Denys, and P. Angione was published by Pergamon Press in 1981, a year after her death. Dr. McWhinnie passed away on March 17, 1980 from a brain tumor. Memorial articles and tributes written by her colleagues reflect the admiration and affection of those who knew her. At DePaul's graduation exercises in June 1980, Rev. Edward F. Riley, C.M. presented the university's highest faculty honor, the Via Sapientiae Award, posthumously to Mary Alice McWhinnie. Her sister Vivina Ortner accepted the award.


0.75 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



The collection is organized into four series: 1. Biographical Information, 2. Correspondence, 3. Presentations and Speeches, 4. Publications and Reports.

Most series are arranged chronologically; see series-level organizational notes.

Physical Location


Related Materials

Dennis Schenborn Collection on Antarctica; Emma "Dolly" Dieter Papers

Guide to Mary Alice McWhinnie papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the DePaul Special Collections and Archives Repository

John T. Richardson Library
2350 N. Kenmore Ave.
Room 314
Chicago Illinois 60614