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Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences$
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Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226569871

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226570075.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 26 July 2021

Mary Lasker

Mary Lasker

Citizen Lobbyist for Medical Research

(p.71) 4 Mary Lasker
Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences

Kirsten E. Gardner

University of Chicago Press

Mary Lasker had a passion for health advocacy, and in 1938 became the president of the Birth Control Federation of America, the precursor of the Planned Parenthood Federation. But it was her marriage to advertising executive Albert Lasker that really changed her path.Together, the couple created the Lasker Foundation in 1942 to promote medical research. In a cruel and ironic twist of fate, even though he and his wife had joined the American Society for the Control of Cancer – then a sleepy and ineffectual association which the Laskers began to shake up - Albert Lasker’s ad agency was engaged in promoting smoking. Following her husband’s death, and with the singular drive of a dreamer bent on bringing about true change, Mary Lasker founded the National Health Education Committee. She played a major role in promoting and expanding the National Institutes of Health. Without the efforts of this non-scientist, the very definition of cancer, no less the intrepid fight against the scourge, would look very different today. This chapter examines Lasker’s transformative role in bringing about the war on cancer.

Keywords:   Mary Lasker, health advocacy, National Health Education Committee, National Institutes of Health, cancer, smoking, Albert Lasker

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