78¢ Mary Lasker
Issue Date: May 15, 2009
City: Washington, DC
Printed by: Ashton Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed and Engraved
Perforations: Serpentine Die Cut11.25 x 10.75
Mary Lasker (1900-94) was neither a doctor nor a researcher, yet her work revolutionized the medical community.
Lasker used her social standing, powers of persuasion, and personal wealth to promote the rapid growth of biomedical research. Doctor Jonas Salk, who developed the first effective polio vaccine, called Lasker “a matchmaker between science and society.”
Prior to Lasker’s advocacy, expensive medical research was typically conducted by private universities and pharmaceutical companies. Decades could pass before physicians learned the outcome and applied the findings to their patients.
Lasker campaigned for greater cooperation between scientists and the medical community as well as for government funds to finance research. Confronted with opposition, Lasker countered, “If you think research is expensive, try disease.”
Lasker’s efforts led to an increase in money given to the National Institutes of Health and the establishment of research centers focused on specific diseases, including the National Cancer Institute. Together with her husband, she created the Lasker Foundation to support medical research. For her contributions, Lasker was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.