Information for Researchers
System of Arrangement
Scope and Content of Collection
Collection Title: Harold E. Varmus Papers
Date (inclusive): 1971-1987,
Date (bulk): bulk 1974-1980
Collection Number: MSS 84-25
Number of containers: 8 cartons, 2 boxes
Linear feet: 11 feet
The UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management, Archives and Special Collections
University of California, San Francisco
530 Parnassus Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94143-0840
Phone: (415) 476-8112
Fax: (415) 476-4653
Abstract: This collection consists mainly of files of research and data compiled by Dr. Harold Varmus and his group at UCSF from 1971-1984.
Primary areas of inquiry are synthesis and integration of viral DNA, and replication of, and tumor induction by, animal viruses,
including the Rous Sarcoma Virus. It is rich in illustrative material such as photographs, slides, graphs, and gels. Also
included is correspondence with colleagues and former students during Varmus' 1978-1979 sabbatical in London. Most letters
concern research progress, review of manuscripts and publications, and invitations or preparations for conferences and meetings.
Varmus was active in American Cancer Society (ACS) grant review and the Virology Study section of NIH. There are a number
of notes and slide materials for lectures and talks both in the U.S. and internationally.
Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog:
Information for Researchers
Collection is open for research; some correspondence files are restricted.
Copyright has not been assigned to the UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management. All requests for permission to publish
or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manager of Archives and Special Collections. Permission for
publication is given on behalf of the UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management as the owner of the physical items
and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
Copyright restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials.
[Identification of item], Harold E. Varmus Papers, MSS 84-25, The UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management, Archives
and Special Collections, University of California, San Francisco.
Alternate Forms Available
Harold E. Varmus Papers, 1975-1987 (MSS 88-47) and 1967-1993 (MSS 93-51)
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Human Retrovirus Study Group
The Harold E. Varmus Papers were donated to UCSF by Dr. Varmus in 1984.
Processed by Nancy W. Zinn and Valerie Wheat
Born in Oceanside, New York, December 18, 1939, Harold E. Varmus received his undergraduate degree (B.A. magna cum laude)
from Amherst College in 1961, an M.A. (in literature) the following year from Harvard University, and the M.D. from Columbia
University in 1966. From 1967 to 1970 Varmus was an intern in medicine (1966-67) and Assistant Resident in Medicine (1967-68)
at Presbyterian Hospital, New York, and Clinical Associate at the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases,
Bethesda, MD (1968-70). In 1970 he was appointed a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer in the Department of Microbiology at
UCSF, for 1970-72. At the end of this period Dr. Varmus was appointed Assistant Professor in Residence, for 1972-74, Associate
Professor (1974-79), and full Professor, 1979-1993, in that department. He was on the faculty of the Molecular Medicine group
in the Program in Biological Sciences (PIBS) consortium.
In conjunction with J. Michael Bishop, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1989 for their discovery
of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes. They also received the Alfred P. Sloan Prize from the General Motors Cancer
Research Foundation in 1984. Other research colleagues on the faculty at UCSF included Y.W. Kan (hemoglobinopathies), Gordon
Tomkins and Keith Yamamoto (glucocorticoid action), and Donald Ganem (hepatitis B viruses). In 1985 Dr. Varmus was selected
to give the Annual Faculty Research Lecture at UCSF entitled "Tree-Shaking and Jelly-Making: Growing Up with Retroviruses."
In 1993, he was appointed Director of the National Institutes of Health where he instituted administrative and personnel reforms,
changed the peer review system, created the online publications archive E-biomed, and dealt with political issues such as
human embryo research. He resigned in 1999 to become Director of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and
was named President of that institution in 2000. In 2002, Varmus was named a recipient of the 2001 National Medal of Science
and recognized at a ceremony at the White House with President George W. Bush.
Varmus is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Omega Alpha, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American
Society for Microbiology. He was elected to the National Academy of Science in 1984 and to the American Academy of Arts and
Sciences in 1988. Among his honors are the following: Woodrow Wilson Fellow (1961-62); International Fellow of Columbia University
(1963-64); Smith, Kline, and French Foreign Fellow (Bareilly, India) in 1961; Senior Dernham Fellow, California Division,
American Cancer Society (1970-72); USPHS Research Career Development Awardee, 1972-77; Josiah Macy Scholar (Imperial Cancer
Research Fund, London, 1978-79); California scientist of the Year, 1982; Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, 1982;
Passano Foundation Award, 1983; Armand Hammer Cancer Prize, 1984; Gairdner Foundation International Award, 1984; and the American
College of Physicians Award, 1987. He received an honorary degree from Amherst College in 1985 and the Alumni Gold Medal
from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1989.
Dr. Varmus served as associate editor of
Cell and Virology (1974-84), and as a member of various working groups and study sections at the National Cancer Institute and National Institutes
of Health. From 1981-1986, Varmus chaired the Retrovirus Study Group within the Vertebrate Virus Subcommitee of the International
Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. In this role he convened a subcommittee to investigate proposed nomenclature of AIDS-associated
viruses in humans. He has co-authored more than 300 scientific papers and four books, including
Genes and the Biology of Cancer for a general audience.
System of Arrangement
Arranged to the folder level.
Scope and Content of Collection
This collection documents research and other professional activities of Dr. Harold Varmus while on the faculty of UCSF. In
comparison to the two related collections of Varmus papers, evidence of day-to-day research makes up the bulk of the material.
Files in Series 3 contain very detailed data, charts and graphs, photographs, slides, and gels on experiments performed by
Varmus and his group to investigate mouse mammary tumor virus, viral DNA, and avian retroviruses. There are also course syllabi,
notes, and lecture slides for special topics such as cancer causation and RNA tumor viruses. Grant review correspondence
and financial files cover projects funded by the American Cancer Society and National Institutes of Health. Some of these
were joint projects on Rous Sarcoma Virus with Dr. J. Michael Bishop who later shared the Nobel Prize with Varmus.
Correspondence files concern journal articles and manuscripts, plans for sabbatical and conference attendance, and departmental
matters. Some of these correspondence files are restricted. In the conference and meeting folders are conference agendas
and programs, steno notebooks of handwritten notes taken there, and text and slides for presentations by Varmus on mapping
tumor virus genes and animal viruses.
The Collection is divided into 4 Series. I. Correspondence; II. Grant Records and Research Agencies; III. Research; IV. Conferences