About this Collection

For nearly four decades, Harold Eliot Varmus (b. 1939) has advanced fundamental scientific knowledge at the intersection of virology, oncology, and genetics, both as a researcher and as Director of NIH and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. With his long-time collaborator J. Michael Bishop, Varmus developed a new theory of the origin of cancer, which holds that the disease arises from mutations in certain of our own normal genes. These mutations are triggered by environmental carcinogens or by naturally occurring errors in the course of cell division and DNA replication. As an expert on retroviruses he chaired the scientific advisory committee that in 1986 proposed the name human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) for the etiologic agent of AIDS. In 1993 he became the first Nobel laureate to head NIH.

The University of California, San Francisco Archives and Special Collections is the repository for the Harold Varmus Papers, which range from 1967 to 1993. The collection contains correspondence, lecture notes, photographs, laboratory notebooks, and published articles.

This site also provides access to portions of the Harold Varmus Papers held at the National Library of Medicine, which range from 1904 to 2010. This collection includes photographs, correspondence, speeches, audiovisual materials, and administrative files, mainly from Varmus's years at NIH and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

As part of its Profiles in Science project, the National Library of Medicine has made available online, in collaboration with the University of California, San Francisco Archives and Special Collections, a digitized selection of the Harold Varmus Papers. This website provides access to the portions of the Harold Varmus Papers that are now publicly available. Individuals interested in conducting research using the full collection of Harold Varmus Papers should contact the University of California, San Francisco Archives and Special Collections and the National Library of Medicine.

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

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.