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Vol. LXIV, No. 6
March 16, 2012

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Free Kirschstein Biography Now Available

A new biography released last month tells the story of NIH icon Dr. Ruth Kirschstein.
A new biography released last month tells the story of NIH icon Dr. Ruth Kirschstein.

Always There: The Remarkable Life of Ruth Lillian Kirschstein, M.D., a new biography released last month, tells the rare story of a woman who was as comfortable conversing with lawmakers on Capitol Hill as she was bringing science to children in inner-city classrooms.

Medical scientist. Classical pianist. Physician. Art lover. Humanitarian. Research administrator. Dr. Ruth Kirschstein, who died in October 2009, will be remembered not only for the many roles she played throughout her life, but also for the many lives she touched in the course of 83 years. Always There walks readers through those years, as the young Kirschstein grows from a talented, curious child into a courageous, confident woman who overcomes obstacles and illness—personally and professionally.

Kirschstein once observed, looking back over her life, “It never occurred to me that I could not do anything I wanted.” This is a story for non-scientists who will learn about the life and legacy of a researcher who embodied the spirit of NIH. It is a story for scientists who will see additional insights into the evolution of polio vaccine. It is a story for administrators who will have a close-up view of how one strong woman got things done. Above all, it is an inspirational story for young people pursuing the sciences who will see the many ways scientists can share their talents.

With a foreword co-authored by her husband Dr. Alan Rabson and son Dr. Arnold Rabson, the book is a biography that often reads like a memoir, using Kirschstein’s own words and impressions folded in with the words of the people who knew her best.

Author Alison Davis wove candid moments of Kirschstein—captured on video and audio recordings—together with dozens of interviews with family, friends and colleagues to paint a richly layered portrait of the woman some knew as skilled scientist and administrator and others knew as trusted advisor and mentor. Whether or not personally acquainted with Kirschstein, readers will get to know her closely in Always There.

As NIH deputy director for intramural research Dr. Michael Gottesman noted in the book’s introduction, “So who was this woman…? She was the daughter of immigrants, a dedicated student, a direct victim of inequality…a wife, a mother, an astute researcher, a visionary administrator…Ruth was many things to many people. And her story begins on Ellis Island.” Always There tells the Kirschstein story, offering invaluable personal perspectives and anecdotes.

The book is available, free of charge, in several digital formats, including for Kindle, Nook and iPad at

Sponsorship of the book was a collaborative effort of the Office of Intramural Research, the Office of Communications and Public Liaison and the institutes and centers. NIHRecord Icon

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