Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Ernest Becker papers, 1952-1977, bulk 1962-1974

Summary Information


Becker's papers consist primarily of correspondence and notes on cultural anthropology, sociology, and psychology. Boxes of notecards and annotated books are also included in the collection.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS# 1567
Bib ID 6909763 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Becker, Ernest
Title Ernest Becker papers, 1952-1977, bulk 1962-1974
Physical Description 9 linear feet (9 linear feet 3 document boxes 5 notecard boxes and 2 record storage cartons)
Language(s) English .

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.



This collection is arranged in six series: Series I: Correspondence, 1966-1974 Series II: Published Materials, 1962-1977 Series III: Academic Materials, 1958-1973 Series IV: Personal Materials, 1958-1973 Series V: Research Notecards, 1966-1970 Series VI: Annotated Books, 1915-1968.



The collection contains many of Becker's notes and lectures on cultural anthropology, sociology, psychiatry, and psychology. His correspondence consists of letters to close friends, and colleagues about his works, as well as letters to potential publishers. His observations, notes and lectures are typed on notecards along with related newspaper clippings. He also recorded his thoughts on the inside covers and the first few pages of various books. There are also two personal journals from the 1950s.

  • Series I: Correspondence

    In this series, there are letters between Becker and his friends and colleagues in the academic field and in the publishing arena.

  • Series II: Published Materials

    This series contains correspondence and published reviews related to his various books.

  • Series III: Academic Materials

    This series consists of Becker's lectures, notes, semester schedules, course outlines, and reading lists.

  • Series IV: Personal Materials

    This series contains Becker's bound journals from the 1950s, a typed biography and personal journal, and resumé.

  • Series V: Research Notecards, 1966-1972 (5 Notecard Boxes)

    This series consists of Becker's typed, 3 x 5 notecards detailing his cultural anthropological observations along with some newspaper clippings. There are also notes about mental illness, history of disease, origins of social evils, the purpose of culture, and abstract concepts of sociology.

  • Series VI: Annotated Books

    This series consists primarily of books that contain annotations by Becker.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Name of Collection; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Selected Related Material-- at Columbia

Otto Rank Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library.


No additions are expected

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Papers processed by Marilyn Chin (Queens College, 2011).

Finding aid written by Marilyn Chin (Queens College, 2011) February 2011.

Revision Description

2011-05-27 File created.

2011-06-02 XML document instance created by Catherine C. Ricciardi

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Becker, Ernest Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Becker, Ernest (Title of work: Denial of Death.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Ernest Becker was born in Springfield, MA in 1924. He served in World War II and shortly afterwards, attended Syracuse University in New York. In his early 30s, he pursued a graduate degree in cultural anthropology at his alma mater. He received his Ph.D. in 1960, and soon after, became a professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC, Canada. His main interest was in philosophical anthropology-relating to the interdisciplinary and cross-cultural approach to the study of human beings.

Becker was the author of several books. His topics included the science of man, mental illness, and the fear of death, Two months after his passing, he won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction for his book, The Denial of Death.

He was married to Marie H. Becker. In late 1972, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and died in March 1974 at the age of 49.