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Summary Article: Rockefeller Foundation
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

philanthropic institution established (1913) by John D. Rockefeller, Sr., to promote “the well-being of mankind throughout the world.” During its first 14 years the foundation received $183 million from Rockefeller. He was aided in the early years of the foundation's activities by his son John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Frederick T. Gates. Gates was instrumental in channeling its early philanthropic activities into medical research and education and public health. Outstanding contributions in the form of funds, research, and fieldwork were made by the foundation in the battle against hookworm, malaria, yellow fever, and other diseases throughout the world. Rockefeller Institute (later Rockefeller Univ.), a center for medical and biological research, was established; it became important in the reform of medical education in the United States. The foundation also helped finance relief measures after World War I. The consolidation (1929) of the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial (with its $58 million endowment) with the Rockefeller Foundation marked the organization's expansion into new areas of research including the natural and social sciences, humanities, and agriculture. The foundation financed the preparation of the Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences (1932) and has helped support such independent research agencies as the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Brookings Institution, and the Social Science Research Council. The foundation focused its worldwide philanthropic activities on hunger, overpopulation, health care, equal opportunity, cultural improvement, and the environment, but in 1999 the organization revised its mission to concentrate almost exclusively on helping the world's poor. By 1999 its endowment was estimated to be $3 billion. Other philanthropic foundations maintained by members of the Rockefeller family are the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (est. 1940), and the Rockefeller Family Fund (est. 1967). The Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund for Music (est. 1962) was dissolved in 1982.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

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