BIOGRAPHY OF ARTHUR M. SACKLER, M.D.
On September 8, 1986, the late Dr. Arthur M. Sackler, medical researcher, publisher and art collector extraordinaire, participated in ground-breaking ceremonies for the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology at Peking University and the Jill Sackler Sculpture Court and Garden. The museum is a tangible monument to Dr. Sackler's love of Chinese art and his deep respect and admiration for the Chinese people.
Arthur Sackler was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 22, 1913, to Isaac and Sophie Sackler. Growing up in New York City his education encompassed the three major disciplines, the arts, sciences and humanities, which remained the focus of his life until his death from a heart attack on May 26, 1987. In his youth, he attended Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, and as a student there began his career in publishing as editor on all the student publications.
As an undergraduate pre-medical student at what was then called New York University's University Heights College of Arts and Sciences, in addition to his studies in biology, he pursued courses in English drama and art history. He also studied painting and sculpture in evening courses given at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. At the same time, he pursued his interest in publishing as editor of undergraduate publications.
In 1933, Dr. Sackler received his Bachelor of Arts degree from New York University and then spent the next four years at the University's medical school. Again, as a medical student, he continued his journalistic pursuits as editor of the medical school publications. In 1937 he received his medical degree.
Dr. Sackler's Contributions to the Sciences
After completing his internship and resident service as a house physician at Lincoln Hospital, New York City, Arthur Sackler became a resident in psychiatry at Creedmoor State Hospital, also in New York City. There, in the nineteen-forties, he started a research career that led to the publication of one-hundred-forty papers in neuroendocrinology, psychiatry and experimental medicine. He served as research director of the Creedmoor Institute for Psychobiologic Studies from 1949 to 1954. In 1958, Dr. Sackler established the Laboratories for Therapeutic Research, a facility in New York for basic research which he directed until 1983.
From 1967 to 1972, Arthur Sackler served on the board of trustees of New York Medical College, and was awarded the college's distinguished Health Service Medal in 1983. From 1972 to 1987, Dr. Sackler held the academic post of research professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College, and in 1987 was awarded the Terence Cardinal Cooke Medal for Distinguished Services in Health Care by New York Medical College.
As a generous benefactor to the causes of medicine and basic science, Dr. Sackler built and contributed to a wide range of scientific institutions: the Sackler School of Medicine established in 1972 at Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel; the Sackler
Institute of Graduate Biomedical Science at New York University founded in 1980; the Arthur M. Sackler Science Center dedicated in 1985 at Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts; the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, established 1980, and the Arthur M. Sackler Center for Health Communications, established in 1986, both at Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts.
Dr. Sackler also served as a director of scientific organizations, such as the Foundation for Nutritional Advancement from 1976 to 1987, and as an officer of international health organizations, for example, the World Health Organization's International Task Force on World Health Manpower of which he was chairman from 1969 to 1987; chairman of the International Association of Social Psychiatry from 1970 to 1987; vice-president of the International Committee Against Mental disease from 1973 to 1987; and in 1981 vice-chairman of the First International Conference on Nutrition, held in Tianjin, China. He also participated as a member of the Rockefeller University Council and Harvard University's Committee on University Resources.
In addition to receiving awards for research in histamine biochemotherapy in psychiatric disorders in 1950 and hematosonography in 1952, Dr. Sackler was awarded the Order of Carlos Finlay by the government of Cuba in 1960. He received the Presidential Commendation of the American Psychiatric Association in 1982. He also received honorary doctorates in science from Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1978, and from Hahnemann University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1985. Also in 1985, he received the Laureate Award from the Institute for Advanced Study, Indiana University.
It was in the nineteen-fifties that Dr. Sackler's high school and university journalistic efforts found expression in his chosen career of medicine. From 1950 to 1962, he edited the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Psychobiology. In 1960, he founded Medical Tribune, a bi-weekly newspaper for physicians that today is printed in seven languages. The first publication of its kind, Medical Tribune was a major innovation for bringing health news to doctors around the world. Since the early years of Medical Tribune, it has grown into a major scientific publishing organization with more than one-million readers in twenty countries. Dr. Sackler was also a member of the board of directors of Scientific American.
Dr. Sackler's Contributions to the Arts and Humanities
Dr. Sackler considered himself first and foremost a scientist, but his love for and involvement with the arts and humanities certainly was not of secondary importance. While in medical school, Dr. Sackler began collecting art. His first acquisitions were of paintings by American artists, then pre- and early Renaissance paintings, as well as French Impressionist and post-Impressions paintings. At the same time, he also actively supported contemporary painters. It was in 1950 however that he saw a small table that appealed to him for its simple, elegant lines; the table was Chinese, produced about 1600, during the late Ming dynasty. From that time on, until his death, Dr. Sackler was a passionate collector of Chinese art. Eventually he acquired objects which made his collection of Chinese ceramics, bronzes, jades and sculpture, one of the most important outside of China.
Dr. Sackler did not however limit his art collecting activities to Chinese works of art. His art collections were vast and wide-ranging, spanning many cultural horizons, and various media. He collected the art of India, Japan and the Near East, as well as that of Europe and the New World; and the art he collected included jades, ceramics, metalwork, textiles, sculptures and paintings. He also said of himself that "I collect as a biologist. To really understand a civilization or a society, you must have a large enough corpus of data. You can't know twentieth century art only by looking at Picassos and Henry Moores."
Dr. Sackler served on Columbia University's Advisory Council of Art History and Archaeology from 1961 to 1974 and established the Sackler Laboratories there for the study of art historical and archaeological artifacts. He also served as the senior research associate in anthropology at Columbia University from 1967 to 1970. In 1967, he sponsored a symposium at Columbia University, "Early Chinese Art and Its Possible Influence in the Pacific Basin," which resulted in a three volume publication of the same name that he also funded.
Dr. Sackler's philanthropic activities included support for museums. In the nineteen-sixties and -seventies, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery for Early Chinese Stone Sculpture was established at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, as was the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Princeton Art Museum, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey. Dr. Sackler also donated his collections of original drawings and etchings by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, the eighteenth century Italian architect and printmaker, to the Avery Architectural Library, Columbia University, and initiated the Sackler Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to house the two-thousand year old Egyptian Temple of Dendur, and also the Sackler Exhibition Hall at the Metropolitan Museum, including Egyptian and Japanese galleries and seminar rooms. The Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University was dedicated in 1985, and in the fall of 1986, Dr. and Mrs. Sackler broke ground for the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology at Peking University. In September, 1987, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, which houses a selected gift of one-thousand, and a loan of three-hundred, masterpieces from Dr. Sackler's Asian collections, opened to the public. Sadly, he did not live to see that event, nor did he have the pleasure of seeing the opening of the Jill and Arthur M. Sackler Galleries at the Royal Academy of Art, London, to which he not only contributed funding but helped to design.
Dr. Sackler's beneficence in the visual arts was honored in 1980 with the award to him of the ROSC medal of the Republic of Ireland, and with the Mayor's Medal for Contributions to New York City in 1982.
In the humanities, his activities included hosting in Tokyo in 1979, together with His Imperial Highness Prince Takahito Mikasa, the International Symposium for Biblical Studies, the proceedings of which were published in Tokyo in 1982 under the title Studies in the Period of David and Solomon, and Other Essays. In 1981, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt had appointed Dr. Sackler to be chairman of an International Committee for the Renaissance of Egyptian Arts, Sciences and Humanities. Dr. Sackler was honored for his work in the humanities by being given the Egyptian Order of Merit First Class, the Smithson Medal of the Smithsonian Institution, the Humanitarian Award of the Linus Pauling Institute and by being given an honorary doctorate of letters from Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts, and from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City.
Dr. Sackler's Activities in China
Dr. Sackler's activities in China engaged his interests in both medicine and the arts. His concern for the Chinese people went back to his days as a medical student at New York University when he learned of the activities in China of a Canadian doctor, Norman Bethune. Deeply moved by what Dr. Bethune was doing, Dr. Sackler sent a financial contribution to support his efforts on behalf of the Chinese people. Then when Dr. Sackler seriously encountered Chinese art for the first time in 1950 he also became passionately involved with the culture for whose people he had expressed such strong concern.
Throughout the nineteen-fifties, -sixties, and -seventies, Dr. Sackler continued to acquire Chinese art. The politics of the time however prevented him from visiting the place of its creation. But in 1976 Dr. Sackler was among the first Americans at that time to tour China.
Dr. Sackler's initial visits to China focused on medical issues, and specifically his concern with the state of medical practice in China at that time. Having just emerged from the dark years of the Cultural Revolution, most Chinese doctors were completely unaware of medical advances made in other parts of the world during the previous ten years. Characteristically therefore Dr. Sackler immediately initiated efforts to help Chinese doctors: one way to do that was to found the China Medical Tribune, a Chinese language version of Medical Tribune. Officially launched in 1983, the bi-weekly journal enables Chinese doctors, within weeks rather than years, to have access to up-to-date medical information and discoveries. Dr. Sackler was also keenly interested in Chinese traditional medicine, and felt the West could learn from some of these ancient methods.
During one of Dr. Sackler's early visits to China he took the opportunity to return to the people of China a piece of Chinese furniture that he had in his collection, a throne chair that came from the Summer Palace of the Qing dynasty emperor, Qian Long. Also during these early visits, Dr. Sackler took the opportunity to visit as many Chinese museums as possible. While he reveled in the pleasure of seeing China's rich cultural heritage in its many precious art treasures, he was struck by the lack of modern conservation facilities, and preservation and display techniques, in China's museums. Very determinedly, as was his way, he therefore resolved that if the opportunity arose, he would help China improve its museums and educate its students in new developments in museology. This led to his agreement to set up a teaching museum at Peking University.
Peking University has a collection of important archaeological material, but it had no proper storage facilities, nor a museum in which to display it. Dr. Sackler therefore proposed that he would work together with Peking University to create a university museum, a teaching museum, to house its valuable collection. He envisioned that such a museum could and would serve as a model for other museums in China, but also that the Department of Archaeology at Peking University, to be housed in this new museum, would develop a museology degree program so that future generations of Chinese students could be trained in the new methods and theories of museology.
With the official opening of the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology and the Jill Sackler Sculpture Court and Garden at Peking University on May 27, 1993, Dr. Sackler's vision will finally become a reality.
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