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About NIH

NIH History

The National Institutes of Health traces its roots to 1887, when a one-room laboratory was created within the Marine Hospital Service (MHS), predecessor agency to the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS).

The MHS had been established in 1798 to provide for the medical care of merchant seamen. In the 1880s, the MHS had been charged by Congress with examining passengers on arriving ships for clinical signs of infectious diseases, especially for the dreaded diseases cholera and yellow fever, in order to prevent epidemics. Read A Short History of NIH.

Chronology of Events

Significant events and major research advances in NIH history.

Legislative Chronology

Federal legislation that had a major influence on the growth of the NIH, from its beginning as the Marine Hospital Service in 1798.

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NIH's Scientific Legacy

1916 photograph of Dr. Joseph Goldberger seated at a table in a hospital surrounded by four assistants

The Office of NIH History educates the public about the process of biomedical research and its achievements, like Dr. Joseph Goldberger's discovery of the cause of pellagra in 1916 (above).Visit our virtual exhibits to learn more.

Always There: The Remarkable Life of Ruth Lillian Kirschstein, M.D.

Always There book cover A vital force in polio vaccine research. A staunch advocate for diversity. An NIH icon. Read the Ruth Kirschstein story, now available free for eReaders. Read the Book

This page last reviewed on January 16, 2013

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