For more than a century, NIH scientists and supported scientists have paved the way for important discoveries that improve health and save lives. In fact, 171 scientists who won the Nobel Prize conducted their work at NIH or were supported by NIH funds. Their studies have led to the development of MRI, understanding of how viruses can cause cancer, insights into cholesterol control, and knowledge of how our brain processes visual information, among dozens of other advances.

The Roots of NIH

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.

NIH Reauthorization

NIH is responsive to Congressional legislation that adjusts NIH's programs to meet changing research needs. As a result of the NIH reauthorization process, NIH is able to respond strategically in an era when medical research requires constant innovation and increased interdisciplinary efforts.

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This page last reviewed on October 2, 2023