Mortimer Sackler

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The Sackler Crossing at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Dr. Mortimer David Sackler, KBE (7 December 1916 – 24 March 2010) was an American physician and entrepreneur. With his brothers Arthur and Raymond he used his fortune from the pharmaceutical industry to become a prominent philanthropist.

Life and career[edit]

The son of Isaac and Sophie (née Greenberg) Sackler, Polish Jewish immigrant Brooklyn grocers, Mortimer attended Erasmus Hall High School in his native Brooklyn. Failing to get a Jewish-allotted place in any New York medical school, he sailed steerage to the UK in 1937 and, with the help of Glasgow's Jewish community, enrolled at Anderson College of Medicine. After World War II began, he completed his degree at the Middlesex University School of Medicine in Waltham, Massachusetts.

During the Korean war, he was an army psychiatrist in Denver, Colorado, before joining his brothers, both newly graduated doctors, at the Creedmoor psychiatric hospital in New York City. The three became a moving force in the research and clinical outpatient department at Creedmore, which would become the Creedmore Institute for Psychobiologic Studies. During the 1950s the brothers undertook pioneering research into how alterations in bodily function can affect mental illness. This work contributed to a move away from treatments such as electric shock and lobotomy towards pharmaceutical solutions or psychoanalysis. The brothers acquired small pharmaceutical companies and reviving their business. From 1952 they turned Purdue Pharma into a large privately owned business with products including OxyContin. Using his fortune from pharmaceuticals he became a generous donor to charitable causes across the world.[1]

In the UK, Dr. Sackler's donations included:

Jointly with his brothers he endowed the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University. In 1995, Sackler was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his services to education.

His interest in philanthropy is continued after his death through the Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation[4] which he set up jointly with third wife, Dame Theresa Sackler (née Rowling), from Staffordshire, who was formerly a teacher at the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion convent in London's Notting Hill Gate. The foundation's donations include the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at Sussex University.

Horticultural legacy[edit]

Passionate gardener Theresa Sackler bought the right to name a new rose cultivar at a charity auction in 2002. The rose, bred by David Austin, was named for her husband, who she said was brought to mind by the official description of the rose, which stated that the blooms "give the impression of delicacy and softness but are, in fact, very tough and little affected by bad weather".[5]


Dr. Mortimer Sackler died at age 93 in Gstaad, Bern, Switzerland, survived by his wife and their son and two daughters, as well as four children from his previous two marriages, and his younger brother, Dr. Raymond Sackler.[6]



External links[edit]