NIH's history keeper retires

To intramural scientists at the US National Institutes of Health whose endgame is being published, scrawled notations, E-mail exchanges and antiquated lab instruments are the flotsam and jetsam of research. But to Victoria A. Harden, founder of the Office of NIH History, these materials are gold. "The American people were putting billions of dollars into the NIH and they were getting a tremendous product for the money, and nobody knew about it," says the 62-year-old Ha

Karen Pallarito
Mar 1, 2006

To intramural scientists at the US National Institutes of Health whose endgame is being published, scrawled notations, E-mail exchanges and antiquated lab instruments are the flotsam and jetsam of research. But to Victoria A. Harden, founder of the Office of NIH History, these materials are gold. "The American people were putting billions of dollars into the NIH and they were getting a tremendous product for the money, and nobody knew about it," says the 62-year-old Harden, who retired on January 31 after 20 years as the agency's chief historian.

The Marietta, Ga., native had two children and taught part-time before pursuing her PhD in American history, never imagining she would work for the federal government. But while studying at Emory University, Harden stumbled upon some papers by a Georgia chemist who lobbied in the late 1920s for the establishment of the National Institute (singular) of Health. It was a pivotal...

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