Papers of UMass Amherst Scientist Lynn Margulis to be Housed at Library of Congress

November 12, 1998


AMHERST, Mass. - The personal papers of world renowned scientist Lynn Margulis, Distinguished University Professor in the department of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts, will be permanently archived at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Margulis was invited to submit her papers to the library for preservation by James Billington, Librarian of Congress. In his written request, Billington stated that one of the chief responsibilities of the Library of Congress is the preservation of personal papers of "individuals whose careers in private life and public service have made a major impact on the world we live in." Billington noted that the library’s holdings are particularly strong in science, and include the papers of such notables as J. Robert Oppenheimer, Margaret Mead, Glenn Seaborg, I. I. Rabi, and John von Neumann.

Margulis is widely recognized for her research on the evolution of life, specifically the origins of eukaryotic cells, those of animals, plants, and microorganisms that have nuclei. She is the leading proponent of the idea that symbiogenesis, the merger of previously independent organisms, is of great importance to evolutionary change.

Margulis also works on the Gaia theory, the idea that the Earth’s surface temperature and atmospheric chemical composition are actively regulated as a consequence of the metabolism, growth, death, and evolution of interacting organisms.

Margulis’s papers will be kept in the library’s Manuscript Division, which houses more than 50 million items in 11,000 separate collections. Foremost among the division’s holdings are 23 groups of presidential papers.

"I am delighted and honored that my papers will reside in perpetuity with those of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin," Margulis said. "I plan to make them available to any serious scholars who are interested in the evolution of cells, symbiogenesis and, in general, life’s history as a part of planetary science."

Margulis is in the process of determining which of her papers to submit for archiving. Leonard Bruno, the library’s science manuscript historian who traveled to campus recently to meet with Margulis, says individuals are asked to submit materials such as correspondence, scientific notebooks or journals that document research or experimental studies, book drafts, speeches, and any other writings that chronicle the progress of an idea. Bruno noted that Margulis has already made significant contributions to her field but is still in the "prime of her career," so the size of the collection of her papers could continue to grow.