James A. Shannon buildingOFFICE OF NIH HISTORY

The Office of NIH History at the National Institutes of Health exists to advance historical understanding of biomedical research within the NIH and the world. Through preserving records of significant NIH achievements, innovative exhibits, and educational programs, the Office of NIH History explores the past to enhance present understanding of the health sciences and the National Institutes of Health.



This month the History Office is trying something a little different —telling a story through social media.  The story takes off from President Harry Truman’s laying of the cornerstone and its time capsule in 1951.  The mystery is that no one knows where either item is.  We do know what was in the time capsule and what things that senior scientists all over NIH were showing the public during the open house held on the same day, so we are using images and objects to tell that story.  Also, for the first time, a short clip from a 1951 film located at the National Library of Medicine.

A New Exhibition Celebrates the Origins of Modern Neurobiology

The NIH honored Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the father of modern neuroscience, with an exhibit of scientist's original neural cell illustrations. The exhibit opened ,on November 6, 2014, in the new Porter Neuroscience Research Center, Building 35 on the NIH Bethesda campus.

The illustrations, from the turn of the 20th century, never have been exhibited in North America and will be on loan from Cajal Institute in Madrid, Spain.

Cajal was the first to describe the nervous system in exquisite detail.  He found that the individual cells (later termed "neurons") typically comprise three distinct structures.  He posited that these cells function as information processing units that employ electrical impulses to communicate within networks.

To reveal these cell structures in his tissue slides, Cajal employed a variety of staining techniques-including silver chromate-pioneered by Camillo Golgi, with whom he shared the 1906 Nobel Prize.

The Porter Center houses more than 800 scientists from 10 NIH institutes in laboratories literally without walls to enhance collaboration among the NIH's diverse community of neuroscientists.  The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the NIH Stetten Museum spearheaded the Cajal exhibit.  There is great hope that the cross-pollination within the Porter facility will encourage shifts in understanding as radical as those introduced by Cajal.

In addition to Cajal's original drawings, floor tiles will reproduce tissue slides, as Cajal saw them through his microscope, and visitors will be greeted by an almost life-size photomural that captures Cajal as the artist-scientist in his studio laboratory.



The Santiago Ramón y Cajal exhibit is located in the Porter Neuroscience Research Center atrium


Oral histories are added on a regular basis.

Floyd S. Daft
Interview date: October 14, 1964

Alan Rabson
Interview date: July 11, 1997

The Office of NIH History holds photograph collections cataloged and uncataloged. Many can be found in Search Our Collections. To request images for use in publications or presentations contact the Office of NIH History. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.


Recent publications by former fellows, based partly on their work as Stetten Fellows

David Cantor
, Stress, Shock, and Adaptation in the Twentieth Century. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2014.

Johanna Crane,
 Scrambling for Africa: AIDS, Expertise, and the Rise of American Global Health Science. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013.

Eric Boyle, Quack Medicine: A History of Combating Health Fraud in Twentieth-Century America. Praeger, 2013. A former Stetten Fellow, his first book was awarded Best Print Publication from the Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences.


top of page

Twitter Flickr Pinterest Tumblr

Office of History and Stetten Museum | Bldg 60 | Suite 230 | National Institutes of Health | Bethesda, MD 20814-1460
Phone: 301.496.6610 | Email: history@nih.gov

Last updated: 11 June 2015
First published: 2 February 2005
Permanence level:
Permanent: Dynamic Content