About Profiles in Science

Profiles in Science presents the lives and work of innovators in science, medicine, and public health through in-depth research, curation, and digitization of archival collection materials. National Library of Medicine (NLM) historians and archivists review, study, and select documents from the Library's the Archives and Modern Manuscript collections, and collaborating institutions, to bring the public biographical stories and direct access to supporting primary sources.

Through Profiles in Science, researchers can learn about such stories as:

Profiles in Science includes over 30,000 digitized letters, draft manuscripts, photographs, diaries, and more that provide insight into the challenges and successes of scientific discovery and the diversity of paths and perspectives involved.

Find more highlights from Profiles in Science on the NLM History of Medicine Blog Circulating Now.

The Profiles

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

The Story
The Story in each Profile is an in-depth biographical narrative, organized by historians into time periods according to educational background, professional experience, research projects, collaborations, discoveries, awards, and other significant events. Each Story includes a list of additional resources for further exploration of related content and a glossary defining terminology common during time period of the collection.

Collection Items
Documents, images, and audiovisual material from the manuscript collection help tell the story of individual’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.

Profiles in Science Development Policy

NLM selects new collections for inclusion on Profiles in Science based on the following criteria:

  • Historical significance: The subject and their work has made an important contribution that enriches our understanding of science, medicine, or public health.
  • Availability: NLM develops Profiles from manuscript collections that are held by the National Library of Medicine. Select past projects have involved collaborations with other institutions.
  • Documentation: Collections are fully organized and described by an archivist.
  • Diversity: Profiles represent a diversity of populations and roles in the history of science and medicine.
  • Depth: Collections contain a rich representation of the subject’s contribution to science, medicine, and/or public health, including visual materials.
  • Use: Materials that are heavily used by researchers will be given consideration.
  • Restrictions: Materials that are restricted by the donor or other owner will not be digitized unless permission can be obtained. Materials that contain personal health information or other privacy information will not be placed online.

We welcome suggestions for new collections. Please share recommendations at https://support.nlm.nih.gov

Our Story

Profiles in Science uses ArchivesSpace for item-level description, NLM’s digital repository to store content, and Spotlight, open-source software developed by Stanford University, for public access. Profiles content is also now available in NLM’s Digital Collections for exploration alongside other publicly available digital content, including books, film, prints, photographs, and manuscripts.

The original Profiles in Science, launched 1998, reflected innovative use of new internet and digitization technology to bring the unique manuscript collections of scientific luminaries held at the National Library of Medicine directly to the public.

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, and include several collections made available through collaboration with other institutions. Profiles in Science also features topical collections on the Reports of the Surgeon General (1964-2000), Visual Culture and Health, and Regional Medical Programs.

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 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