About this Collection

In the decades after World War II, Mary Lasker (1900-1994) acted as a catalyst for the growth of the world's largest and most successful biomedical research enterprise, with the National Institutes of Health as its centerpiece. She was a well-connected fundraiser and astute lobbyist who through charm and skillful use of the media persuaded congressmen and presidents to provide greatly increased funds for biomedical research. Driven by an unshakeable belief that the nation's wealth could be mobilized to unravel the mysteries of disease and find new cures, she developed a compelling political rationale for federal sponsorship of medical research, built a powerful lobby that won large appropriations for NIH, and pushed the agency into new scientific directions, at times in opposition to the scientific establishment.

The Columbia University Libraries Rare Book & Manuscript Library is the repository for the Mary Lasker Papers, which range from 1940 to 1993. The collection contains correspondence, reports, bulletins, clippings, photographs, awards, and printed material.

As part of its Profiles in Science project, the National Library of Medicine has made available online, in collaboration with the Columbia University Libraries Rare Book & Manuscript Library, a digitized selection of the Mary Lasker Papers. This website provides access to the portions of the Mary Lasker Papers that are now publicly available. Individuals interested in conducting research using the full collection of Mary Lasker Papers should contact the Columbia University Libraries Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

This Profile is designed to introduce you to the various phases of Lasker's career and professional life. Narrative sections available from the navigation bar under "The Story" focus on Lasker's life and major scientific contributions to fostering science and health.

Researchers can search the digitized items using the Search box or browse all Documents and Visuals in the collection by selecting "Collection Items" from the navigation bar.