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June 12, 1987

Inventing the NIH: Federal Biomedical Research Policy, 1887-1937

Author Affiliations

Abilene Christian University Abilene, Tex

Abilene Christian University Abilene, Tex

JAMA. 1987;257(22):3141. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390220139043

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This impressive volume traces the origin of the federal government's support of continuous biomedical research to the work of the Laboratory of Hygiene, which the Marine Hospital Service established at its location in the city of New York in 1887. It carries federal research policies and agencies through the early work of the first National Institute of Health, established in 1930, and derives its title from an observation made in 1980 by a scientist, Robert M. Bock, that if the National Institutes of Health did not exist, they would have to be invented.

Even before the century ended, the modest Hygienic Laboratory, as it was soon called, had taken on significant responsibilities. It conducted the first bacteriologic diagnosis of cholera in the Western Hemisphere and explored the origins of yellow fever, pneumonia, and anthrax. By the end of the 1890s, it had given itself over to extensive investigation of some