Profiles in Science

About Profiles in Science

Profiles in Science is an online archive of materials documenting the history of science, medicine, and public health, and includes more than 30,000 digitized items selected from the Archives and Modern Manuscripts collections of the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) History of Medicine Division, and from those of collaborating institutions. Through Profiles in Science, researchers learn about such stories as the race to decipher the genetic code, the development of the APGAR score to assess the health of newborns, and the discovery of Vitamin C. Correspondence, draft manuscripts, photographs, diaries, and more provide insight into the wide range of paths, challenges, and successes of scientific discovery, and the many individuals, roles, and perspectives involved.

The Profiles

Profiles in Science is organized into individual Profiles, each featuring the following major pieces:

The Story
Biographical narrative texts (on the navigation bar as “The Story”) about the subject’s life and work, written to be accessible to students and others new to the topic. Each Story includes a list of additional resources and a glossary for further exploration of related content and understanding of terminology consistent with the time period of the collection.

Collection Items
Digitized documents, images, and audiovisual material from the manuscript collection that help tell the story of the subject’s life and work and provide a representative sample of the archival collection.  Researchers can browse these items from “Collection Items” on the navigation bar or search by using the Search box.

Read more on the NLM History of Medicine Blog Circulating Now

Our Story

NLM launched Profiles in Science in September 1998 to make the stories of leaders in biomedical science available online through selected digitized documents from archival collections combined with biographical text. The first Profiles featured selections from the archival collections of Nobel Prize laureates, five of whom did their work at the National Institutes of Health. Since then, the scope of Profiles in Science has grown to include a broader range of collections that document advances in public health and clinical medicine. Now featuring over 40 collections, the Profiles are especially strong in areas such as biochemistry, cellular biology, and genetics, but also represent the history of medical research policy and science education, among other topics.

Profiles in Science was re-launched in 2019 using the Spotlight at Stanford application. Researchers can also search and discover these and other digitized items and their metadata in NLM Digital Collections.

We invite you to share your experience using Profiles in Science as we continue to build new Profiles and explore ways to improve the research experience. Please share your thoughts, feedback, and suggestions at


Profiles in Science is a highly collaborative project between archivists, computer scientists, historians, librarians, research assistants, and scanning technicians at NLM and other institutions under the leadership of the History of Medicine Division (1998–present), the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications (1998–2019), the Technical Services Division (2017-present) and the Office of Computer and Communications Systems (2017–present).

For their generous collaboration in making their outstanding collections available on Profiles, we gratefully acknowledge

  • Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
  • American Philosophical Society
  • Churchill Archives Centre at the University of Cambridge
  • Columbia University Libraries Rare Book & Manuscript Library
  • Indiana University Center on Philanthropy
  • Library of Congress Manuscript Division
  • Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University
  • Oregon State University Libraries
  • Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill University
  • Phillips Memorial Library, Special & Archival Collections at Providence College
  • Rockefeller Archive Center; the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College
  • Stanford University Libraries Department of Special Collections & University Archives
  • Tennessee State Library & Archives
  • University of California, San Francisco Archives & Special Collections
  • Wellcome Library for the History & Understanding of Medicine