Skip to main content

NIH Directors' Files

Identifier: MS C 536


Correspondence, speeches, articles, reports, committee agendas and minutes maintained by the Directors office of the National Institutes of Health.


  • 1937-1983 (bulk 1950-1970)


15 Linear Feet (12 boxes)


Physical Location

Materials stored onsite. History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine

Language of Materials

Collection materials primarily in English


Collection is not restricted. Contact the Reference Staff for information regarding access.

Copyright and Re-use Information

Donor's copyrights were transferred to the public domain. Archival collections often contain mixed copyrights; while NLM is the owner of the physical items, permission to examine collection materials is not an authorization to publish. These materials are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. It is the user's responsibility to research and understand any applicable copyright and re-publication rights not allowed by fair use. NLM does not grant permissions to publish.

Privacy Information

Archives and manuscript collections may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in any collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications for which the National Library of Medicine assumes no responsibility.

Biographical Note

Brief biographies of selected NIH Directors:

Rolla E. Dyer directed the National Institutes of Health from 1942 to 1950. Specializing in infectious diseases, Dyer joined the Public Health Service in 1916. As NIH Director he was instrumental in the establishment of the Clinical Center, the National Heart Institute, the National Institute of Dental Research, and the National Institute of Mental Health.

An international authority on nutrition and dietary deficiency disease, William H. Sebrell began his Public Health Service work with Dr. Joseph Goldberger in 1926. From his position as director of the Experimental Biology and Medicine Institute Sebrell was appointed director of NIH in October 1950. He emphasized the establishment of international standards of nutrition and encouraged scientific nutrition's role within local and state health departments until his retirement in 1955.

James Shannon's research interests concentrated on kidney function, chemotherapy, and malaria. After teaching and heading various research programs and work with the government on tropical diseases during World War II Shannon joined the Public Health Service in 1949. He was appointed director of NIH in 1955 after serving three years as assistant director. As director he was particularly focused on improving the public welfare. He retired as NIH director in 1968.

Shannon's successor was Robert Q. Marston, a veteran professor and administrator of medical programs. Marston became an associate director of NIH in 1966, and also directed the Division of Regional Medical Programs. He was administrator of the Health Services and Mental Health Administration when he was appointed NIH director. Marston took interest in the nation's biomedical research program, facilitated legislation that encouraged the education of an increasing pool of health care professionals. He left his position at NIH in 1973.

Collection Summary

The collection is by no means a complete accounting of the NIH Director's Office for the years covered. Instead, it is a courtesy collection of selected correspondence, memoranda, speeches, articles, and committee files.

The largest segment of the collection is Series 5: Speech and Articles (1941-1983). Mostly written or delivered by NIH directors Shannon and Marston, they also include material by various public health officials and senior policy makers. Series 1: Corrrespondence contains general and topical correspondence (1944-1975) and is most complete for the early 1950s. It is most representative of Dr. Sebrell's term as NIH Director. Notable among Series 4: Reports are copies of and reports about the 1945 Vannevar Bush report "Science, The Endless Frontier", whereafter the government assumed responsibilities for promoting the flow of scientific knowledge and led to the creation of the National Science Foundation.

Minutes, agendas and reports (1947-1968) found in Series 6: Panels, Programs, and Committees, were used by Directors in committee meetings, primarily with the President's Science Advisory Committee, the National Blood Program and the World Health Organization Advisory Committee on Scientific/Medical Research.


Correspondence, speeches, articles, reports, committee agendas and minutes maintained by the Directors office of the National Institutes of Health.

Physical Location

Materials stored onsite. History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine


Transfer from NIH OD files via David Porter. Acc. #677.


Processed by
Jim Labosier
Processing Completed
Encoded by
Jim Labosier
Finding Aid to the NIH Directors' Files, 1937-1983 (bulk 1950-1970)
Unverified Partial Draft
Jim Labosier
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English
Edition statement

Revision Statements

  • July 2004: PUBLIC "-//National Library of Medicine::History of Medicine Division//TEXT (US::DNLM::MS C 536::NIH Directors' Files)//EN" "nihdirector536" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Archives and Modern Manuscripts Collection Collecting Area

8600 Rockville Pike
Bldg 38/1E-21, MSC 3819
Bethesda MD 20894 US
1-888-FINDNLM (1-888-346-3656)