Mortimer Sackler

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Mortimer David Sackler
Born(1916-12-07)December 7, 1916
Brooklyn, New York, United States
DiedMarch 24, 2010(2010-03-24) (aged 93)
OccupationPhysician and entrepreneur
Known forOxycontin

Mortimer David Sackler (December 7, 1916 – March 24, 2010) was an American physician and entrepreneur. With his brother, Raymond, he used his fortune from Oxycontin to become a prominent philanthropist.[1][2][3][4]

Life and career[edit]

The son of Isaac and Sophie (née Greenberg) Sackler, Polish Jewish immigrant Brooklyn grocer, Sackler 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 United Kingdom and, with the help of Glasgow's Jewish community, attended the Anderson College of Medicine of the Glasgow University between 1937 and 1939. Due to the outbreak of the Second World War, Sackler was prevented from finishing his medical education at this school. He instead obtained an M.D. degree at the Middlesex University School of Medicine in Massachusetts, United States in 1944.[5][6]

During the Korean war, he was an army psychiatrist in Denver, Colorado, before joining his brothers, Arthur and Raymond, both newly graduated medical doctors, at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital in New York City.[7] 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.[8] The brothers acquired small pharmaceutical companies and worked on reviving them from 1952. Since the 1990s, Raymond and Mortimer, now deceased, owned Purdue Pharma, a large privately owned business with products including OxyContin.[9]

He renounced his U.S. citizenship in 1974 and subsequently lived a flamboyant life in Europe, shuttling among residences in England, the Swiss Alps, and Cap d’Antibes.[10]

Using his fortune[11] from pharmaceuticals he became a generous donor to charitable causes worldwide.[12]

The Sackler Crossing at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

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.[16]


His interest in philanthropy continues after his death through the Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation[17] which he set up jointly with third wife, Dame Theresa Elizabeth Sackler (née Rowling; born 1949), 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 the University of Sussex.[18] and a contribution to the Imaging Centre of Excellence [19] at Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, containing Scotland's first 7 Tesla MRI

Horticultural legacy[edit]

Theresa Sackler, a passionate gardener, 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".[20]


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, Raymond Sackler.[21]


On October 30, 2017, The New Yorker published a multi-page exposé on Mortimer Sackler, Purdue Pharma, and the Sackler family as a whole.[13] The article links Raymond and Arthur Sackler's business acumen with the rise of direct pharmaceutical marketing and eventually to the rise of addiction to OxyContin in the United States. The article implies that Sackler bears some moral responsibility for the opioid epidemic in the United States.[13]


  1. ^ "The Secretive Family Making Billions From the Opioid Crisis". Esquire. 2017-10-16. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  2. ^ Keefe, Patrick Radden (2017-10-23). "The Family That Built an Empire of Pain". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  3. ^ Weber, Bruce (March 31, 2010). "Mortimer D. Sackler, Arts Patron, Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  4. ^ Davison, Phil (April 24, 2010). "Drugs mogul with a vast philanthropic legacy". The Financial Times. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  5. ^ "Dr Mortimer Sackler". 2010-04-27. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  6. ^ "The University of Glasgow Story: Mortimer Sackler". Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  7. ^ "Drugs mogul with a vast philanthropic legacy". Financial Times. Retrieved 2018-08-28. (Subscription required (help)).
  8. ^ Green, David B. (2015-03-24). "This Day in Jewish History 2010: You've Been to at Least One Museum Wing That Was Named for This Man". Haaretz. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  9. ^ "OxyContin® (oxycodone HCl) Extended-Release Tablets | Official Site for Patients & Caregivers". Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Sackler family". Forbes. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  12. ^ Obituary in The Daily Telegraph,; accessed September 17, 2015.
  13. ^ a b c Keefe, Patrick Radden (23 October 2017). "The Family That Built an Empire of Pain". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  14. ^ "King's College London – Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine". Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  15. ^ "A New Public Gallery: The Royal Parks and the Serpentine Gallery Agree to New Venue". November 2, 2010. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  16. ^ "List of honorary British knights and dames", Wikipedia, 2018-07-13, retrieved 2018-08-28
  17. ^ Charity Commission. The Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, registered charity no. 1128926.
  18. ^ "About Dame Theresa Sackler". Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. University of Sussex. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  19. ^ "Scotland's first 7T scanner arrives at the QEUH". Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  20. ^ Obituary for Mortimer Sackler,; accessed September 17, 2015.
  21. ^ Obituary,, April 19, 2010; accessed September 17, 2015.


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