National Institutes of Health (NIH)


The National Institutes of Health (NIH), founded in 1887, is the United States federal government's principal agency for the support of medical research both at its campus in Bethesda, Maryland, and through grants and contracts awarded to biomedical research scientists at institutions across the United States, and, to a more limited extent, in other countries. Its mission is science in pursuit of fundamental knowledge about the nature and behaviour of living systems and the application of that knowledge to extend healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability.

Keywords: biomedical research; United States federal government; granting agency; public health

Figure 1.

Aerial view of the NIH campus, 1990s.

Figure 2.

Joseph J. Kinyoun

Figure 3.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicating Building 1 of the Bethesda NIH campus, 1940.

Figure 4.

Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center.


Further Reading

National Institutes of Health Website []

National Institutes of Health Almanac Website []

DeWitt Stetten, Jr, Museum of Medical Research and NIH History Office Website []

Fox DM (1987) The politics of the NIH Extramural Program, 1937–1950. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 42: 447–466.

Fredrickson DS (1993) Biomedical science and the culture warp. In: Kelley WN, Osterweis M and Rubin ER (eds) Emerging Policies for Biomedical Research, pp. 1–42. Health Policy Annual III. Washington DC: Association of Academic Health Centers.

Harden VA (1986) Inventing the NIH: Federal Biomedical Research Policy, 1887–1937. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Mandel R (1996) A Half Century of Peer Review, 1946–1996. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, Division of Research Grants.

Mider G Burroughs (1976) The federal impact on biomedical research. In: Bowers JZ and Purcell EF (eds) Advances in American Medicine: Essays at the Bicentennial, vol. 2, pp. 806–871. New York: Josiah Macy, Jr, Foundation.

Mullan F (1989) Plagues and Politics: The Story of the United States Public Health Service. New York: Basic Books.

Shorter E (1987) The Health Century. New York: Doubleday.

Stetten D Jr and Carrigan WT (eds) (1984) NIH: An Account of Research in its Laboratories and Clinics. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.

Strickland S (1972) Politics, Science, and Dread Disease: A Short History of United States Medical Research Policy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Strickland S (1989) The Story of the NIH Grants Program. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

US National Library of Medicine (1980) Notable Contributions to Medical Research by Public Health Service Scientists: A Biobibliography to 1940. Compiled by J Barry. Washington, DC: US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service Publication no. 752.

Williams RC (1951) The United States Public Health Service, 1798–1950. Washington DC: Commissioned Officers Association.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Harden, Victoria A, and Hannaway, Caroline(Apr 2001) National Institutes of Health (NIH). In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0003407]