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Pierre Leroy papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS78

Collection-level Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of correspondence to Pierre Leroy, S.J., from his long-time friend the great paleontologist and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, as well as from mutual friends such as George Barbour, Lucile Swan, Helmut and Rhoda de Terra, Marguerite Teillard-Chambon (cousin of Teilhard de Chardin), as well as Teilhard's biographer Mary Lukas.

The collection includes some 77 individual letters written by Teilhard de Chardin to Father Leroy primarily during the former's final exile in the U.S., covering the period 1948 up to his death in 1955 (see Series 2). There are also 30 different reprints and mimeograph copies of essays by Teilhard de Chardin (see Series 4). Other material includes articles on Teilhard de Chardin, many by Father Leroy, as well as correspondence and printed matter from the various exhibitions in France and England held in 1981 through 1982 to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Teilhard de Chardin.


  • 1947-1984
  • Majority of material found within 1948-1955

Collection-level Access Restrictions

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Researchers are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials being used, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for intended use.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction requests for materials authored by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin must be approved by the Teilhard Estate.

Researchers are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials being used, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for intended use.

Biographical notes

Pierre Leroy was a biologist and a priest of the Society of Jesus. He was born in La Madelaine in northern France, on August 24, 1900, the son of Paul Leroy, a textile merchant, and of Elisabeth Wacrenier de Billaux. He was educated at the College des Jesuites de Lille and at the Faculte des Sciences de Nancy. Father Leroy held a doctorate in sciences. He was assistant director (1930-1931) and then director (1938) of the Museum of Natural History in Tientsin, China. From 1940 to 1946 he was director of the Geobiological Institute in Peking, which he helped found with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

On his return to France in 1946, Father Leroy was admitted as a member of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CRNS), in which capacity he also served as researcher for the College de France until 1970. From 1950 to 1951 Father Leroy researched the physiological effects of cortisone at the University of Chicago. Back in France, Father Leroy served as director of the laboratory at Gif-sur-Yvette until he retired, in 1971, to the Lycee Prive Sainte Genevieve at Versailles where he resided until his death on May 23, 1992.

During his retirement, Father Leroy continued to lecture in Europe and the U.S. He wrote extensively on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and edited for publication the correspondence he exchanged over many years with the latter. Father Leroy served as French delegate to UNESCO in 1954 and 1958; and was a member of the Academy of Sciences in New York from 1960 to 1962. He was decorated by the French government as Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

Father Leroy first met Teilhard de Chardin while still a student at the University of Nancy. He was preparing to follow the Jesuit missionary explorer Emile Licent, founder of the Hwang-ho-Pai-ho Museum at the Jesuit College des Hautes Etudes (later part of the French Paleontological Mission) in China. Teilhard de Chardin was passing through Paris on home leave from China and agreed to meet Father Leroy when he learned about the proposed trip. The two did not meet again until 1931 after Father Leroy was installed at the Jesuit school near Licent's museum in Tientsin. In his introduction to "Letters from My Friend" (1976), Father Leroy recounts that Teilhard de Chardin, then established at the Chinese Geological Survey in Peking, often visited him, although their close friendship was not to develop until the outbreak of World War II, when they were cut off from the world by the Japanese invasion of China, and had to share a house in Peking for six years, from 1940 through 1946.

After the war ended, both Father Leroy and Teilhard de Chardin returned to Paris, the former to work for the CNRS and the latter to take up residence with the writers of the Jesuit periodical, “Etudes”. They met regularly until the departure of Teilhard de Chardin for the U.S. in early 1948, which was to be his final place of exile. From then until his death on April 10, 1955, Teilhard de Chardin was to return to France only twice: from mid-1948 to mid-1951 (when he lectured at the Sorbonne), and briefly from June to August 1954. During this last exile, contact between the two friends was primarily epistolary. The correspondence comprising the second series in this collection of Father Leroy's papers spans this entire period.


1.3 Linear Feet (3 Hollinger Document Cases)

Language of Materials



Provenance: Gift of Pierre Leroy, S.J., June 1987, March 1990, August 1990.

Related Materials

Researchers are encouraged to consult additional collections relating to Pierre Teihard de Chardin and his circle, including, but not limited to: Marie-Therese Cosme GTM940608 Adrienne Croissant GTMGamms412 Diane de Margerie GTM930319 Marie Therese Dubalen - Nancy Corson Carter GTMGamms303 Robert Francoeur GTM860201 Walter Granger GTM841101 R.J. Houdin GTMGamms176 Thomas King, S.J., GTM130716 Mary and Ellen Lukas GTM841023 Francoise Raphael GTM850212 Lucile Swan GTMGamms184 Janetta Warre GTM110506 Janetta Warre 2 GTMGamms308 Teilhard de Chardin Association Archives GTM070730 Leo W. Zonneveld GTM080206

Pierre Leroy, papers
Lisette C. Matano, Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Washington, D.C.
circa 1990
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2022: Conditions Governing Use note updated by John Zarrillo

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057