Papers of Congressman John Fogarty Added to Profiles in Science

New Resource for Researchers on the Historic Expansion of Federal Medical Research and Libraries

An extensive selection from the official papers of the legislator known as “Mr. Public Health” is now available online for researchers, historians and the public. These materials provide insights into past congressional battles to win vital funding to fight heart disease, cancer and other diseases that continue to plague Americans.

John Fogarty sits behind his desk, pen in hand.

John E. Fogarty at his desk in the US House of Representatives (circa 1945).

The National Library of Medicine has just made available a selection of the papers of Rep. John Edward Fogarty (1913-1967) of Rhode Island on its Profiles in Science® Web site, in collaboration with the Phillips Memorial Library, Special and Archival Collections, at Providence College.

The Democrat, who began his political career as president of the local Bricklayers Union, was first elected to Congress in 1940. An aggressive advocate for labor during his first three terms, Fogarty turned his attention to health care in 1947. From 1949 to 1967 (except 1953-54, when the Republicans gained a majority), he led the House Appropriations Subcommittee for the Departments of Labor and Health, Education and Welfare.

Fogarty became convinced that more medical research and better health services were the surest way to help Americans prosper. As chairman of the subcommittee, he worked with a bipartisan coalition to rapidly expand funding for research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and to fund improved health and educational services for blind, deaf and mentally disabled children. Fogarty also sponsored many bills for the construction of research facilities; expansion of medical, dental and public health programs; and construction of community mental health centers. His advocacy for international health research and services led to the establishment of the Fogarty International Center at NIH. In fact, he contributed to virtually every piece of health-related legislation passed during this time.

Fogarty’s achievements also included legislation to support medical and public libraries, including the National Library of Medicine, as well as the Older Americans Act and the National Foundation on Arts and Humanities Act, which established 50 years ago the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Included in the collection is Fogarty’s oral history interview about President Kennedy, a letter to President Johnson about federal health funding, and a 2014 interview with former Congressman and Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird, whose bi-partisan partnership with Congressman Fogarty was instrumental in passing many pieces of legislation related to health care and medical research.

Fogarty and Laird stand on the U.S. Capitol steps, the dome of the Capitol visible behind them.

Melvin Laird (left) and John E. Fogarty (right) on the U.S. Capitol steps

The seat Fogarty once occupied is now held by Rep. James Langevin, who is the first quadriplegic to serve in the US House of Representatives.

Langevin says, “Congressman Fogarty was a devoted public servant who provided a voice for the voiceless, championing issues affecting seniors, children and people with disabilities. His leadership on and support for medical research and innovation became a hallmark of his career, and it is an example I try to live and legislate by, as I too believe that providing high-quality health care for all Americans builds a strong foundation for individual success and broader economic growth. Rep. Fogarty was a well-respected leader in Congress on issues of health care, and his tireless advocacy benefited not only his constituents in Rhode Island, but the entire nation.”

Profiles in Science showcases digital reproductions of items selected from the personal manuscript collections of prominent biomedical researchers, doctors, public health practitioners, philanthropists, political leaders and others who provided resources, removed barriers and spearheaded projects to improve the health of the nation and the world. Also included in Profiles in Science are the 1964–2000 Reports of the Surgeon General, the history of the Regional Medical Programs, and the Visual Culture and Health Posters. The site gives researchers, educators, and future scientists all over the world access to unique biomedical information previously accessible only by making in-person visits to the institutions holding the physical manuscript collections.

By Adam Shapiro, with assistance from HMD’s Dr. Susan Speaker and Christie Moffatt

Related Information
Learn more about the John E. Fogarty Profiles in Science site through these posts on Circulating Now, the blog of the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine: