NLM acquires papers of Dartmouth's Dr. Koop
When you become an officer in the United States government, you take an oath of office," says Dr. C. Everett Koop, former U.S. surgeon general, in his rugged, commanding voice. "As I pointed out to people many times when they said, 'Why didn't you strike out about so and so?' . . . I was the surgeon general of [everyone]. . . . I just can't pick out people and say, 'I like what you believe and therefore I'm telling you how to save your life.'"
Public: This was the philosophy that guided America's bestknown surgeon general in his fight against tobacco, his efforts to remove the stigma of AIDS, and his innovative strategies to promote the health of the nation. More than any other surgeon general before or since, Koop (who served in the post from 1981 to 1989) was a public figure. And it's for the public that his papers were recently welcomed into the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Occupying 71 linear feet, the collection includes paper documents—lectures, letters, fan mail and hate mail, photographs, and published works—plus hundreds of television interviews,
documentaries, and public service announcements. In addition, Koop annotated each of the 960 lectures he gave. "I would try to set the political stage" at the time the lecture was delivered, he explains, "tell what had happened before, try to give a reason why we chose a particular venue or why we chose the subject. And then if there was anything I could say from 25 years out," he included that, too.
The Koop papers are housed in an exclusive section of the NLM called "Profiles in Science." The web-accessible archive also includes the personal papers of Francis Crick, codiscoverer of DNA; Florence Sabin, the first woman elected to the National Academy of Sciences; and several Nobel laureates.
"It's nice to be in good company like that," says Koop, a 1937 Dartmouth College graduate who still, just shy of his 89th birthday, heads the C. Everett Koop Institute at DMS. "It's also nice to know," he adds, "that some of the things that I labored on so arduously are available for historians, and especially people in public health."
If you'd like to offer feedback about this article, we'd welcome getting your comments at DartMed@Dartmouth.edu.
This article may not be reproduced or reposted without permission. To inquire about permission, contact DartMed@Dartmouth.edu.