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Donald S. Fredrickson Papers 1910-2002 (bulk 1960-1999)
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Collection Scope and Content Note


Correspondence, photographs, diaries, research materials, reports, writings, drafts, and audiovisual materials (1910-2002; 62.5 linear feet) document the semi-official portion of Donald S. Fredrickson's professional career as a leading biomedical administrator and policy maker. Beginning with his clinical laboratory career at the National Heart Institute, Fredrickson spent over 28 years at NIH, culminating in 1975-1981 when he was Institute Director. During the course of his career, Fredrickson became world-renowned for his dynamic leadership qualities and creative vision about the future directions of biomedical research in the U.S. and NIH's role in that future.

The collection consists largely of records of Fredrickson's activities (travel, talks, etc.) outside the institutions with which he was associated and of subject files he used primarily for his historical researches later in his career. The collection includes a significant amount of correspondence, as well as a large selection of biographical materials, including diaries, scrapbooks, and reminiscences.

Fredrickson began his career as a clinical associate at the National Heart Institute (NHI) in 1953, where he discovered two genetic disorders of the storage of cholesterol in the body: cholesterol ester storage disease and Tangier disease. Aside from articles and speeches, there is very little primary source material (e.g., lab notebooks) documenting his clinical research career at NHI. As Director of NHI, he organized a Conference on Cardiac Transplantation in response to the first human heart transplant, performed by South African heart surgeon Dr. Christiaan Barnard. The collection contains a fair amount of materials on this conference, including memos, schedules, and photographs in Series 8: Professional Activities, National Heart Institute sub-series.

In 1975, Fredrickson was appointed Director of the National Institutes of Health. As Director, Fredrickson led NIH in developing guidelines for recombinant DNA research, and stabilized NIH funding for extramural grants in the face of Congressional budget cuts. Important documentary materials from this period of Fredrickson's career include research materials he prepared for his book The Recombinant DNA Controversy: A Memoir, and the materials of Series 5: Director, NIH, Authorization sub-series, which include reprints, correspondence, memos, notes, etc. relating to grant funding at NIH.

Following his career at NIH, Fredrickson became President and CEO of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Series 8: Professional Activities, Howard Hughes Medical Institute sub-series contains diaries, correspondence, and newspaper clippings relating to Fredrickson's HHMI presidency.

After a long career of administration, Fredrickson turned to historical research, as a Scholar-in-Residence with the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The materials of Series 9: Clinical Center are the product of that research and provide valuable insight into the history of the NIH Clinical Center. They include photographs, notes, correspondence, and interviews.

The files of Series 9: Clinical Center, Series 4: Recombinant DNA Materials and the Authorization sub-series of Series 5: Director, National Institutes of Health are peculiar in their nature and arrangement. These materials tend not to be original documents, but rather photocopies of the originals, along with additional comments by Fredrickson, which he created on his computer and printed out. The digital files are no longer available, but Fredrickson preserved their arrangement in his paper filing system, noting the titles of the original hard drive folder and sub-folder on each item. In order to preserve the original organization, sub-series titles replicate the computer hard drive's top-level file naming convention. Fredrickson discusses his filing system arrangement for these series in an interview titled "Fredrickson on the Recombinant DNA Controversy," located in Series 11: Audio-Visual Materials, Audio Materials sub-series.

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