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William H. Schneider, ed. Rockefeller Philanthropy and Modern Biomedicine: International Initiatives from World War I to the Cold War. Philanthropic and Nonprofit Studies. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2002. 251 pp. Tables. $44.95 (0-253-34151-5).
These nine papers, according to the book's editor, offer a "comparative study of the development of biomedicine outside the United States in the first part of the twentieth century, with a focus on the role played by the Rockefeller Foundation" (p. vii). Each of the papers competently assesses the intersection of internal foundation history with selected events in biomedicine and politics in a particular country. One of the papers also tells an important story about policy, philanthropy, and culture, and the promotion of population health.
Eight papers assess events in the United States and European countries: William H. Schneider, "The Men Who Followed Flexner: Richard Pearce, Alan Gregg, and the Rockefeller Foundation Medical Division, 1919-1951"; J. B. Lyons, "Irish Medicine's Appeal to Rockefeller"; Gabor Pallo, "Make a Peak on the Plain: The Rockefeller Foundation's Szeged Project"; Jean-François Pickard and William H. Schneider, "From the Art of Medicine to Biomedical Science in France: Modernization or Americanization?"; Margaret A. Trott, "Passing through the Eye of the Needle: American Philanthropy and Soviet Medical Research in the 1920s"; Giuliana Gemelli, "A Central Periphery: The Naples Stazione Zoologica as an 'Attractor'"; Paul Weindling, "'Out of the Ghetto': The Rockefeller Foundation and German Medicine after the Second World War"; and Doris T. Zallen, "The Nuffield Foundation and Medical Genetics in the United Kingdom" (the last an odd inclusion because it is mainly about Nuffield, rather than Rockefeller, philanthropy).
The most valuable paper in the book is Qiusha Ma, "The Peking Union Medical College and the Rockefeller Foundation's Medical Programs in China." Ma offers arresting answers to fundamental questions about the purposes of Rockefeller Foundation policy in the context of Chinese political and social history in the first half of the twentieth century. In particular, she describes how the foundation moved from disseminating the findings of biomedical research through an institution in China that it controlled, to supporting the improvement of population health through community development programs conducted by Chinese organizations.
The editor concludes that the "broadest lesson to be learned" from these essays is the "limited ability of the funding agencies to control or predict the influence of their grants" (p. 4). The essays also suggest, but rarely elaborate on, the immense significance of the Rockefeller Foundation as a stimulus and substitute for public funding for biomedical research and medical education. The editor could have pressed the authors to describe the influence of the foundation's funding policies and practices on the policies of the government organizations that have financed most research and education since the Second World War.
Schneider generalizes in his introduction about the work of a "few of the [End Page 248] largest American foundations, such as Rockefeller, Commonwealth, Milbank, and later Ford" (p. 2). Commonwealth's assets were (and remain) an order of magnitude greater than Milbank's; Rockefeller's and Ford's almost an order of magnitude greater those of Commonwealth. Size matters for strategy and scope, in foundations as in most other organizations.
Milbank Memorial Fund