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Origins of the National Institutes of Health
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Birth of the Hygienic Laboratory

Joseph J, Kinyoun, three-quarter length, standing at laboratory table, right pose, full face; hand on microscope. From painting by Walmsley Lenhard.
Joseph J. Kinyoun, founder of the Laboratory of Hygiene.
A small brown bottle with a label on the front of it. The label states that it is diptheria antitoxin produced March 8, 1895 at the  Hygienic Laboratory.
Diptheria Antitoxin produced by the Hygienic Laboratory, 1895.

Throughout the 1800's, controversy surrounded the Marine Hospital Service. A bill was introduced in Congress to set up a Bureau of Health in the Department of the Interior. In testifying before Congress against the bill on February 24, 1888, Surgeon General John B. Hamilton said "I desire to invite the attention of the Committee to the Weekly Abstract published a few weeks ago, in which the diagnosis of cholera was made of the cases that occurred in New York, by an officer of my service by the name of Kinyoun, who spent nearly five years in the study of bacteriology. We spent several hundred dollars in forming a laboratory in New York." That was the first time Congress had heard of NIH's predecessor, the Laboratory of Hygiene. The sensational announcement that Dr. Kinyoun had isolated the organism that caused cholera was enough to stop the proposed transfer to the Department of Interior.


The Zeiss microscope of Joseph J. Kinyoun, Laboratory of Hygiene, USMHS.
The Zeiss microscope of Joseph J. Kinyoun, Laboratory of Hygiene, USMHS.
 Half length, standing at laboratory table with both hands on the table, left pose, full face of Hygienic Laboratory scientist in the 1920's with Dr. Joseph Kinyoun's microscope between her hands.
Hygienic Laboratory scientist posed in the 1920's with Dr. Kinyoun's microscope.