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Ruth Sager papers

 Record Group
Identifier: MC-MBL-Sager-Sci

Scope and Contents

The Sager papers, dating from 1946 to 1999, includes one 17" x 11" x 3" box and twenty-two 24" x 12" boxes. They contain correspondence, lab notes, class notes, cultures, slides, discs and biographical information. There is also a box containing Sager’s bound reprints.


  • 1946-1999

Conditions Governing Access

Open: materials are available for research.

Biographical Information

Ruth Sager, one of three sisters, was born in Chicago on February 7, 1918, to Leon Sager and Deborah Borovik Sager. She was reared by her stepmother, Hannah, in a home honoring scholarship. After graduating from New Trier High School at the age of 16, she entered the University of Chicago and received an S.B. in mammalian physiology in 1938. Her interest in science was sparked by the lectures of Anton J. Carlson, whom she considered to be “…just a fantastic teacher.” She continued her education at Rutgers University and received an M.S. in plant physiology in 1944. After World War II, during which she was a secretary and an apple farmer, she earned her Ph.D. in maize genetics under Marcus M. Rhoades at Columbia University. She was a Merck postdoctoral fellow with Sam Granick at the Rockefeller Institute from 1949 to 1951, working on chloroplast. Then she became a staff member at Rockefeller, choosing the alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as a model organism. Dr. Sager married Seymour Melman in 1944 and then Dr. Arthur Pardee in 1977.

Dr. Sager was a research scientist at Columbia University from 1955 to 1965 and worked in Edinburgh for a year during that period. In 1966, she became a professor at Hunter College and finally, in 1995, she was appointed professor of cellular genetics at Harvard Medical School, among the first women to gain a full professorship at Harvard. She was also chief of the Division of Cancer Genetics at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Her other achievements include a Guggenheim Fellowship at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London, during 1972-1973 and election to membership of the National Academy of Sciences in 1997.

Dr. Sager believed genetics was the core of biology, and she set out to prove it. During her final 25 years, she transferred her efforts from organelle, non-nuclear genetics to the genetics of cancer. Her legacy is expressed in the quotation from M. D. Reynolds’s book, American Women Scientists: 23 Inspiring Biographies 1900-2001: “For more than half a century Ruth Sager has been a role model for women in health-related scientific research. She demonstrated vision, insight and determination to develop novel scientific concepts in the face of established dogmas. Her pioneering researches and original ideas continue to make contributions to biology.”


24 boxes (one 17" x 11" x 3" box, twenty-two 24" x 12" boxes, and one box containing bound reprints)




The papers have been organized into categories: biographical information with degrees, honors, and bibliography; workbooks; lab notes; correspondence; culture files; and one box of slides and discs.

Physical Location

Boxes 1-3: Library Service Center at Falmouth Technology Park [FTP: A1e]

Boxes 4-6: Library Service Center at Falmouth Technology Park [FTP: A1f]

Boxes 7-9: Library Service Center at Falmouth Technology Park [FTP: A1g]

Boxes 10-12: Library Service Center at Falmouth Technology Park [FTP: A1h]

Boxes 13-15: Library Service Center at Falmouth Technology Park [FTP: B1a]

Boxes 16-18: Library Service Center at Falmouth Technology Park [FTP B1b]

Boxes 19-21: Library Service Center at Falmouth Technology Park [FTP B1c]

Boxes 22-23: Library Service Center at Falmouth Technology Park [FTP B1d]

Bound Reprints: Library Service Center at Falmouth Technology Park [FTP I2c]

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Dr. Ruth Sager’s papers were donated to the MBL Archives by her husband, Dr. Arthur Pardee. They were physically brought to the Archives by Ms. Gail Schmidt, a science historian who was preparing a biography about Dr. Sager. Ms. Schmidt had gone through the papers briefly and put some in groups.

Related Materials

There is a short biographical file regarding Dr. Arthur Pardee, Dr. Sager’s husband, in the biographical files in the Agassiz Room.

Processing Information

Processed by Jean Monahan, August 24, 2000.

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Marine Biological Laboratory Archives Repository